The tortoise was just coming to shore when the scorpion scuttled by. It stopped in the pebbles and waited for the tortoise to approach.
“Pardon me,” said the scorpion, “but could I have a ride to the other side of the river?”
“I don’t know,” said the tortoise. “I am going back there this evening, but I heard there are some very shapely turtles sunning up by the road on this side. I wanted to ogle them.”
“That is a noble cause, but I hear there are some very shapely scorpions over on the other side of the river. I’ve never seen the shape of a scorpion over there, you know. Lived here all my life.”
“That is a shame,” said the tortoise, trying not to look the scorpion in the face. Unfortunately at their level, there was very little else to look at.
“As someone with the gift of aquatic travel, I hoped you would see fit to help a brother out.”
“How long is a scorpion lifespan again?”
“Not impressively long. I’d very much like to ogle a decent scorpion before I die.”
“You’re not afraid, are you?”
The tortoise stirred. “No. What?”
“Good. There’s a terrible stereotype about scorpions stabbing people with the least temptation. Only rednecks believe in it.”
Scorpions can be very pushy, and any tortoise hates being called a bigot. He wound up rationalizing out loud. “Well, it’ll only be a minute. I’ve been swimming a lot faster lately. Cardio training from a race with a rabbit.”
“Is that so?” the scorpion inquired as he scurried up the tortoise’s shell. He paused at the top, his tail quivering.
The tortoise eyed him. Since scorpions have much more complicated eyes, he couldn’t tell if the scorpion was staring back at him.
They dipped into the water. The scorpion’s legs coiled inward as though he were dying.
“Are you alright?” asked the tortoise.
“I’ve never been over water before. I guess I’m nervous.”
The tortoise could not tell, but it seemed the scorpion was staring at his shell. He swam a little faster.
“Are you licking your lips?”
“I don’t have lips. I’m an arachnid.”
His tail bobbed, as though nodding in agreement. With every bob the thorny tip drew closer.
“Almost there,” said the tortoise.
The tail drew as far up as possible. It quivered for an instant.
“I’m sorry,” gasped the scorpion.
“Sorry for what?”
“It’s my nature!”
The scorpion struck down with all his might. His barb snapped against the tortoise’s shell.
“Oh, is that your nature?” asked the tortoise. “Mine’s a carapace.”
They didn’t talk for the rest of the trip. The scorpion got off with his head down, and the tortoise barely looked at him. He slipped back into the water with a mutter that sounded like, “Dumb ass.”