visitors to outer rooms in which the sunlight was filtered through lace curtains carefully arranged on the windows of life. The contents of father's letter were never shared, not even with Mother, but it quickly became apparent from the questions he put to me in private that the note and my encounter with the vagrant had something in common.
    That summer, a river turtle also wandered into our yard. The huge, angry, prehistoric creature chewed chunks from a rake handle that we used to try to prod it back toward its abandoned habitat. It was as if the ornery critter had come to stay. Smaller turtles had made similar confused pilgrimages before it, snapping turtles we called them, though I think now that it was just one of those colloquialisms we kids tossed around loosely. Later I came to wonder whether the old turtle was as large as it seemed at the time; the family bungalow had shrunk to the size of a cottage in the years after we moved on.  But  from  the  cowering respect I remember



the men in the neighborhood showed the creature that day, I'm certain it was immense.
    Uncle Matt had ruined a golf club on it. The mashie distracted the reptile while some men in the neighborhood put a net over it and slung it onto the back of a truck with an awful thud. Then they hauled it back to the river where it belonged.
   My uncle's presence made it more of an occasion. He didn't come around very often, our place offering too little excitement to suit him. He also knew my mother didn't approve of what she called his ways. Father could be counted on to mount a staunch defense of Uncle Matt as a veteran entitled to make up for some of the fun he missed defending our freedom in the Pacific.
    “Tell me, Mark, exactly how much drinking and carousing does two years of KP on a tropical island entitle a man to?” Mother wanted to know.
    The blood connection between my uncle and my father was in some ways  stronger  than  the marital bond


Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine


March 1995