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maurice the turtle who wanted to be human

Maurice didn't like being a turtle. His head was always stuck low to the ground. Everyone was taller than he was. And, his shell slowed him down. He envied the humans he saw near the river. They walked around on two legs, tall and quick. He wished he could do that just once.

He liked to try walking on two legs, but it never went well. If he managed to get himself upright, his shell would usually weigh him down, and he would fall onto his back, and it would take most of a day to get himself rolled back over again.

One day, as he was trying to stand on two legs, he heard laughter from the bushes nearby. He did his best to ignore it, managed about a half a second before falling onto his back, and then found himself staring up at a bear, a bear who was laughing at him.

Ross was not a picky eater. He'd been a bear all his life and that meant he could usually eat just about anything he wanted. He'd had turtle before, and though the shell took some doing to get off, the meat inside was quite tasty. When he saw Maurice wobbling about on two legs, his first thought was that it had been several hours since breakfast and he was hungry. His second thought was that a turtle wobbling about like that was quite a funny sight.

"What are you doing," he asked.

Maurice, startled, embarrassed and confused, did not answer at first. Then he explained how he wanted to stand up like a human.

"Oh, I can do that," Ross said. And, he proceeded to rise up on to legs and stumble about for a bit. He wasn't graceful, but he managed well enough. The sight of it made Maurice sad.

Ross dropped back down on all fours and asked what the problem was.

"It's my shell," Maurice explained. "It weighs too much and I always fall on my back." He gestured with his forelegs to indicate his current predicament, but his legs were too short to get the point across, and Ross was not a very smart bear, so he did not understand.

"You know, those things come off," Ross said.

"I think I'd know if my shell came off," Maurice replied.

Ross thought back to the delicious turtle, and how it had taken him a good half an hour to get the shell apart and all the meaty bits out. He nodded. "Nope, they come off. I've taken one off a turtle before."

Maurice wondered why Ross was helping turtles out of shells and was about to ask when Ross flipped him back onto his feet and crouched down low enough to look him in the eye. "I can help you get out of your shell, if you like," Ross said.

Maurice did not have to think long to decide. He nodded emphatically.

Ross picked him up and shook him a bit before digging claws into the edges of his shell. It hurt when Ross yanked and pulled and yanked some more, but Maurice thought it would be worth a little pain to get to walk around like a human, to look at things from higher up, to see the whole world a little differently.

It only took twenty minutes, though it hurt like longer, and then Maurice found himself standing--not upright yet, but still on all fours--next to his shell, broken in two pieces. He felt lightheaded and there was fresh blood all over the place, on the shell halves, on the grass, all up and down his sides. It hurt a lot, but his determination allowed him to ignore the pain long enough to lift himself up onto two legs.

He felt even more lightheaded than before, and his sides erupted with pain. The world was different for only a moment--but what a grand moment it was, up higher, no longer a turtle stuck in his stupid shell but something newer, better--before he felt a wave come over him and he passed out.

He awoke to more pain as Ross clamped his jaws down on him and the last thing he saw was a trail of blood beneath the bear's lumbering body as Ross carried him off into the woods. It was, after all, lunchtime.