Lao Song’s Turtles

By Nicole Stanton

Lao Song lived in a small cottage by the Yangtze River where the crickets sing all day and night. It was a tiny cottage big enough for the old woman, her three turtles, and an orange her cat which she kept only because to send the cat away would be the same as sending away her fortune.

Lao was a very superstitious woman. She always ate her fish from the head to tail. She never cut her toenails at night out of fear of falling over the next day. Once she woke her husband after a dream, saying, “Wang, I dreamed of salmon. We are going to have baby boy.” Nine months later Lao brought their only son into the world. But that was all long ago. Long before the war took the boy’s life, long before the woman moved to the river with her turtles. Because Lao believed her turtles kept away evil spirits she was sure to always consult with them before making any decisions.

One day the old woman was picking tomatoes in her garden when a hen came to her gate. “That’s strange,” Lao thought, watching the hen, “who could be coming to visit me?” But when Lao looked to the small dirt road a girl appeared from behind a bend. She was a too old to be a girl but too young to be a woman. The girl’s skinny legs and feet were bare and her head was covered by a big straw worn by the village farmers. Continue reading…