Obituary for Yertle the Turtle, born Beijing, ca. 2007. Died Beijing, September 23, 2016.
Born a 王八蛋, he rose above his humble background to become the wisest of us all. We first met him at the Jingkelong Supermarket in Jiaodaokou, where he was one of a few hundred small red eared sliders crawling in a tank, like a swarm of drink coasters come to life.
For nine years, he lived in a porcelain birdbath. In his birdbath, Yertle was particularly fond of “rock” upon which he built his kingdom and where he would also take his afternoon sun bath.
He leaves behind a few hundred brothers and sisters, some of whom, given the conditions at the pet market where we purchased Yertle, no doubt pre-deceased him.
We always thought Yertle was indestructible. The Keith Richards of Turtles. He was once accidentally frozen solid in his bowl when the heat failed in our hutong courtyard during the winter of 2009. He was rescued with a hair dryer and never once complained.
Over time we became concerned about his apparent immortality and began leaving sacrificial offerings in his honor at a small altar before his turtle bowl. I’m not saying we definitely believed that in the future Yertle might end up the overlord of us all, but we had seen enough to hedge our bets.
Sadly for us, fortunately for those not wishing to live under an omnipotent turtle overlord, Yertle turned out to be mortal. He died peacefully, on top of “rock,” and was buried in a small private ceremony in an unmarked grave in our apartment courtyard. His fellow house pet Snickers attended the service.