I knew something was not right when I wandered across the patio yesterday morning.
The shape was familiar. The high arch of a Mexican mud turtle shell. But the shell was on its side, My first concern was that the turtle had toppled over and could not right itself.
I was half correct. It had toppled. But there would be no righting it. Not for this fellow.
All of the fleshy parts had been eaten away. At least, as far as the diner could reach.
That was when I found the second turtle. Smaller. But the modus vicendi was the same. What had been a living turtle on Tuesday was a Wednesday morning corpse.
I immediately blamed the neighbor cat. The yellow and white tom who has managed to eat a hole in the squirrel and crab population in my garden. I suspected he had added two turtles to the notches on his sinister claws.
These deaths were a bit personal. I believe it was the larger turtle I had encountered on the andador around the laguna Tuesday afternoon. It was sauntering along in its turtley way. As if it were a dump truck driving along a wide expressway.
I was about to leave it to its own devices when I noticed three boys headed directly for it. Boys and turtles do not always have productive encounters -- for the turtle. So, I picked it up and put it in my garden. Thinking that the fence would offer it a modicum of protection.
Apparently, I was wrong. All I did was set up a nice wild game buffet for a local carnivore.
As I looked at the shells this morning, I reminded myself how little control we have over the circumstances in our lives. We can choose to act correctly as moral agents. But our choices will not alter the way the world work acts at its core.
There was no way I was going to prevent the turtles from being part of the food chain. Either the boys will get them -- or something else will. I understand my pals the crocodiles consider mud turtles delicacies.
Death is merely part of the life cycle. The turtles will die. The crocodiles will die. I will die.
And in the process of meting out blame, we are sometimes incorrect. It turns out that the deadly tom is most likely innocent of Wednesday morning's mayhem.
Miss Marple could not have done better. The ground was wet from a rainstorm. And, in the garden sand, the murderer left behind some prints.
Anyone who has lived in the country will recognize them immediately. A mapache, as we say in these parts. A masked bandit. A chicken thief. A raccoon.
A year ago, a raccoon had taken up residence on the roof garden. But I have not seen it in a -- raccoon's age.
For all I know, it is the same one. Maybe rooming is better elsewhere. But the boarding is still an attraction.
Of course, I have no more control over the raccoon than I do over the leaf-cutter ants or the protection of turtles and baby crocodiles. Mexico has done much to reenforce the small part of my conservative nature that still exists.
We live in a fallen world where we cannot change the basic nature of the world. All we can do is to be responsible for our own choices.
Now, if a burro's head shows up in my back yard, we will need to talk.