Youth had proven very traumatic for Brantley, as it does for most turtles. He had been born in steaming muck beneath a rotting log, hatching from a leathery egg synchronously with thirty-three of his siblings, all of them clambering over one another toward freedom like a riotous mob. He had a sense of direction, some instinctual behavioral tract that kept Brantley moving, scuttling against thirty-three other muddy little turtles. Emerging from beneath the log, Brantley had been greeted by two hungry raccoons scooping the baby turtles up like treasure. They were brutally efficient, missing hardly a turtle, picking the tiny squabbling pucks up in their inquisitive fingers, lifting them to their mouths, cracking open their still fragile shells in their molars, folding them open with both hands and slurping out the insides like oysters on the half shell. One had reached for Brantley, brushing its claws on the back of his shell before instead grabbing another young turtle as it came from behind and tried to scramble over him. Something drew him away, something kept his tiny legs scrabbling like a wind up toy and pulled him to the water as if a guideline had been tied around his neck.
Brantley escaped somehow, but remained forever traumatized by the experience. For years he had nightmares of raccoons cracking him open like a wiggling nut, slurping out his insides and throwing his empty shell to the deer flies. Brantley hardly slept for three years. Most turtles that live to be three years old don’t sleep at all. No time for sleep in the food chain.