Editor’s Note: When it rains, we go inside. When it floods, we go to the store and buy bleach for some reason. But what do you do when you’re a tortoise? You don’t need bleach. You’re a tortoise. So where do you go when the heavens open up? After the flooding in Arizona, Steven Luna had to think like a tortoise or risk suffering the embarrassment of losing track of the slowest creature on Earth.
So by. now you’ve probably heard that it rained in Arizona. I heard it at three am on Monday morning, when the sky started vomiting water on my solar panels. It rains about four times a decade in these parts, and usually you can find a whole slew of idiots stuck up to their tank tops in a newly-developed river they were certain their mud-bog monster tires could carry them across. But guess what? Water doesn’t care how high your tires are, Sonorans. It’ll wipe your flip-flops right off of your feet and leave you flailing on the hood of your car, hoping you don’t have to throw down your Thirstbuster when the helicopter rescue happens.
By the way: they send you a bill for those nowadays.
Because of a little something called the Stupid Motorist Law. And I’m not even making that up.
The rest of this, though? Highly embellished.
I listened for the next two hours, waiting for it to let up like it usually does. It just kept getting louder and rainier and thunderier and hurricanier. I swear I saw Kevin Costner drift by in a hot air balloon, looking for the lady from Showgirls and that ugly hedgehog kid. (It’s okay if you don’t get that…it’s a reference to Waterworld, a super-shitty movie with terrible special effects. You’re better off not knowing.)
At four am, I figured I should check to make sure Winnie the Pooh wasn’t sailing by in an upside-down umbrella or whatever the he did in that cartoon. It was a long time ago. I remember he rolled in mud and called himself a raincloud, which made me laugh, because bears are really stupid sometimes. Then he made Christopher Robin tie a balloon to his stomach and float him up to a bee colony, which scared me, because those little bastards aren’t real friendly to humans…a mud-covered bear flying past their hole would freak them right the hell out. And it did. I hope the Hundred Acre Woods has some Epi-Pens handy, because the citizens do NOT know how to handle wildlife.
I didn’t find any bears or bees, but I did find a reservoir developing in my back yard. So much for proper drainage. As long as it didn’t reach the house, I was fine with it building up…until I remembered: we may not have Winnie the Pooh running around in Zero Acre Woods, but we totally have Cortex the Tortoise crawling around in our shrubs. I’m not a leading authority on tortoises, but I’m pretty sure if water gets up to their nose holes, they’re not going to ask for balloons and umbrellas to float their asses out of danger. They’re too proud to take that kind of hand-out, anyway. I reasoned they’d probably just crawl to the highest point they can find and wait it out. Either that, or they’d wedge themselves behind a 1967 Schwinn, wondering why Arizona is such a dumb place to live while waiting for a rescue chopper that just isn’t coming.
You can see wisdom like that when you look in their eyes. Try it sometime.
We had no choice but to let the sun rise to assess the damage and search for the tortoise. What else were we going to do—take a flashlight and hunt him down like a sasquatch? The thought did occur, but our only working flashlight came from a Der Wienerschnitzel Halloween happy meal.
A decade ago.
As soon as there was daylight, we made our drizzly search through all of his usual hideouts…and found nothing. He’s kind of big—the size of an inverted mixing bowl, or one of those helmets the German dudes on Hogan’s Heroes wore. There’s no way he could have made a run for it between the spaces in the block walls. We joked wistfully about how he had to be somewhere; he couldn’t have just floated off.
Then I remembered that freaking bear and his stupid balloon.
I vowed then and there that, no matter what it took, I would find that tortoise and make amends for leaving him outside in the remnants of a hurricane. I didn’t know what those amends would consist of, but that was kind of secondary at the moment.
When everything had dried to the point of being only ridiculously sopping wet, I made another trip outside. I wore shoes this time, because nobody has to warn me about tetanus twice in the same year. I don’t know if we linked telepathically, or if I just “happen to know” tortoise behavior like a damn boss, but I went straight to where he was and found his soggy ass staring out from behind that bike tire. I think I heard the theme from “E.T.” playing in the background, and I’m pretty sure he heard it, too. The look on his face was squarely in the “What the HELL was that?” category, which I attributed to the rain and not the John Williams music, though it easily could have applied to both. Then I picked him up and made sure his limbs still worked (because in my world, reptiles are prone to rust and water damage) before setting him on a little gravely mound high above the flooded yard. His eyes brightened, as if to tell me he was still happy to be our tortoise, but we should seriously get some shit looked at around this place.
So. Long story short—as if that’s even possible at this point: It rained like a crappy Kevin Costner Bible story in my neighborhood, but my tortoise is A-OK.
And also: Screw you, remnants of Hurricane Norbert.
You might soak my yard, and you may strand my motorists, but you sure as hell aren’t taking my tortoise.