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And Day and Night and After

Story by Adam Peterson (Read author interview) March 25, 2014

art by Eli Christman

She’d never been in love, she could see that now. The movie was that good. In it, a man formed a friendship with a turtle who crawled up his driveway and into his car. As the credits rolled, she turned to Brian and whispered, I don’t want to get married.

Brian didn’t understand, possibly because the movie was the one they’d taken their friends and family to after the rehearsal dinner on the night before the wedding.

It’s not like everyone can’t find something else to do tomorrow, she said. I know, let’s see it again.

Brian stayed home, so she went alone and cried and threw candy at the screen when the man tried to kick the turtle out of the car and threw even more candy into the air when the turtle wouldn’t leave.

Devotion, she whispered to the kindergarten class next to her.

In the lobby, a teenager told her the turtle needed turtle friends, and she said, That turtle needed me. She won the argument when the teenager went back to scooping her popcorn. At home, she tried to feed it to her roommate Brian with a piece pinched above his head.

Like the turtle! she cried.

Brian cried too.

Brian was looking gaunt so the next day she studied how the man fed the turtle. She must have gotten there early because a more teenager-y teenager yawned and turned on the projector to an otherwise empty theatre. When a man snuck in halfway through the movie, she walked over to his seat to explain that everyone in the movie thought the turtle was sick.

I hope it dies, the man said.

You take that back, she said.

I’m sorry, the man said. I thought this movie had robots. I don’t care for turtles.

She thought this was impossible until on the way home she bought a real turtle and it was a jerk, having nothing to teach her about life and a lot to teach her about responsibility. So she gifted it to her platonic friend Brian who seemed a little lonely.

She told him it was just for a week but it was totally forever. She only wanted the movie turtle who seemed so wise when it waited all day in the parking lot while the man worked then waited all night while the man ate and watched TV and did his taxes. And day and night and after they went on like that, until the man was old and the turtle was still turtle-aged and said to the dying man, I liked some of the things about you.

And even though the movie leaves a lot of loose ends with the whole murder subplot and the fact that speech hadn’t previously been one of the turtle’s established abilities, the clarity of her feelings about it threw into relief all the love she’d been wrong about before and never would be again.

About the Author

Adam Peterson is a Kathy Fish Fellow and writer-in-residence at SmokeLong Quarterly for 2013-14. He is the co-editor of The Cupboard, and the author of The Flasher, My Untimely Death, and, with Laura Eve Engel, [SPOILER ALERT]. His short fiction can be found in The Kenyon Review, Indiana Review, The Normal School, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. Originally from Nebraska, he currently lives in Houston, Texas.

About the Artist

Eli Christman is a world traveler extraordinaire. He believes a photo should sell itself based on a bit of skill and luck of the photographer; not by how a program can distort the photo. This photo is used via Flickr Creative Commons.

This story appeared in Issue Forty-Three of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty-Three

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