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Chapter 70
Butchering a turtle was hard work. My first one was a smallhawksbill. It was its blood that tempted me, the "good,nutritious, salt-free drink" promised by the survival manual. Mythirst was that bad. I took hold of the turtle's shell andgrappled with one of its back flippers. When I had a goodgrip, I turned it over in the water and attempted to pull itonto the raft. The thing was thrashing violently. I would neverbe able to deal with it on the raft. Either I let it go – or Itried my luck on the lifeboat. I looked up. It was a hot andcloudless day. Richard Parker seemed to tolerate my presenceat the bow on such days, when the air was like the inside ofan oven and he did not move from under the tarpaulin untilsunset.
I held on to one of the turtle's back flippers with one handand I pulled on the rope to the lifeboat with the other. It wasnot easy climbing aboard. When I had managed it, I jerkedthe turtle in the air and brought it onto its back on thetarpaulin. As I had hoped, Richard Parker did no more thangrowl once or twice. He was not up to exerting himself in suchheat.
My determination was grim and blind. I felt I had no timeto waste. I turned to the survival manual as to a cookbook. Itsaid to lay the turtle on its back. Done. It advised that a knifeshould be "inserted into the neck" to sever the arteries andveins running through it. I looked at the turtle. There was noneck. The turtle had retracted into its shell; all that showed ofits head was its eyes and its beak, surrounded by circles ofskin. It was looking at me upside down with a sternexpression. I took hold of the knife and, hoping to goad it,poked a front flipper. It only shrank further into its shell. Idecided on a more direct approach. As confidently as if I haddone it a thousand times, I jammed the knife just to the rightof the turtle's head, at an angle. I pushed the blade deep intothe folds of skin and twisted it. The turtle retreated evenfurther, favouring the side where the blade was, and suddenlyshot its head forward, beak snapping at me viciously. I jumpedback. All four flippers came out and the creature tried to makeits getaway. It rocked on its back, flippers beating wildly andhead shaking from side to side. I took hold of a hatchet andbrought it down on the turtle's neck, gashing it. Bright redblo............
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