Sunlight filtered through the trees in our backyard, casting shadows on the grass, while our one-year-old African Sulcata tortoise, Leo, enjoyed a quiet afternoon romping in a heap of fallen leaves. With my lawn chair propped beside him, I typically would read my book (right now it’s The Doll People, by Ann Martin), and listen to the sound of his shuffling little feet crunching on bark and dried leaves. But on this particular day, two weeks ago, I was visiting with a friend and not paying much attention to little Leo.

Oh, boy. Note to self: NEVER have an important conversation with a friend while watching a tortoise.

The noise of crunching leaves stopped. I promise. Really. Only like for, two-to-three minutes. Or so. Give or take. And he was gone. Forever.

My ten-year-old boy cried. I was heartbroken. What had I done?

Frantically, I searched our backyard, front yard, neighbor’s yards, nearby ponds, under shrubbery, pretty much EVERYWHERE I could look; for 5 hours. I went to Animal Control and filled out a missing tortoise application. Little Leo (full name Leonard Da Vinci), has his own missing animal id number. But he’s never come back home.

So today, two weeks later, I’m sitting here wondering how Leo is doing. Did he burrow under a tree? Is he hiding? Did he make new friends somewhere and having a party? Is he okay? I hope so. I truly do.

Today I’m melancholy when I look at the empty tortoise box. And not only that, I’m bummed about my writing life, too.

Maybe I’m just missing Leo. If anyone spots a cereal-bowl-sized African Sulcata tortoise roaming the plains of Southern Idaho, please let me know. We’d be so happy to see our friend again.