Challenge 579 Response
The Turtle and Juan Sanchez
with Tantra Bensko
“The Turtle and Juan Sanchez” appears in issue 579.
In Henry F. Tonn’s “The Turtle and Juan Sanchez,” the captain surmises that the turtle thinks it has established “proprietary rights.” In what way is the captain simply making a joke? What happens in the story to indicate that the captain’s words are correct in a way that “passes all understanding”?”
The fact that the turtle dove under suggests that the statement was said in a tone that didn’t take it seriously. The captain even chuckles. The turtle responds by diving at that moment as a “no” answer. It could have done that playfully, perhaps joking back to make them wonder even more how aware it was.
That suggests an answer to their pondering of why it didn’t dive. It’s intelligent. It might have been expecting a thank you, a present, a sense of sharing the concern over the patient with it. It could have been a little sensitive at that moment to being laughed at.
We have some science that can give us some understanding of communication that could have happened there, but not enough has been done yet to explain. I don’t personally feel it necessarily means Mary was involved, or therefore, the wife, but it could easily be something beyond human ken. It could just be the lovingkindness of a turtle that just happened to swim up and took a strong interest in saving Juan.
Maybe it’s proprietary because the oneness is watching out for him. I’d like to think it’s because of Juan’s goodness, but that could indicate that the people who have drowned were not good, and deserved it more, and I don’t see evidence of life working that way. I do see miracles happen when asked for sometimes, absolutely. And the more true stories people tell about that and about the heroism of wild creatures the better.
While the turtle might not have come to help him because of prayer, I sure can’t rule out the interconnectedness of all things and the ability to communicate a call for help throughout the universe to all within it, including turtles. I can can well believe a turtle could hear that.
I’d be curious to hear the background to this story if the author feels like sharing, though I know there is a certain pristine quality to having just the story. I find it very powerful that the turtle saves Juan’s life, especially considering how polluted humans have made the waters.
What a beautiful story this is, not only because of the true action, but the mystery the plot presentation immerses us in as it goes along, washing over the real with seeping unreal, cleansing the unreal with the real, liquifying the difference.
The beauty of the writing in the story continues with mystification of readers at the end that mimics the hallucinating man’s mind that flows into the story of the captain and the doctor by such a disorienting scenario, not explained but shown line by line as we adjust to the what the situation is. That’s a Bewildering Story!
I like the simplicity that doesn’t try to make a heavy-handed statement but asks a personal question: “Based on a true story.”
Copyright © 2014 by Tantra Bensko
Thank you, Tantra! That’s a very sensitive Challenge Response, and I’m sure you express the feelings of many readers.
To reiterate, the Challenge question is::
In Henry F. Tonn’s “The Turtle and Juan Sanchez,” the captain surmises that the turtle thinks it has established “proprietary rights.” In what way is the captain simply making a joke? What happens in the story to indicate that the captain’s words are correct in a way that “passes all understanding”?
The captain is only joking about the turtle’s “proprietary rights”; no one can know what the turtle thinks. But if the turtle were human, it would have played the role of a priest who has heard Juan Sanchez’ last confession.
It’s quite incidental that the turtle saves Juan’s life by staying afloat; that is not the miracle. Rather, the turtle gives Juan the privilege of a moment of clarity, in which he sees the meaning of his life. That is the “peace of God, which passes all understanding.”
Copyright © 2014 by Don Webb