Dolores the Tortoise (A Children’s Story)

Well, why not? I have nothing to blog about today, and urban sprawl is a problem, so… here’s a tortoise tale for the tiny tots. Disregard the “illustrations.” I just wrote this and I am not an illustrator. It’s just a thing to pass the time and hopefully teach a child to be more careful than we were.

This is Dolores.


She is a tortoise.


Dolores the Tortoise was here long before us,

And she remembers a world that was bright, green and gorgeous.


Before there were buses, and buildings, and streets,

       and miles and miles of cold, hard concrete

Dolores remembers what was once there before —

       before all the noise and the hubbub and roar.


It’s hard to even see Dolores, isn’t it? *size non-proportional!

And Dolores the Tortoise remembers a forest,

      a beautiful forest that was here long before us.


Dolores the Tortoise, she herself said,

         had popped out of an egg by a wet riverbed.


When her young eyes adjusted to the bright morning light,

       she marveled at such a glorious sight.

There were lush plants and bushes and trees to the sky,

       and sparkling clear water went trickling by.

The air was so fresh, it smelled like the flowers

       that grew all around those great wooden towers.


Dolores enjoyed just strolling around,

       and eating fresh food that she found on the ground.


She slept under bushes with the stars bright above,

       and during the day she did the things that she loved.

Rolling down hills, splashing in pools,

      and sitting in mud to keep herself cool.


But one day Dolores saw something new…

       A small truck crept up with a gas company crew.


As Dolores watched, they stuck things in the ground

       Long metal sticks and machines drove them down.

Down into the ground they drove those long pipes,

       and they marked all the trees with ribbons and stripes.


Then more men came, and they brought bigger trucks.

       And they cut down more trees, those horrible f—ools.

And they brought in some trailers where they kept all their tools.

She did not know why they did what they did,

       but as they did it, Dolores just hid.

Soon more people came, and they needed to eat,

      but there were no restaurants, so they put in a street.

And on this street they built a small store

       full of foul-smelling food that would make her nose sore.


But the people ate that bad-smelling food,

     they ate it all up!

And even more people began to show up.

They came in their cars, and they drove on the street,

    And poor little Dolores, she just had to weep.


She watched them all come, and they cleared out the trees

       to make room for more of their trucks and “Humvees.”

And these trucks and Humvees, they needed some fuel

       so they put in a gas station, right there by her pool!


The trucks had their gas, but her pool was a mess

    And poor little Dolores, she felt so depressed.


Now they had trailers, and shops, and a station,

        and they added more roads from every direction.


And along these roads they began to build houses

       and more workers came and moved in with their spouses.

They soon had some children, so they built a new school

       but Dolores’s forest had become a cesspool.


The shop was made bigger, and became a whole mall,

       and more and more trees had started to fall.

They put up bright lights all around their new town

       and drowned out the stars for those on the ground.


All you could see was pink-hued street lights

       and bright signs that flashed all through the night.


And still more people came, and new ones were born.

The bird songs were lost to shouts and car horns.

Dolores, she hid, she hid as well as she could.

She had grown much bigger, and she understood

       that the forest had become a town, then a city,

       and now she was trapped in a town without pity.

As the years rolled by, more buildings were built.

Restaurants and factories dumped trash without guilt.

They put in a park, and that was OK,

       but the place was too small

       and it was crowded all day.


Dolores hid by her tree without anyone knowing,

       and just like the town, she and the tree just kept growing.


She loved that old tree, as it reached for the sun.

Like her, it was stuck, and it could not run.

For a very long time, it was just her and the tree,

       the only two things that still seemed to be

       left of the forest that she so longed to see.


She no longer ate flowers, or berries, or nuts,

       just discarded corn chips and old cigarette butts.

The seasons kept changing as Dolores grew old,

       and one day she heard that the park had been sold.

The next thing she knew, those awful trucks had come back,

       and poor old Dolores had a panic attack!

       They had her trapped! What would they do?

They put up a sign that said NEW CITY ZOO.


But tortoises can’t read. Dolores hadn’t a clue!

Dolores watched as a crowd gathered around

       those awful machines that shook the whole ground.

Then a man in a suit with a shovel in hand

       stood up on top of this last piece of land.

As he waved to the crowd he said, “This park is too small!

       And we already have stadiums, apartments, and malls!

       So I’m proud to announce this zoo to you all.

       But in order to build it, that old tree must fall!”


And he pointed straight back, and straight up to the top

       of Dolores’s last tree! Would this madness not stop?

But they did not stop, and soon it was done.

Dolores’s last tree was brought down from the sun.

And there sat poor Dolores, unprotected, exposed.

And before she could run (well, crawl) a shadow arose.


A large man stood above her as she lay on the ground,

       and he yelled, “HEY, FELLAS! LOOK AT THIS TURTLE I FOUND!”

They picked her right up and they laughed and they cheered,

       but poor old Dolores was frozen with fear.

She sat very still as they fed her old lettuce,

       and she remembered her forest, and she tried to forget us.

The forest was the only peace she had known.

And we, all of us, had destroyed her true home.

And just when Dolores thought she was done with this world,

       she heard something different — the laugh of a girl.

“A turtle?” she laughed, and patted Dolores’s shell.

       “Why, this is a tortoise, can’t you idiots tell?”

As Dolores peered out from her shell, she felt herself rise

       until she was looking at two bright, shining eyes.



“My name is Ellie,” she heard the eyes say,

       “And I think you, old girl, must have lost your way.

       But you have nothing to fear, because lucky for you,

       I’m a herpetologist, and I work for the zoo!”

“A herpe-what?!” asked one of the men on the crew.

“Who are you, lady? And what do you do?”

       “I protect reptiles,” Ellie said with a smile.

       “Like lizards and snakes and crocodiles.

       And turtles and tortoises and terrapins, too.

       And this lovely creature belongs in our zoo.

       She’ll be great in the zoo. The kids will just love her!”

And Dolores went from one mess to another.

They took poor Dolores, now a ripe, ripe old age,

       and they placed her inside of a clear plastic cage.


Then they put up a fence, and they brought in more critters.

They’d been shipped in from elsewhere, and they all looked quite bitter.


Sometimes the people would let Dolores come out,

       and slowly she started to wander about.

But Dolores always wore a sad face,

       because this once was her home

       and now she felt out of place.


She saw there were peacocks and weird armadillos,

       some goats and a sheep and some other odd fellows.

And yes, there were children who came to the zoo.

They pet her and sat on her and fed her some food.

illustration of children's riding giant turtle

But Ellie suspected, and she wasn’t mistaken,

       that poor old Dolores’s old heart was breaking.

She liked the children, they seemed like good friends,

       but Dolores just wanted her forest again.

And as poor Dolores watched the children run ’round,

       she noticed that Ellie had sat down on the ground.

She sat right beside her, right there in the dirt,

       and she knew Ellie was sad because Dolores was hurt.

As Ellie placed a soft hand on her shell,

       Dolores remembered she had a story to tell.

And Ellie just listened… she listened so well.

Dolores shared memories, but only with her,

       of the things she had seen in her time in this world.

Now most animals don’t speak — at least not in words,

       but Ellie still listened, and that’s how she heard

       that Dolores the Tortoise was here long before us,

       and she remembered a world that was bright, green, and gorgeous.

Ellie could see in Dolores’s eyes

Lush plants and bushes and trees to the sky

       and sparkling clear water that went trickling by.

And as she watched that world torn apart,

       she felt the pain in Dolores’s heart.

It touched her so deeply that as she got older,

       she would always remember what Dolores had told her.

She thought of the forest, the clear water and trees,

       and to think of it now made her weak in the knees.

And one day, actually quite late at night,

Ellie decided to put things right.

Ellie waited in the shadows — Oh, the suspense! —

       and when no one was looking,

       she hopped over the fence.

Now I’m not going to tell you what happened that night,

       but Ellie worked for the zoo, so it was alright.

What I can tell you, my patient young friends,

       is that somewhere, somehow, that girl made amends.

And now as we sit here, in this busy old town,

       somewhere there’s a tortoise, just strolling around.

Far away from the city, the buildings and zoos,

       away from the smog and the gas company crews,

       far from the trucks and the noise and the mess…


      And that tortoise is happy in a bright new forest.




[If I’ve used a bit of your clip-art and you have a mind to sue, please don’t. I have no money, and suing the poor is bad PR. Just tell me and I’ll remove it.]

[Not to be hypocritical, but this literary work is copyrighted, as is the character’s name Dolores the Tortoise. 2018. Contact this blog for permission to use.]


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