Thomas was a red-eared slider turtle. He was called a red-eared slider, because he was able to slide off of rocks easily in the pond, and there were small red stripes around his ears. Sometimes he put a claw in each ear hole and made faces at himself in the bathroom mirror. He also liked to admire his red stripes.
One day when he had his eyes closed and was reaching for a towel to dry his face after washing it, his sister walked up behind him and grabbed his sides – the squishy part of his body underneath his hard shell.
Thomas let out a loud cry and jumped a foot off the floor. His sister laughed, “Ha, ha! Gotcha!”
He turned to her with angry eyes and yelled, “Don’t do that, Tamara! I don’t like to be tickled by surprise!” He finished wiping his face and hung up the towel.
“I don’t know. It makes me feel funny.”
She snickered, “Well, it’s supposed to! Tickling is supposed to make you laugh, and laughing is funny. Besides, everyone knows you’re the most ticklish turtle in town.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t like being surprised like that. I hate being grabbed in the sides. So please don’t do it anymore, okay, Tamara?”
Tamara hung her head and slunk away muttering quietly, “Okay, Thomas. I’m sorry.” (But she thought to herself, “until next time!”)
Thomas went to his bedroom, put on his favorite baseball cap and jersey, picked up his mitt, and ran out the door without saying good-bye to Tamara.
He walked down to the baseball diamond at the park to look for Garrett. They were supposed to meet there to toss the baseball around after lunch. When he reached the dugout where they usually sat after playing, no one was there. He still felt angry at Tamara, but he decided to look down in the dirt for money which he and Garrett sometimes found lying there. Just as he spotted a shiny quarter and bent down to pick it up, someone grabbed his sides and tickled him. Not only did it scare him, but he lost his balance and fell over on his back. He wobbled around on the back of his shell and stretched his neck and front legs out so he could flip himself over when he heard a familiar laugh. Then someone grabbed his front leg and pulled him up which brought him face-to-face with Garrett.
Garrett’s laughter was met with Thomas yelling, “Why did you do that?”
Garrett said, “Sorry, buddy. I was just playing around. Besides, everyone knows you’re the most ticklish turtle in town.”
“Yeah, yeah. I’m so tired of being called that! You would think by now everyone would realize how much I hate being sneaked up on and tickled!”
Garrett looked at the ground and said, “Sorry, Thomas. I just came by to tell you I can’t play today.”
“What? Why not?” Thomas felt even more frustrated at the disappointing news.
“My mom has to take me to the shell doctor.” He turned around and showed Thomas a big crack in the side of his shell.
“How’d you do that Garrett?”
“I fell off the wall in front of our house.”
“What? How’d you get up there? It has to be two feet off the ground!”
“There was a wide board leaning up against it so I walked up it towards the wall. Then my back foot got caught in a big hole in the wood. I sort of did a twist, and as I fell, I heard my shell crack against the edge of the board.”
Thomas hesitated, then asked, “Did it hurt?”
“Yeah. When I fell…..”
Thomas interrupted and said, “Good! I get hurt somehow almost every time someone tickles me by surprise! You deserve it, Garrett!”
Garrett scowled. “Hey! I said I was sorry, Thomas. I won’t tickle you anymore, okay?”
“Whatever. I’m leaving. I’m glad you can’t play. I don’t feel like it now anyway!” Thomas turned and ran away.
Garrett yelled, “Fine! I don’t think I’ll meet you here tomorrow either then.”
Garrett’s feelings were hurt. He really hadn’t meant to make Thomas angry. Then he thought about all the times Thomas had asked him not to walk up behind him and tickle him like that. He felt badly, but when he looked up, Thomas was already gone.
Thomas decided to wander over to the pond. He saw his friend, Maya, which already made him feel better. She was the nicest friend he knew. Maya was a painted turtle so her shell was flatter than Thomas’s, and a deep olive green color. She had bright yellow stripes on her face. Thomas thought she was beautiful. He had known her since they were two years old. They had both had their 12th birthdays that year.
She crawled out of the cool water just as Thomas ran down the hill and jumped off a rock making a huge splash.
Maya laughed and yelled, “Good one, Thomas!”
Maya ran up the hill, turned around, and yelled, “Watch out, here I come.” Then she came barreling down the hill, but at the edge of the pond she spread out all her legs, went flying through the air, suddenly pulling all her legs in and did a cannonball and splashing Thomas.
When she came out of the water, Thomas was grinning widely, but she was coughing and sputtering water. “Wow, Maya! That was a great jump. Are you okay?”
“Sure. I never get hurt doing that, but I always get water up my nose and sometimes swallow some. She smiled and said, “But it’s just so fun.”
She swam over to him giggling and asked, “So how’s the most ticklish turtle in town doing today?”
Thomas burst into tears and said, “Don’t call me that, Maya.”
She crawled out onto the bank of grass and sat beside him. “Whoa, what’s the matter Thomas? I didn’t think that nickname bothered you that much. I’m sorry.”
He cried for a minute and then said, “Well, it does. It isn’t the nickname so much. I probably am the most ticklish turtle in town. What I hate is when others come up behind me and tickle my sides by surprise. I really don’t like it at all. It scares me and then I feel embarrassed. Both my sister and Garrett did it to me just this morning! I was so mad, I yelled at both of them.”
“Oh, that’s too bad, but they need to stop doing that. I know what you mean by it scaring and embarrassing you, too. My brother tickles my feet all the time. I don’t like it either. Sometimes he gets a hold of me and won’t stop, and I accidentally pee myself! That is really embarrassing. Then I cry. Tickling is only fun when I’m letting someone do it at the same time that I’m tickling them. Then I have more fun, because I know what’s coming and laughing feels good then.”
“I know. I keep trying to tell my sister and my friend, Garrett that, but they just won’t listen!”
“I try to tell my brother, too, but he just gets mad and calls me a baby. That hurts my feelings. I am not a baby just because I tell him to stop doing something I don’t like.”
“What are we going to do about it, Maya? I am so tired of this.”
“I don’t know if there is anything we can do. It’s really annoying when others won’t listen to us when we tell them to stop doing something that makes us feel uncomfortable.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes thinking about how to solve their problem. Maya’s face brightened suddenly.
Thomas asked, “Did you think of something?” She grinned, and he said, “You did think of something didn’t you?”
“Yeah. I think I did.” She smirked and nodded her head, then leaned over and began to tell Thomas her plan.
The next morning Thomas was in the kitchen getting his breakfast. He didn’t hear his sister sneak up behind him, because he had his earbuds in listening to his music. He felt little nudges on his sides and turned to see Tamara rubbing her front feet together. She started to cry. Thomas felt a little bad but he took one earbud out and asked, “What’s the matter, Tamara?”
She cried, “What is that under your shell? I tried to tickle you, but my feet feel like I got stabbed by something! It hurts! What do you have under there?”
Thomas grinned and said, “You mean ‘who’ is under there?”
Tamara’s eye’s widened. “What?”
Then Thomas bent over to one side and then the other. Sitting underneath the sides of his shell were his baby twin porcupine friends, Patty and Paulie. They pulled in their heads to hide when they saw Tamara’s angry and confused face.
She said to them, “Your quills are sharp!”
In unison they said, “Sorry!”
“How come they aren’t hurting your sides, Thomas?”
“I stuck some padding to my sides before I let them sit there.”
Patty snickered and said, “Thomas gave us some yummy pineapple and said he would give us more if we hid under his shell. He didn’t tell us why, and we didn’t ask. We just wanted the pineapple!”
Tamara laughed, “Well, it did hurt, but…” Then peering at Thomas with a look of shame she said, “I deserved it. I guess I wasn’t listening all the times you told me to stop tickling you. I’m sorry, Thomas. I will never do it again. I promise.”
The baby porcupines smiled as Thomas bent down so they could crawl out of his shell. He handed them a big pineapple and opened the kitchen door for them. The pineapple was so large that they had to carry it together. They waddled away yelling, “Thank you, Thomas!”
He laughed and hollered back, “You’re welcome!” Then he asked Tamara if she wanted to go play a game. She happily said yes.
Later that day his friend Garrett came over. He had called Thomas the night before to apologize again so Thomas forgave him. Garrett hadn’t promised not to tickle Thomas anymore, though, but Thomas wasn’t worried.
After Garrett arrived, Thomas reached up to get his baseball mitt off the shelf and expected Garrett to try and tickle him. He waited a moment, but nothing happened. He turned around and said, “Hey, why didn’t you try to tickle the most ticklish turtle in town, Garrett?”
Garrett shook his head and exclaimed, “Are you kidding? Tamara told me about the little prickly friends you have hiding under there.”
Thomas laughed and showed his sides to Garrett. He said, “Nope! No one’s under there now. But I hope you guys learned your lesson. I hate being tickled by surprise!”
Garrett held up both his front feet and backed up a little saying, “Buddy, you got it! I promise I will never tickle you again. I’m really sorry, too.”
“Thanks, Garrett. I’m sorry I said you deserved to get hurt. I didn’t really mean that. Let’s go play some baseball now, okay?”
When they walked by the pond on their way to the park, Maya was sitting on a rock sunning herself. She and Thomas winked at each other as he and Garrett walked by.
Then Thomas became known as the trickiest turtle in town.”
© Patsy H. Parker
Have a wonderful day, and give someone you love a big hug! 🙂