Turtle Soup

Submitted into Contest #235 in response to: Make a race an important element of your story.... view prompt



There once was a turtle whose name was Marcel Monroe. He had lived a modest life, all while carrying his house on his back.

One morning, a boy discovered his shell and peeked inside. Marcel invited him in for a cup of hot cocoa.

“Will you tell me a story, Marcel?” asked the boy.

“Once,” he began, “I was in a race.”

“But I thought turtles were slow.”

Marcel puffed thoughtfully on his pipe, before he replied. “If you measure a race by the time it takes to get from one point to another then yes – indeed – we are slow.”

The boy’s brow furrowed in confusion.

“I shall tell you a story, boy,” said Marcel with a smile, and the boy settled in, cradling the cup with his hands.


Marcel lived in a land of salt and rock, for a time. One morning, he stumbled upon a man and two horses. He was waving his arms, and stamping his feet, and shouting “You must! You must!”

But the silver horse – so grey as to blend into the rock, invisible if not for the whites of her eyes peeled back in fear – was shaking her head and backing away.

“What is wrong?” Marcel asked the horse.

“She won’t race!” shouted the man. “But she must, or I shall lose my home!”

Marcel nodded patiently at the man but waited for the horse to answer him.

“I’ve hurt my foot on the rock and the salt has seeped in,” the horse said. “I cannot race, or I shall break my leg and die.”

“You must! You must race!” the man yelled. He kicked out at the horse in anger, but Marcel stepped in the way and the man’s toe caught his shell. He fell to the ground with a howl, cradling his foot.

“I will help you,” Marcel said to the man. “Let this horse go, and I will race for you.”

The man began to cry and beat his fists against the rock.

“Do not fear. If I lose, you may share my home with me.”

The man sniffed, and nodded, and rose shamefully to his feet. “So be it.”

A red stallion was pawing impatiently at the ground, his nostrils flared as if he might breathe fire.

“You must race this stallion, and win,” the man said.

Marcel nodded, and the man began to count out loud.

“Three, two, one, GO!”

The stallion took off, a plume of smoke and dust in his wake. When the air cleared, Marcel had barely begun down the path after him, and the man dropped to his knees and wept.

But Marcel ignored him and plodded on. Fifty paces, then one hundred, then one thousand… At dawn, Marcel finally approached the finish line where the stallion was waiting, the man trailing behind him in despair.

“Why did you bother?” lamented the man. “It was lost before it even began.”

Marcel looked at the man, and then at the stallion, and said “I see no loss.”

“I crossed the finish line hours and hours ago,” the stallion huffed.

“I crossed the finish line, too,” Marcel said. “But I also spared the mare's life, helped a man, and gave you the opportunity to do what you were born to do.”

The stallion smiled and chuckled to himself. “You’re a clever old turtle, but I’m afraid I must still take my winnings.”

“Then I have also gained the pleasure of a new companion and friend,” Marcel said as he smiled at the man. “I shall make you soup, and hot tea, so you may rest a while and settle into your new home with me.”

The stallion frowned, for soup and hot tea sounded nice after such a long night of waiting.

“I wonder if you might be willing to find our friend, the grey mare, and invite her as well? I have plenty of soup to share. You are all most welcome.”

The stallion agreed, pleased to have been invited, and took off in search of the mare.

Hours later, Marcel and the man had grown tired of waiting for the stallion to return and had filled their bellies with soup and tea before falling asleep. They woke to a knock on the door, afternoon sunlight streaming through the windows, and when Marcel opened the door it was a bird.

“I have a very important message, but I am tired and have flown all morning,” said the bird.

“Please sit, let me help,” offered the man, who brought the bird a bowl of soup while Marcel watched.

The weary bird rested his wings, accepting the bowl from the man with deep gratitude. When the bird was done, he turned to the man and said “The stallion will not be returning. Your house is yours.”

“But why?” the man gasped.

The bird stretched its wings. “Upon fetching the grey mare, the stallion found himself contemplating his nature. He said to tell you that while he was born to win, he was not born to take.”

“But where will he live?” asked the man.

“The grey mare has offered for him to stay in her home,” said the bird with a knowing smile. “I do believe that arrangement shall work out well for all.”

The man jumped up and down, clicking his heels together and whooping with joy.

“Well then,” said Marcel, “I must be on my way.”

The man thanked him with tears in his eyes, dropped to his knees, and with one hand on his heart pledged his home to be free and open to anyone in need of shelter, care, or good soup.

“Just not turtle soup,” Marcel said with a wink. The sounds of the man’s laughter and the bird’s chirpy chuckle rang all around him.


Marcel looked at the boy with a smile on his lips.

“There are many ways in which we may measure a race. Judge not by who arrives when, but by the change they influence along the way.”

“But the world doesn’t see it that way,” the boy cried. “There must always be a winner and a loser.”

“You still think of a race as movement from here to there. But there is only One race, and it cannot be measured in distance or time.”

The boy sat quietly, contemplating the nature of turtles and men, as he finished his cocoa in silence. When he was done, he looked at Marcel and smiled.

“Turtles aren’t slow at all, are they?” the boy whispered.

“No,” Marcel whispered back, “we’re not.”

January 27, 2024 05:30

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