Late in the Season
A Storyby Peter Matthiessen
It was just at the edge of the late November road, a halted thing too large for the New England countryside, neither retreating nor pulling in its head, but waiting for the station wagon. Cici Avery saw it first, a dark giant turtle, as solitary as a misplaced object, or something left behind after its season. She nudged her husband and pointed, unwilling to break the silence in the car.
Frank Avery saw the turtle and slowed. If he had been alone, he would have swerved to hit it, Cici decided, selecting the untruth which suited her mood.
The small eyes reflected the slowing car, then fastened on the man. The tail, ridged with reptilian fins, lay still in the dust like a thick dead snake, pointing to the yellowed weeds which, leading back over a slight crest and descending thickly to the ditch, were flattened and coated by a wake of mud.
Cici, hands in her trousers, moved in unlaced boots past her husband. The tips of the laces flicked in the dust like broken whip ends.
“Poor monster,” she whispered to the turtle, “it’s late in the year for you, you’re past your season.”