by Mike Scofield
When Lawrence faced his yard in such a way that nothing
made by the hands of man was in view, he imagined
himself thousands of miles and centuries away. He was
Spartacus, newly free, taking a rest during his travails.
Homer, Lawrence’s pet tortoise, which he had just set down
in the rock garden sedum, was really a wild tortoise,
unnamed and un-possessed—a free animal of Anatolia that
curious Spartacus had paused to watch before gathering his
fellow former slaves into a massive army.

But Homer wasn’t right. He moved on from the sedum to
the garden path, following the flagstones to the edge of the
drive. Lawrence watched glumly. Homer reached the treated
wood fence but continued moving, a crawl now, to sniff and
press his leathery head against the base of the barrier,
testing for a way out.

Homer was a Greek Tortoise, a dusky soup bowl with legs.
The season and his hormones were telling him to look for
love. The damn thing wouldn’t stop. No nibbling dandelions,
no swallowing pebbles. Once outside, Homer wanted some.
And apparently he would walk to Greece to get it.

Lawrence mulled and watched the tortoise. Right thirty
paces; left thirty paces. Probing. Why couldn’t the tortoise
be happy that he lived amid such plenty? In the past he
seemed so satisfied.

Lawrence tried but could not think of a way to help Homer.

“There has to be something…”

Then Lawrence was Einstein, smoking his pipe thoughtfully
and mulling in his yard at Princeton. What would a tortoise-
owning Einstein do? Are there tortoise prostitutes? Can a
female be procured? Einstein laughed at this, a snort

But then Einstein/Lawrence said, “Get him a woman!” and
smacked his own head. “You’re a genius!”

GREEK TORTOISE FOR STUD ran the ad on Craigslist. And
almost immediately there were fools, including, “Don’t
waste your time—he just wants it Greek!”


But then he read: “My Penelope is ready for a suitor. Please
contact. Lola.”


Lawrence considered. He was Eisenhower working out D-
Day. He had not expected a fellow tortoise person to be a
woman. It would be difficult to take her seriously. But Lola’s
was the only real reply he’d received. Tactically, in this
small city, the number of eligible female Greeks was
probably very low. Penelope could be it.

“But a woman,” he said to Homer.

He worked out his reply:

‘Homer is interested in meeting Penelope. Would she like to
visit here at our home or on a neutral site? Lawrence’

A reply came back immediately:

‘She would
love to visit you at your home! Is right now too
soon? We have the afternoon clear.’

Alarmed by the rush, Lawrence considered the proposal. A
woman in his house? It had been a long time...

‘Right now is inconvenient. Tomorrow afternoon?’

‘Yes! Penelope will be dolled-up and ready! ;)’

My God, thought Lawrence. Are we ready for this? He looked
out the window and watched Homer probe the fence. Well, it
won’t be in the house. It will be outside, where animals rut.

‘I need your address, Sweetie.’

Good Lord.

Lawrence considered shutting the laptop and walking away
before it was too late. He stared at her last sentence. The
familiarity of her—maybe she is a fast woman. Maybe this
was a ruse to get over here and overwhelm him with her

‘Please send a photo of Penelope.’

A reply came quickly.

‘Here she is! What a beauty! Got one of Homer?’

He studied the picture. Penelope was larger than Homer.
The tortoise was eating a cherry tomato on a bright piece of
AstroTurf. Lawrence shook his head. Tomato. Completely
wrong for
Testudo graeca. She probably fed it dog food, too.
Although the shell looked decently formed…

‘Still there?’

Annoyed, he took his time selecting a picture of Homer to
send. He settled on one of the tortoise hesitating on a blue
flagstone, head majestically erect as he considered his next
move. Lawrence sent it without comment.

‘Well isn’t he a good-looking boy! So alert. Penelope thinks
he’s hot! (:o)’

Lawrence cocked his head to take in the emoji and
wondered how he could possibly have arrived at this
moment in his life. Maybe Homer could just learn to deal
with celibacy. Lawrence had. It was certainly easier than
dealing with women.

‘Still need your address.’

He sighed and sent it.

‘Noon? 1? 2?’


‘See ya then, Stud!’

He shut the laptop.

“You don’t respect women!”

His memory retrieved her final, shouted words to him as he
watched her bang out through the garden gate, leaving it
open. She probably hoped that Homer would escape—hadn’t
she thought him strange to own a tortoise?

“What kind of grown man has a pet turtle?”

That was the culmination of the one, short relationship
Lawrence had ever entered into. Of course, they had dated
for a few weeks. The sex, to his mind, just seemed
unseemly soon. Was she somewhat loose, he had joked.
Bang, zoom and out the gate, gone for good.

He went out to watch Homer look for love. “Careful what you
wish for, Homey.”

Lola pulled up across the street in a tiny red car. She
squinted at his house through the drive side window. Then
she got out and stood appraising his property. She nodded,
somewhat, and bent into the back seat to pull from it a
beige and purple cat carrier.

Lawrence took a deep breath and waited by the front door
for the bell to ring. He heard feet meet the stone steps.

“Now, behave yourself, Penelope,” he heard Lola’s voice on
the other side of the door. “This could be the man of your

The bell rang.

Lawrence waited a moment and then pulled open the door.
Their eyes met through the screen and locked for a moment
before he looked down to open it.

“Hi, Larry! I’m Lori and this is Penelope!” She raised the cat
carrier and pointed to the interior.

“Lawrence,” said Lawrence. He pointed at her but kept his
hand close in to himself. “Not ‘Lola’?”

“No!” she said. “Well, sorta. Lori Lamori.” And she held out
her hand.

Lawrence looked at it. Lori Lamori? It’s more of a stripper’s
name than Lola. He mildly shook the warm hand.

“Please come in,” he said formally.

“We’re dying to meet Homer!”

“He is in the garden at the moment.”

“Oh, I wish I could take Penelope outdoors more often! I
can really only do it on the weekend.”

Lawrence didn’t hide his disapproval. “She needs to be out,”
he said firmly. “Every day.”

“In a perfect world. In this one, I can’t.”

He couldn’t help but shake his head. “We should, maybe,
have a chat before we introduce the two…”

“Sure! What do you want to know?”

“Uh, how about if we sit in the kitchen?”

Lawrence led the way, stopping at the door to sweep his
hand to the table. Of course, her first action was to place
the cat carrier on it. He gritted his teeth.

“I’m a little bit of a germaphobe. Can that go on the floor?”

Now it was her turn to grit. She actually stared at him a
moment before lifting the carrier.

“My things—we—are clean.”

She pulled out a chair, sat, and placed the carrier across her
thighs. “I guess we should talk.”

“This could get a little rough.”

“For you or for me?”


“For Penelope.”

On cue, the tortoise rattled its cage, shell bumping plastic,
claws on steel mesh.

Lori stared at him. He registered it and deducted a few
points from her intelligence quotient. Then she got what he
was saying.

“Oh. That’s right. I remember reading that the males can
get rough. Biting and all.” At that moment the tortoise was
trying to get at her finger. She frowned at the little ancient
head poking from the door and moved her hand. “Well, in
the wild she’d have to put up with it.”

“I think we should set a ground rule that once this courtship
begins we let it go where it will,” he said.

“And I’ll step in when and if I think I should,” she said

They looked into each other’s eyes. Lawrence tried to hide
his contempt. Disdain bounced back to him from her hard

He sighed and gave up. “Maybe this wasn’t such a good

Lori looked at him until her eyes softened. She patted his
arm. “Maybe we won’t get along but it’s not about us. How
long can it take?”

She had a point. They could stand on opposite ends of the
garden during the connubial relations. He wouldn’t have to
listen to her opinions.

“Why do you want to do this?” he asked.

“Afterward, I want to take her home, watch her build a nest,
and have young’uns. Then I can give them away to all the
people who love Penelope and want a Greek, too.”

“But can they care for them properly?” He ignored the ‘nest’

“I’ll teach them.”

“If there are young,” he said carefully, “I will speak with
potential owners. I feel very strongly about that.”

Lori’s mouth formed a straight line. Gears were turning in
that skull. Lawrence braced himself.

Finally, she nodded. “I understand.” Then she brightened.
“That’s very considerate!” She touched his arm again. He
fought the urge to pull back. “You’re exactly right! The
babies will need the right care.”

Lawrence tried to think of more ground rules.

“Let’s introduce them!” Lori set down the carrier and opened
the door.

Penelope emerged immediately. She was big! The size of a
dinner plate. Lawrence was used to Homer, who must be,
what, a full three inches shorter than this gargantua? The
big female hesitated on the tile momentarily and tested the
air, head bobbing, then lit out for the garden, nails clicking.
She didn’t stop at the screen door but pushed into it, raising
herself to claw at the nylon.

“Let me get that.” Lawrence quickly stepped to it and eased
the door open before the stranger could tear through.

Lori was at his elbow. “I’ve never seen her like this before—
not even at dinner time!”

They had to move quickly to keep up with her, Lawrence
looking ahead for Homer. There he was, still working the
fence line. Apparently, he had not got wind of her. The big
tortoise swept over the flagstone walk.

Homer stopped what he was doing only at the last moment.
He turned from the boards and looked quizzically up at
Lawrence just as the big mammu hit him broadside.
Lawrence made eye contact with him just as he was going
over. Then Penelope was on him, biting, clawing, seemingly
trying to mate. She got him in the side of the neck and held

“Jesus CHRIST!”

Lawrence grabbed Penelope’s head between his forefinger
and thumb and tried to figure out the hinge. He felt the
little jaw muscles chew. He worked Homer away from her
carefully with the other hand. Then he shoved the bigger
tort away. He cradled Homer and ran into the house.

“Wow!” cried Lori. “I didn’t know she was so tough!” She
bent over her pet, which had spun around for another go at
the male. It actually started for the house. “Like a cat in

Lawrence held Homer under a slight stream of warm water
at the sink. Then he dabbed at the wound. Still bleeding—
he had to stop it and then protect it from infection. Who
knew where that bitch’s mouth had been?

“Didn’t expect that, huh!” Lori held the screen door open so
Penelope could click over the floor to Lawrence.

Rage filled him. Balancing Homer in his hands he meant to
rear back and kick the goddam fucking thing back to Greece.

“Get it outta here! OUT! Both of you!”

Lori was startled from her excitement and then quickly

“Don’t you kick my tortoise!”

He was aware of the woman invading his space, bending to
lift the animal at his feet. Then her face was at his shoulder.

“Oh—‘we should let it go where it will’—didn’t you say that?”

“Just go.”

“It’s OK for my Penelope to get injured but your guy gets
one little scratch…”

Is she going to shut up and leave?

Lori packed the animal away and carried it out the door.

Lawrence ran styptic across Homer’s wounds. He watched
them for bleeding. When the last of it coagulated he placed
the tortoise gently on the floor and held open the door to
the garden. But Homer would not go out. The tort had found
Penelope’s scent. He worked the tile where the cat carrier
had last been, turning slowly clockwise, nostrils scraping
ceramic, throat pulsing with breath.

“Forget her,” said Lawrence. “She’s a psychopath.”

Lawrence put him outside.

“You need to get some fresh air and clear your mind. Stay

Lawrence washed the floor with a strong bleach solution,
liberally swabbing every possible spot that the big whore
may have touched. He finished at the back door.

Homer was out near the fence, hugging and working the
ground where he had been attacked.

Lawrence closed the inside door.

“I can’t watch you make a fool of yourself.”

Among his unopened emails there was not one new reply to
his offer of stud. But there was a new one from Lori. He
stared at it. It was just an Re: of their earlier
correspondence. What the hell did she want?

Lawrence pondered. Ignore it? Delete it? Open it and then
blast her moronic message? He opened or deleted
everything around it. Stared at the Lori message some
more. Then he walked away.

Lawrence lay in bed. He replayed the day’s events, stopping
the action here and there, pondering.

She wasn’t a bad looking woman. He rubbed his arm where
her hand had lingered. He felt something stir, either
physical or mental or maybe both, that had not stirred in a
long time. Maybe he had overreacted. But then he felt the
bitch tort’s jaws working Homer’s neck again. He clenched
his fists. The male is the violent sex, not the female!

Although…he had Googled ‘aggressive female spur-thighed’
and found that there was the odd female that fought. Why
the hell did it have to be the one he allowed into his house?
Lawrence stared at the ceiling and saw the raw wound on
Homer’s neck again. He sought sleep with eyes full of blood.
When it finally arrived he was a priest of Thessaloniki,
setting a torch to a medieval pyre upon which a large
female Greek was glowering, bound to a post…

Homer was still trying to hump the ground. Lawrence
watched him through the window and sipped his coffee.
Then he opened her email.

‘Is everything OK?’

How to answer? ‘Yes’ could mean he was here, flowers in his
hair not a care in the world, dancing and singing, praising
ecstatically life’s perfection. ‘No’ could mean he was at the
roof’s edge, cradling the mortally wounded Homer, crying
and cursing the monstrous mistake that is life.

‘Some of it is OK.’ Should he send that? He did.

No reply came immediately. None after lunch, either. In
between, Homer was looking for love more than ever.
Lawrence fretted over him. He went online to see about
buying a female.

‘Would the part that’s OK like to give this another try?’

Lawrence went back to the reptile classifieds and closed
them out.

‘Yes,’ he replied.

Lori was a personable and attractive woman. Lawrence
realized that now. He must have been aware of that fact on
some level during their earlier meeting. But here she was
again, cat carrier at her hip, crossing the street directly to
his house.

Lawrence was suddenly shy at the door. Lori emboldened.

“Hi,” he said, stupidly.

She gave him a big smile. “How’s Homer?”

“Uh, fine. Looking for Penelope.”

“So he can hide?”

They had a big laugh.

They gazed at one another for a long moment. Lawrence
looked down first.

“I’m thinking that maybe we should introduce them to each
other a little differently this time,” he said. “He didn’t see
her coming the first time.”

“OK. Maybe I could leave her in the cage and he can come
to her.”

“Good idea.”

They held another gaze.

What in Hell? mused Lawrence. He was feeling like a sexual
animal again. It had been so long...

“Homer is outside,” he said. “If you just set the cage down
somewhere and leave it closed, he can find it on his own,
get the scent…”

Lori nodded, smiling, and followed him out to the garden
with Penelope.

Homer had taken to patrolling the fence again between
worshipping at the battleground. He was there now but
quickly picked up on their presence and hurried to them.

“Well, he is an eager beaver!” said Lori. She lowered the
cage gently to the flagstone. “Penny! Look who’s here!”

Homer was at the cage, huffing pheromones. He set a claw
on the plastic rampart opening and peered in. Penelope
clattered there. They panted in each other’s essence. Then
the carrier rattled and rocked as if possessed.

Lawrence and Lori exchanged dubious looks.

“I’m almost afraid of what will happen when you open the

She nodded. “But he looks ready this time.”

“OK,” said Lawrence. “I guess if it gets out of hand we can
just pick them up.”

“Uh-huh.” Lori bent to open the door. Homer studied her
fingers and slowly opened his jaws. “Trying to get even?
Ha!” She took her hand away by opening the gate.

Penelope was on Homer like an avalanche, complete with
clunks and scrapes. Lawrence remained calm and simply
lifted her in both hands.

“Maybe if he can see her coming he’ll have time to react.”
He set Penelope down six feet away. She rushed across the
flagstone where Homer met her head on, legs braced. But
she bit into his foreleg, pushing him back. Homer crumpled
and Lawrence found himself again prying tortoise jaws off
his tortoise.

Lori held Homer while he worked. Then they both stood with
each other’s pet in their hands.

“Maybe,” Lawrence began but he was too self-conscious to

“What?” The way she held his Homer was both comical and
sensual. His old head bobbed between her thumbs.

“Maybe if you hold yours still, I can get mine to…um.”


Lawrence felt as if his head were suddenly thrust into
flames. He couldn’t look at Lori.

“Look,” she said. “I’ll put your guy down and you hand me
Penelope. I’ll hold her while you get into position.”

She put Homer on the floor. Lawrence handed Penelope
down to Lori. The larger tort was all for attacking Homer but
Lori held her in place.

“Now, get him around in back!” said Lori.

Lawrence was about to comply when Homer moved in on his
own. Penelope became more of a handful but Lori had her.

“Come on, Big Boy,” cooed Lori.

Lawrence felt a stirring in the rediscovered region.

Homer bumped Penelope roughly. He bit the left flank of her
shell. Then he squirmed rightward and bit that leg.

“Oh, you’re a stud!” said Lori.

Lawrence felt his breath quicken.

Homer mounted.

“Oh, yeah…” moaned Lori, “come and get it, you stud!”

Jesus CHRIST, thought Lawrence. He tried to hide his
erection by kneeling behind Homer.

Homer was in. He worked his plastron against Penelope’s
carapace. He slid his legs this way and that. He gazed
intently out over Penelope, his mouth dropped open, and his
little red flag of a tongue was thrust out into the open air. A
sharp burst of air issued from him.


Lori, kneeling, held her tort where she needed to be. But
then she let go and Penelope stayed put.

Lori rose and touched Lawrence’s shoulder. “I think they’ve
got it.”

Lawrence nodded. He straightened carefully to stand beside

“I mean…” she said. “They’re really, um, they’re REALLY!”
Her hand slid up his back and patted the middle. He gently
curled his arm around her, resting his hand on her hip. She
looked closely into his peripheral vision and kissed him on
the cheek. Then he turned and their lips met.

The two torts clacked together on the walk. The little red
flag came out again. Homer sighed. Lawrence and Lori found
their way to the garden couch. They sat and made out, they
reclined and made out. They sat, stood, twisted and doffed
clothing and reclined. The two humans did everything but
clack together on the couch.

Ah, the ecstasy!

Lawrence turned his head and watched Homer and
Penelope. He focused on them so that he wouldn’t over-
concentrate on what he and Lori were doing and finish too
soon. Then he looked beyond them. He saw his
surroundings for what they were. He was not Spartacus but
Lawrence, not about to take Greece but a small victory in
the here and now.


Mike Scofield tries to make sense of the world by dreaming up
stories. He hasn’t succeeded yet but his fiction has appeared
in mainstream and literary journals since the last millennium.
He lives on the great frontier of upstate New York.