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~The passage here is from Dante's Inferno, let's all here it for Dante~

Silent, alone, without escort, we went on,
one before and other behind, as Friars
Minor go their way. My thought was turned
by the present brawl on the fable of Aesop
where he told of the frog and the mouse; for
Ay and Yea are not more alike than the one
case is to the other, if we compare the begin-
ning and the end attentively. And just as one
though springs from another, so from that
another was born which redoubled my first
fear. I though: they have been fooled be-
cause of us, and with such hurt and mockery
as I believe must vex them greatly. If rage
be added to their malice, they will come after
us, fiercer than the dog to the leveret he
snaps up...

Words merged together on the page. More likely, on the mind. What was once the beginning of Canto XXIII of The Divine Comedy was now a jumble of letters, with vague overtones from the actual story. This spell of reading had been going on much to long, Donatello reasoned. He squeezed his eyes shut in an attempt to revive the tired nerve endings. They popped back open again, but the sensation was shortlived.

With a sad (secretely relieved) sort of sigh, Donatello closed his book. His heavy finger drifted out over the words of the translation until they fell off the edge of the paper. He looked down at the cover as it fell and took a nice slow blink.

Nights like this he loved going out for the air. Outside, in the wide open spaces. Central park. Just after sundown, when the street lamps began a soft growing glow. The quiet of darkness. The noise of the city. Don smiled drunkenly at the phrase play. The fresh air softened his spirit that way.

Fresh of course being compared to what he usually sucked into his lungs. The almost stabbing odor of garbage and watered-down rotting waste that permeated the sewers day in and day out. Over time he had come to accept it all. But on nights like these, when he could smell the green off the leaves. And when the worst thing that would wander into his olfactory was lingering scents of cigarette smoke, Oh lord, how he wished he could live in the city. Instead of under it.

But if that's the way the cards were drawn, then thats the way they were. Best not to dwell on it. Donatello set his book beside him on the bench before drawing his legs up to cross. His pants stretched tight at his thighs and he shifted around to set things straight. He thought for a second that his boots would now be streaking street dust on his cords, but that was another thing that he couldn't help now. It was stupid to worry about dust. He would be splashing worse stuff up on the hem of his pants on his walk home anyway. Fuck it.

Just then a boom box walked down the path. Or rather, a person holding a boom box. Obviously straining his shoulder from the mighty load and still rocking back and forth in step. Four or five others walked all around him, shoulders raising and dipping inversely. They were dressed in dark clothes and loose kakhies, bandanas over their faces cowboy style.

Don nonchalantly slid his hands into the belly pocket of his sweatshirt to finger the three shiruken as the males darted their eyes around the corner of the park. He could tell they were packing by the way one of them often pressed his arm down his side, as if to readjust a weapon he thought was coming out from his sagging pants. He must've been new. The others on the other hand seemed smoother. At least by the fact they didn't actually put a hand on their gun to check it. Instead they less than evasively inspected what they thought to be their territory.

Idiots. Donatello thought as they had passed by, off into the shadowy realms of a well lite park. Six boys he had counted. At least one gun amung them. At least. Idiots because the chances were that by the end of the month they were be dead (taking god knows how many along with them). Hell, he might even be the one to.... well... well, lets not think about that.

Curious to see if anyone else had noticed, Donatello scanned the inhabitants of his area. Which there were fortunately few. An older man with a newspaper was getting up to leave from a bench farther on. He bet that he had seen. The man gathered up his backpack and turned the other way toward the gates. His step was brisk enough to show that he was active in his old age, and had the money to buy new tennis shoes. Wasn't reliant on an old folks home, or probably government funds. Still worked. Read his news in the park.

Sitting against one of the rock deposits was what appeared to be a homeless man. Despite it being a july day (strike that- night) he wore many sweaters beneath a long dark trench coak. From the cut of his beard it looked as though he had been trying to pull off a goatee, but had lost his razor a few days ago. A large green army bag, heavily stuffed, was used to keep his from falling onto his side. His well insulated arm draped over it like a giant teddy bear. He had fallen asleep by this time, and his chin rested upon his chest.

The last of all was a young woman who lay in the new grass beneath the tree. An old blue sweater and paint-splotched jeans told him that she probably wasn't a runaway. Or at least hadn't been for very long since her clothes were rather clean. Being a bit chubby and by the care-free garments she wore, he reckoned that she was either somewhat shy- Or by the way she nonchalantly looked up at the hazy, starless sky that she had stopped caring about what other people thought some time back. Maybe both. She wasn't giving him a whole lot to work with.

She watched as the first man left, tilting her head up from the ground. He could see she became a bit more nervous at his depart, but made no move to leave herself. Turning her face just so to look then at him, he sunk his head back beneath the grey hood, his olive green beak sinking back in the shadow. She looked at him for some time, and he refused to make movement. As if any shift would open him to close scrutiny. Instead he sunk his head minutly into his shell, raising his shoulders. A small wave answered to him, and the corner of her mouth raised in a non-threatening way. Before she laid her head back down he waved back, grasping the material of his sleeve to hid his hand, keeping close to his thigh.

The breath he was holding released itself quietly when took her attentions from him. His clammy hand rubbed against the soft inner material of the sweatshirt, pressed against the side of his leg. That wouldn't count as a 'close call' in the least to anyone. It was just.... girls. Girls were the worst. Or... it was the worst with them. The terrible 'opposite sex.' ....

With boys or men there was a sort of comraderie in interaction. Whether he was buying a hotdog from a middle aged indian man with greasy skin, or defending a teenage boy from a beating in a dark alley. There was an understanding. Not really a macho thing. Just having the knowledge that they were coming from the same place in a rather basic way. A very comforting knowledge at that in comparison to behaving with females.

Whereas with girls.... hmmmmn. They thought differently. They acted differently. They looked differently. Having lived and dealt with only males for all his life he was in no way as tempered to the female sex as every other male being on the planet. Infact, for the first ten years of his life he had no idea there was anything other then men on the face of the Earth. There had been a geat deal of hoop-la and rumors circulating the sewers that week some nine years ago when Raphael had returned home with tales of 'the bumpy man'. Of course this was before any of the boys were allowed out of the confines of the sewers, so Raphaels black market knowledge was kept underground for some time from their father. Splinter of course knew about Raphaels ventures, and eventually everything spilled out one morning upon his light persuasive ways with the brothers. There was a long talk about the bumpy man, four bright red beaks, a promise of more talks in the future, and one month grounding for Raph. Two weeks on everyone else for keeping the secret.

But from then on there was always the mystique of the females that plagued them. How they acted. What they thought about. What they thought like. How they walked in shoes with a giant spike out one end. What they did with all that hair. What were their eyes like. Where they were going. Who they knew, and why were they going to go see them. If they knew there were books of them with pictures when they didn't have clothes on. That was a subject of much discussion for a time. If they didn't know, then who were the woman in the pictures? Did they know they were being photographed when they were doing those things? Do women do those kind of things regularly enough for them to be large amounts of photographs to be taken? And if they did know about the books, then why weren't they doing those things whenever they were watching them.

It wasn't long after the 'bumpy man' incident, that the idea of a naked woman came up. Maybe not the woman, maybe just the body. How it moved without the clothes on.... the concept still elluded Donatello to that day. Of course he had seen many naked bodies in his day. Aside from Raph and Mikes magazine collection (hidden inside a slit in Mikes matress) and what he occasionally perused through on the internet, Donatello and his brothers had, with the exception of time in cold weather, walked about their home buck naked since forever. But there had been nothing the least bit sexual in that ever. Nothing like the images that came to mind of a girl naked. The soft, sensual curves. Fluidic tapered limbs that twirled and motioned effortlessly. Tender and supple skin that caressed his cheek, the coy smile and the invitation offered in lipid eyes....

The boys had now returned, and Donatello fumbled for his watch. The sky had darkened many shades in the past ten minutes as it did at this time of night. He nearly blushed at the thought of how long he had been trailing along on these certain musings. But embarrasment was short lived. The boys had stopped on the paved path before the girl, who was farther off from them as well as from him. She had looked up at them, and they had begun to pose, one of the boys in the back stalking about. Puffing out their chests and with sneers in their eyes they together pulled off a threatening scene. The boom box was thumping, and filled the park like a baloon being blown far out of proportion. Sucking all the air into it.

Donatello held his shiruken already in such away that he could remove it from his pocket and snap it off as soon as one of them reached for a weapon. Given that his hand still wasn't all sweaty. By this time the girl had propped herself upon her elbows to watch them. Watch them watching her, and she shrugged to them as if saying 'What do you want me to do?' They stayed there and paced about like there was something there for them. It was a tense ten seconds. Don felt his hands drying and calming as ninja instinct soothed his nerves. But just like that, the incident was over. One of the boys which had been keeping a close eye on the girl stood straight as a tree. The rest of them did the same. With that, they left. In an agitated stiff manner which he had seen so many times on one of his brothers that he knew they wouldn't be back.

The girl looked at him after they had disapeared again in the distance. She gave him a 'I don't know what that was about, do you?' look and shrug. He responded with a 'Nope, I guess their just dumbasses. Sorry.' She nodded and laid back down again.

The lamp light in the park had yet to reach its full capacity yet. It was just dusk now, and a light darkness had come through, tinting everything it touched with a grey-green veil. Save for the tall buildings, which seemed to ellude still the touch of twilight. Caressing darkness filled in around Donatellos resting form like tangable comfort. He pulled his hands from his pocket and let them lay between his legs.

Tilting his head to either side he drew a picture of the round face into his mind. The pierced eyebrow. Unpainted lips. Strands of clean dirty-blond hair that lay around her head like millions of exhausted dancers. He wondered if she ever had braces. If her teeth were quaintly crooked, or straight like kernels on a piece of corn.

He noticed her foot swaying back in forth like a metronome. It waved to the rock formation. A pair of sandals lay almost neatly beside her feet, and were missing out on the action. No CD player, no walkman. Just music she had memorized at some point. Which now took hold of her right foot to make it swing with a beat, five dirty toes curling and opening in time. It was blues... Or, jazz. Yes, definately jazz. Something with an oddly voiced woman and a bass solo.

What was she thinking about right at that moment? Was it just the music? Or was something else on her mind? Was it something bad? Or was she happy? And what did she think about things in the world? Was she quiet and reflective? Or sarcastic and cynical. Was she reflective, and because of such was cynical- like him? Was she from here? Because he really didn't think she was. Was she waiting for someone? Or did she live alone. Who would she wait for? What were her friends like, and why were they friends? Was she waiting for her friends here? If so, she must be pretty mad- they were awful late. What was she doing about here at this hour anyway. Just sitting doing nothing. Thinking about something. .... Kind of like him.

Now he wanted to go talk to her. To say hello, and start a conversation or something. It was dark enough and he was well dressed that it wouldn't be immediately apparent how incredabely different he was from her. But he knew she would find out. Maybe after a little while she would brush his hood back. Or he would do something with his hand. Then she would see. And then she would.... ask. And he would answer. And they would talk about him for awhile. Go for a coffee. Maybe she would just smile and excuse herself stiffly, forgetting her shoes.

Still.... how could he do that. The more he thought about it, the softer the wooden bench slats felt on his rear, sucking him into the seat like he was a part of it. Whereas Michelangelo would up and invite himself over with a determined and animated march, he himself had started a light hyperventilation. Still on the bench. He wanted to go and introduce himself. If she would just look over and wave again he would have the incitement to go and talk. Shell and all. He just couldn't do anything without that encouragement. Otherwise he saw it as him saying 'Hello, I'm a giant turtle freak, and I'm going to talk to you now.' Couldn't do it. Maybe Mike could, but he was just not that kind of terrapin. He was a gentleman. Or a coward.

Groaning softly he let his chin hit his chest. His finger flicked absently at the hem line on the inside of his thigh. Scuffling of feet was a welcome change of senses. Better than waiting for someone to feel compelled to wave at him. I'm such a wuss. He looked up and quirked his head as a few of the boys came back down the path. The air was darker now, and they were fitting in better and better with their surroundings. The one central boy kept a sideways eye on the girl, who had now raised up on her elbows again, while another boy checked out Donatello himself.

Donatello rolled his eyes and he returned his hand to his belly pocket, but keeping his eyes on the boys- he continually missed the opening. They stopped again on the path as they had before. The stiff agitation was there still.

Already the girl looked over at Don, giving him a 'you know whats up with all this shit?' look. He returned a 'who knows. they're stupid, so let's just humor them for now.' shrug and hand twist. Fortunately none of the males had noticed the exchange of looks. The boy had resumed his straight stance again, and Don wanted to scoff out loud. Now they were definately much bigger cowards than he was. At least he knew what he was doing. He didn't know these guys personally, but he knew their type. She did to also, he thought, because she wasn't afraid of their machoisc posing and gruff nose wiping.

Wusses. Donatello mused to himself. The rest of the boys then stood straight as well, and still there was fumbling-



For-the-stopping-of-his-heart-when-his-eyes-were-on-the-tree-trunk-now - and - its --gooey --splatter, and-somewhere-the-man-by- the -- rocks -- was -- shrieking -- at -- it -- all---

The end.