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THE TORTOISE

    Once a tortoise realized its time was drawing nigh.
    The tortoise wasn’t particularly alarmed by this realization. It did not suddenly turn morose or self-pitying. Nor was it bothered by those who raced past with an “Out of the way, old-timer!” tossed back through the air or by the likelihood that it cut a figure of ridicule to many, with its sagging flesh and its faltering step. It didn’t look upon younger generations with defensive scorn or resentment that its own years were coming to a close while theirs would continue.
    Its own years had been full enough for one tortoise.
    Looking back on them, the tortoise took satisfaction not in specific events or accomplishments but in the sum total of experience itself. What mattered, now that life was approaching an end, was that it had possessed a beginning and a middle as well.
    A hackneyed assertion perhaps, the tortoise admitted, but there it was. Grander pronouncements could be left to those who thought them worth voicing. The tortoise was content to know that in its little portion of history there had been room for triumphs and sorrows enough for anyone. They might not appear all that impressive to some, no great duties fulfilled or exalted goals reached, but they would do for a life. They had their own weight and dignity.
    And despite its being by nature a rather solitary soul, the tortoise was pleased to have shared the planet for a time with the myriad other creatures. It didn’t get around much now, but that hadn’t always been the case. In its day, the tortoise was to be seen at many a symphony performance and seldom missed a museum or gallery opening. A well-acted drama could carry it to new worlds as if by magic, while a walk down the crowded avenue, rubbing shoulders with total strangers, had been like a journey to a land of miracles. And though it personally had always moved with a plodding gait, the tortoise rejoiced that others danced through life with such grace and élan. Without question, it was good to have been a part of it all.
    Oh, there were things it now realized it would never do. Adventures it would not undertake and appetites it would fail to satisfy. Perhaps that was as it should be. To think that all you desired of experience would be granted you in full—what kind of life would that amount to? 
    The tortoise also knew that when it was no more, the world would roll on as if it had never existed. Never been born, never grown strong, never grown wise in joy and sadness, never grown old. It would be forgotten, sooner rather than later, and leave behind only a large empty shell gathering dust.
    So be it.