Something to Learn
One of Leonardo’s duties as leader was to ensure that his brothers arrived on time to their practice sessions.
With Raphael and Michelangelo it was a matter of putting up with eye rolls or a little whining. Both of them enjoyed training sessions, even if Mikey sometimes had to be pried off of a video game.
Donatello was a different problem entirely. If he had somehow managed to escape Leo’s watchful eye and become involved in one of his projects, pulling him away was often a herculean task.
Arguments like ‘duty’ and ‘team expectations’ were all well and good, but Don’s counter points were also valid. How did one tell a genius brother that repairs could wait to the machine that filtered their water so that it was potable? Or explain that fixing an electrical wire that would keep their refrigerator from basically blowing up could be ignored for a few hours?
Of the four of them, Don was the most often excused from practice sessions. Granted, he did try to make up the time later, but he was nearly often behind his brothers when it came to practiced skills. That wasn’t to say that he was not a really fine ninja with exceptional fighting prowess. He certainly was, but if any of them needed more practice, it was Donatello.
Leo walked up behind his brother, who was seated in front of his computer screens. On the largest one was an image of the sewer tunnels nearest the lair. Superimposed on that were small colored dots which marked the locations of the alarm sensors that Donny had installed. Several of them were blinking.
“Something wrong?” Leo asked.
Don glanced over his shoulder at his brother and then turned back to the screen. “The blinking just means there are issues with the sensors that I need to address. It could be anything from water getting into the housing or rodents chewing on wiring.”
“But not anything that is critical at this moment, right?” Leo asked. “It’s time for practice.”
Exhaling heavily, Don once more looked at Leo, this time with his patented all-suffering expression. “A few of them failing could cause a cascading effect and take out most of the sensors. It wouldn’t only mean more work for me, but we’d be vulnerable until I got them fixed.”
Leo perched on the edge of the desk. “Donny, you’ve missed practice for two days in a row. Even if every sensor fails, you cannot miss today’s session.”
“I can just practice on my own later,” Don argued. “Heck, I’ll get someone to practice with me. That should satisfy Master Splinter. He won’t miss me.”
“That is not the same as being part of the group when we train,” Leo said. “You know that, Don. Master Splinter needs to see all four of us working together. He needs to watch us spar with each other or against him in order to know the areas that each of us needs to work on.”
“Let’s face it, Leo. I’m not going to be the master ninja that Father imagines for us,” Don said. “My talents are more cerebral.”
“Excelling at ninjitsu isn’t all about physical abilities,” Leo said. “It requires a good amount of intellect as well.”
“Don’t think I haven’t noticed how Father reacts when I employ that intellect during training,” Don said. “Most of what I’ve accomplished during missions was due to years of accumulated knowledge. Master Splinter doesn’t understand half of what I try to explain to him.”
“Have you ever stopped to think about how difficult it is for him to have a son who is as smart as you are?” Leo asked. “A father expects to guide and teach his children. You were making functioning televisions out of junk when you were four. He was still heating water for our baths over an open flame when you hooked up a working water heater.”
Don frowned. “I would have thought those innovations would have made him happy.”
“They did, they do,” Leo assured him. “But what is left for him to do when you can basically do everything? How does he connect with you?”
“I . . . I’ve never really thought much about that,” Don said, looking thoughtful.
Leo put his hand on Don’s shoulder. “Master Splinter can offer you his wisdom, which you should always accept. But during practice is the one time when Sensei gets the chance to actually teach you something. Something you don’t know and can’t know on your own.”
Don’s fingers slipped slowly off the keyboard. New understanding crept onto his features and Leo nodded his encouragement.
“I should give him that, shouldn’t I?” Don asked, the question clearly rhetorical. “He’s my father. I both love and respect him.”
“That’s all he needs from you and all he’s ever wanted from any of us,” Leo said, scooting off his perch. “Practice?”
Standing up, Don reached out to turn off his computer. “Practice. You’d better be sharp today because I’m bringing my A game.”
Leo laughed and clapped Don on the shell. “Challenge accepted.”
Raphael sat behind the wheel of the Tortuga Bros moving van, waiting patiently for a signal from his brother Leonardo. Next to him in the passenger seat, Michelangelo also waited, though he was not nearly as patient. When the musical beat he was tapping out on the dashboard became annoying, Raph backhanded his shoulder.
“Cut it out,” Raph snapped.
“Ow!” Mikey exclaimed. “What’s taking so long?”
“Ya’ know Leo,” Raph said. “He ain’t just checking around the building, he’s checking the whole block, and the four blocks all around this block.”
“Earth to Donny,” Mikey said, turning in his seat to look back at his brother. “How much stuff are we supposed to get?”
“Everything we can carry,” Donatello said. His eyes were on the monitor mounted above the console in front of his seat. A list of some sort scrolled across the screen.
Mikey groaned. “I should have brought my hernia truss.”
“Very funny,” Don said.
There was a quick flash of light from atop a building and Raph started the van. “Show time.”
He drove towards a tall fence that surrounded the burned remains of the building that was their target for the night. Leo appeared as they approached the gate. Having already disengaged the lock, he swung the gate open so that Raph could drive through.
After closing the gate to disguise their trespass, Leo joined his brothers, who were climbing out of the van.
“It’s still structurally sound towards the back of the building,” Leo said, addressing Don specifically. “I can’t say the same for the offices and waiting area in the front. I hope you didn’t want anything from there.”
Don shook his head, following Leo around to the back. “I need medical equipment, not office supplies. This building is scheduled to be demolished in the morning. The physicians who own this practice have already written off everything inside.”
Leo had already pried the back door open as far as it would go and he led the way inside. The acrid scent of burned wood, plastic, and other undefinable smells lingered in the air.
Grimacing, Mikey said, “Are you sure it’s safe in here? The air might be toxic.”
“It’s safe,” Don said. “The fire investigators gave it the all clear sign and insurance adjusters have been through this section.”
He ducked into the first room he came to and Raph followed him inside. Standing at the entrance, Raph watched his brother circle an exam table and then begin opening side drawers.
Mikey joined them just as Don began a minute examination of the padding atop the table. Curious, Mikey walked over to the end of the table and pulled out the extension, then slid it back in again. Noticing the two bars to either side, he flipped them up and found the stirrups.
“What’s this for?” Mikey asked.
Straightening up, Don glanced at the stirrups and then at his brother. “That’s where you rest your feet so the doctor can examine your nether regions.”
“Hmm, that could be fun,” Mikey said, following up his statement with a lewd wink.
Raph guffawed loudly, drawing Leo partway into the room. “Could we step this up? I’d rather not be caught by a security patrol.”
“This table is in good shape,” Don pronounced. “Let’s get it out to the van.”
Leo eyed the doorway, which looked smaller than the table. “Just how do you propose we do that?”
“That’s what I’m here for,” Raph said with a shooing motion of his hand. “Move aside.”
When Leo backed away, Raph pulled the door fully open and then kicked it right at the hinges. The door popped off with a screech of broken wood and he yanked it out of the way. He then proceeded to punch holes in the wall on either side of the door frame, using them as hand grips to tear part of the wall out.
“There,” Raph said, slapping his hands together to remove the dust.
There was a rumbling sound overhead and everyone froze. After a moment it stopped and Raph looked around at his brothers, a sheepish grin on his face.
“Let’s try not to bring the roof down on our heads, okay Raph?” Leo asked.
“My bad,” Raph said, walking over to the table.
Between the four of them they managed to get the table out of the exam room, out the back door, and into the moving van.
“Are we done now?” Mikey asked.
“That’s only the first thing on my list,” Don told him. “There are nine other exam rooms and a testing lab that we can get to.”
He dashed back inside without waiting for his siblings. The other three turtles stood at the back of the van, watching as their very enthusiastic brother disappeared inside.
“I have a feeling this is gonna be a long night,” Mikey said.
In unison, Leo and Raph exhaled sighs of resignation. If there was one thing they all knew, it was always best to humor the genius.
Fruits of His Labor
The door on the lair’s elevator swished open to admit Casey Jones, who was carrying two large boxes stacked atop each other. “Yo! Where is everybody? Why are all the lights out?”
A clap sounded from somewhere in the dark and the lights came on. The turtles and their father were balanced on poles which stood upright in the center of the lair. At the sight of their visitor, the family jumped down to a more solid perch on the ground.
“As always, Mr. Jones, your timing is impeccable,” Master Splinter said, a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
“Hey, at least this time he didn’t barrel into us,” Raph said. “Watcha got there, Casey?”
“It’s from April,” Casey answered. “She’s been to the farmer’s market. And oh, by the way, this is heavy.”
“Wimp,” Raph said, walking over to relieve his friend of one of the boxes. “Woah, what’s in here, a bunch of rocks?
“Fruit,” Casey said, leading the way to the kitchen. “April decided you guys don’t eat enough fresh fruit, so she went a little crazy.”
“We have apples all the time,” Leo said as the boxes were placed on the counter.
“This ain’t apples,” Casey said, prying open one of the boxes. He reached inside and pulled out a watermelon. Setting it aside, he took out another one, and then three pineapples, followed by four coconuts.
Raph opened the other box and extracted two more watermelons, and five cantaloupes.
“Sweet,” Mikey said, hefting one of the watermelons. “I always wanted to try smashing one of these with a mallet the way Gallagher does.”
“You watch way too much television,” Leo said.
“There will be no smashing of fruit, Michelangelo,” Master Splinter said as he picked up a cantaloupe and sniffed it. “Mm, just the perfect ripeness. Ms. O’Neil is very good at choosing fruit.”
“I gotta take off,” Casey said. “I’ll check in again with you guys sometime when ya’ ain’t sitting in the dark.”
He laughed at his own joke as he strolled out of the lair. Raph shook his head. “Bozo.”
Master Splinter had taken his cantaloupe to a cutting board next to the sink and was in the process of slicing it open.
“You want some help with that, Father?” Leo asked, sliding one of his swords from its sheath.
“Thank you, Leonardo, but your prowess with sharp objects is not needed,” Master Splinter said. “This is a single piece of medium sized fruit and does not provide a challenge.”
Leo carried one of the watermelons to the table and after setting it down, sent it into a spin. As it twirled, he began carving on it, sending bits of rind flying in several directions. In about a minute he had managed to shave the outer covering from the watermelon, leaving only the juicy flesh. This he cut into many even slices.
“Watermelon anyone?” Leo asked with a triumphant grin.
“That piece of fruit is all yours,” Raph said, hefting one of the other watermelons. “I’m gonna take care of slicing this one.”
“Botanically speaking, a watermelon is actually a vegetable,” Don said.
“Good thing we don’t speak botanical,” Mikey told him. “Since it’s sweet and I like eating it that makes it a fruit.”
“It’s difficult to argue with your logic,” Don murmured, a touch of mockery in his voice.
“In other words, Mikey, there wouldn’t be any point ‘cause it’d go over your head,” Raph said.
Leo had wiped off his blade and was munching on a slice of watermelon. “Don’t you guys want some? It’s really good.”
Raph dropped his watermelon onto the table with a thump and pulled out of his sai. “I’m gonna do my own cutting, thank you very much.”
“Anyone remember how he carves a pumpkin?” Mikey asked, taking a big step back. “Leo already made a big mess. Master Splinter, I’m not cleaning this up.”
“Whoever makes the mess, cleans up the mess,” Master Splinter said, using a fork to spear chunks of cantaloupe.
Tucking a watermelon under his arm, Don said, “I’ve been wanting to try out a theory.” He appeared excited. “It’s about the conductivity of the moisture in a melon and how it could mimic the neutral pathways of the brain. By applying electrical voltage through the center of the watermelon, the right current could potentially cause the rind to simply pop off, leaving intact the inner flesh without the mess caused by cutting into it.”
He spun on his heel and left the kitchen, still talking. As his voice faded, his family members all looked around at each other.
“Did ya’ understand any of that?” Raph asked.
“Nope,” Leo said.
“Anyone want to bet that’s not gonna turn out well?” Mikey asked.
“No takers,” Raph told him with a grin.
“Leonardo, perhaps you could unleash your sword upon this pineapple?” Master Splinter asked. “Michelangelo, since you have in mind to smash something, you could employ your nunchakus on a coconut or two. After you drain it.”
“How do you do that?” Mikey asked. “I think we let Don leave too soon.”
Master Splinter gave his sons a lesson on locating the eyes of the coconut and then on how to pierce one to get to the water inside. Mikey was just spinning his nunchuck in order to break the coconut when a loud bang made everyone jump.
Racing from the kitchen, they saw a cloud of smoke coming from Donatello’s lab.
“Donny!” Leo shouted.
“My son!” Master Splinter called.
The group was still running towards his lab when movement in the smoke brought them to a skidding stop. A second later Don stepped into view and his entire family burst into laughter.
Donatello was covered head to toe in splattered watermelon.
There was no mistaking the sour expression on Don’s face. “That did not go as planned.”
“Good one, bro’!” Mikey exclaimed, giving his brother a thumb’s up. “Way better than a mallet!”
“Remember what Master Splinter said, ‘whoever makes the mess, cleans up the mess’,” Raph said, still doubled over with laughter.
Shooting dirty looks at his family members, Don announced in a flat voice, “I’m going to take a shower.”
Their howls of laughter followed him.