Joshua Tree Tortoise: a strange conversation

I met this tortoise on a hot summers’ noon in Joshua True. A burning sun stood high in the boiling sky, and I still wasn’t feeling well after what I had done to that guy in the pub. But he had it coming.

The tortoise looked at me in total silence, without saying a word. Not that I’m an extremely sociable type, especially on a hot summers’ day in Joshua Tree, but this silent staring unnerved me. It felt strange, like something bad was going to happen.

‘Got some drugs? Some meth or so?’ the tortoise asked me. Although the previous silence was disturbing, I was startled: the question came all too suddenly, too unexpectedly.

‘What for? Are you a junky?’ was my response.

‘Do I look like a junky?’ the tortoise asked annoyed.

Drug seeking tortoise of Joshua Tree

Drug seeking tortoise of Joshua Tree

‘No. But if you’re not a junky, why are you looking for drugs?’

It was a reasonable question, and I congratulated myself on it. Not that I tried to look smarter than the tortoise, but it was a solid point to make.

‘I’m not looking for drugs,’ was the answer. ‘Just trying to find a fancy question to start a conversation. Something original, you know. Not your common boring what-time-it-is shit.’

Which also was quite a point. But I decided not to say this to the tortoise, in order to maintain a certain level of intellectual supremacy.

‘On the other hand,’ I replied, ‘no matter how a desert tortoise starts a conversation, pretty much every question would have sounded fancy, perhaps even glitzy.’

I saw that the tortoise did dig my clever reply, but the beast didn’t want to go as far as admitting my quick-wittedness.

‘So you’re vegetarian?’ the tortoise went on with its fancy questions.

‘Do I look like a vegetarian?’

Once again a great point for me!

The tortoise just shrugged its shoulders without saying a word.

‘So no drugs?’ it asked after a minute.


The tortoise spit in the sand, which neither looked nor meant to be offensive, and I knew that just fine. But nevertheless, it took me by surprise: I swear, never before in my life, have I seen a tortoise spitting in the sand! I couldn’t describe how astounded and shocked I was, watching something like that!

‘See you,’ said the tortoise, turning around.

And then it went away, this drugs seeking but not addicted tortoise. It went away to never return.

It went away to never return

It went away to never return


Aleksandr Skorobogatov: press and reviews on the books

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