We came across this guy (or girl, we're not sure which) a couple weeks ago in one of the seafood sections at Kuala Lumpur's Pudu Market. He was offered for sale alongside mackerel and snapper and prawns.
His mottled shell stretched at least fifteen inches front to back. Turtles (or tortoises, we're not sure which) don't grow fast; he had to have seen at least a couple of decades on this earth. We couldn't imagine him ending such a long life in a soup pot.
'Should we buy him?' we wondered. Dave and I have a fairly large garden, and we've both long been enamored of turtles. We've swam alongside them off Thailand and Hawaii. They somehow strike us as noble creatures.
With the encouragement (and bankroll) of a sympathetic friend we negotiated a price with the seller. He, claiming that this specimen would draw one million in Hong Kong (really?!) wanted 300 ringgit (almost one hundred US dollars). We offered two hundred and he waved us away. We came back at 250. In the end the vendor - no doubt pitying the foreign nutters, with their utter lack of bargaining savvy - took 200.
We trundled LB (his name) off to the car and hurried home, where we soaked him and set him on a damp towel on the grass. We cheered when he stuck his head out of his shell and took a teeny step. We set some greens and water out for him and, figuring he needed to recover from his near death-by-cleaver, let him be.
The next day, as I was furiously googling, trying to figure out whether he was a tortoise or a turtle (different diets, different water needs), LB passed on. He'd been with us for only 24 hours, but it felt like a defeat.
Who knows what he'd endured in the days leading up to his appearance at Pudu. Now he lies in our garden, where we'd hoped he'd live out a long life. We can only hope he sensed his return to the outdoors in his last hours.
Rest in peace, LB. We tried.