A turtle sat in the dark.
"Good morning," he said. "A lovely morning, so far. I am chilly. The sun should be out any time now, though, and that ought to put a stop to that." And then it really will be a lovely morning, he thought, but didn't say it; things wouldn't have seemed so cheery, framed like that.
The turtle's name was Hector, and he was a charming painted turtle with tastefully striking orange stripes that nobody could really see in the dark. He did not blink.
"Curse of being cold-blooded," he said to himself in what he hoped was a tone of wry good humor.
The log on which Hector sat was almost entirely submerged, vanished under the cool black surface of the pond. (Up above the waterline lived some funguses and algae and such, which grew and spread over the log as best they could when they had the chance. Hector had never even noticed, because they all moved so slowly.) Beneath him moved fish too slippery to think about, he just knew it. Down there it was cold. Far too cold to dive into without the assurance of a flooding of sunlight above to return to. It was almost all he could think of: a good quick squish in the mud on the bottom and a long lazy sunbath right here on his favorite log. He'd done exactly that yesterday and his thirst for it wasn't a bit less.
Nobody had taken up the mantle of Hector's conversation, so he kept gamely on, not certain to whom he was speaking.
"It's no trouble sitting through a bit of cold, as long as you're not trying to move around much in the meantime," he said not blinking. "And that bit of grey, it's been hanging there for some time, now. It can't be long now before those lilies, over there, they open up, and you'll be able to make out the color." As bright orange as the lines on my neck, he thought.
The flowers said nothing. Only the booming voices of the bullfrogs broke the silence: "Over here!" "Here, here." Hector felt certain such remarks were not addressed to him, and politely he ignored them.
"Yesterday I asked one of those old snappers, why didn't he slide up and sun a spell," Hector said almost to himself. "And you know what he said? 'Too hot up there.' Too hot, honestly. And you know he's every bit as cold-blooded as I am." A little breeze picked up and left. "I'm all for a little squish, of course, don't get me wrong," he added a little more loudly.
Suddenly a voice nearby breathed: "Morning." Hector blinked.
"Morning, morning," he said, knowing full well that a whispery insect voice like that was just as likely making an observation as greeting anybody. "Who's there, now? Amanda Dragonfly, is that you? Good morning!"
"Amanda," the voice confirmed. She was speaking from not far away where the mud came right up out of the water and grew grass, which screened the basking log from most directions.
"Morning, Amanda," Hector said amiably. "Up early, today. Well, a good early start gets you all the best pickings, or anyway that's what I've found. Got my favorite log, here. Did you sleep okay?" Here he tried to slow down a bit, knowing dragonflies only have a little bit of brainspace apiece and need time to think things over.
"Okay," Amanda agreed after a moment.
"I've been up most of half an hour," the turtle said. "A pleasant morning. No complaints."
"I'm hungry," the insect said.
"Well, true, I wouldn't mind a bit of breakfast, but I think I'll wait a little while." The truth was, Hector had always thought Amanda herself looked fairly tasty, but he knew he could never be quick enough to catch her, so he thought it better left unsaid. "I was hoping for a little sun-bask, first, something like that. Not a lot of sun, though, really. You'd think after all this grey filtering and such, we'd get a bit of sun, but what do you know."
"Well, that was my thought," he agreed. Then he paused, and went on in a suddenly hopeful voice: "Were you thinking of having a look around? A little morning zip around the pond, or something. Maybe you could take a look, and let me know how far the sun has come, when you have a chance. Do you suppose?"
"I suppose," Amanda whispered.
For a long moment neither spoke; Amanda, perhaps, was considering just how to go about her little zip, and the turtle didn't dare interrupt her thought, for fear of dislodging it entirely.
All at once, from the dragonfly's hidden perch in the grass, came the crisp rattle of her wings, warming up in a series of short bursts.
"There's the idea," Hector enthused.
"Okay," came the distracted voice of the dragonfly, and abruptly her wings thrummed to their full volume, a sound that gave Hector the shivers. In the darkness he could just see her long body leaping up and out from the tall grass, and she was away, the noise of her wings swiftly fading.
"Well, that ought to do it," he told himself. "She should be back around before long, and with any luck she'll find a bit of sun."
"Here, over here," thundered the frogs.
Amanda skimmed low over the water, her eyes everywhere. Mosquitoes, she thought, were abroad in the early morning, and mosquitoes were quite good.
Sun, also, she thought, but after a moment she couldn't place what to do with sun.
Soon enough she saw a little breakfast, its reflection a dark shadow on the dimly glimmering water. Quick as thought and more precise she arced and clapped upon the mosquito, snatching it midflight in an instant.
Good. Yes. Very good.
Before long she found the places where the mosquitoes were gathered, and she plucked them out of the air without faltering as fast as she could eat them. If another dragonfly happened along she held a decent distance and they made an informal phalanx; there was plenty to be had.
All the world cascaded behind her, under her perfect control. Dive and lock. Again. She'd done the same thing yesterday, and in the night she'd dreamed of it.
After a while she overflew a turtle, sunning itself on a log.
"Turtle," she remarked as she passed.
"Hi, hello, there," answered the turtle. Amanda checked herself and circled tightly back to the the log, hovering in front of the turtle's nose.
"Amanda, love, you missed it," Hector said. "I don't know where you went, but the sun came up without you."
The dragonfly moved to another vantage point, and another, noncommittally surveying the turtle, keeping a few facets free to watch for mosquitoes. She said nothing.
"Very pretty," continued Hector, who as a rule was perfectly happy to be stared at. "I was beginning to think it would just keep getting slowly a little brighter and a little brighter, you know, and with the pink clouds and everything. But then, bang, it popped up over the treeline down there, and about blinded me. Wonderful, really."
"You should have seen it. Or maybe you did. Did you find a bit to eat? I had a little swim, once it warmed up."
"Hungry," Amanda agreed.
Later in the day Hector sat alone again, holding his chin high and flaring his stripes, drinking in the heat. For a long while he held his eyes closed, but when a shadow passed over him he snapped them open.
Just below the treetops, lazily, a great blue heron sailed quietly over the pond. The woods around were just a little bit hushed, and Hector himself stared openmouthed, until the heron swept higher and vanished over the treeline.
"Well, I'll be," he muttered.
It was like the sun had come up again. It was as sweet and as terrible as the passage of an angel.