Which was a completely unreasonable thing to resent i

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“Ma.” Which was a completely unreasonable thing to resent, I know, since Turtle called every woman Ma something. There’s no way she could have managed “Esperanza.” We got out at the rest station in Texas Canyon. It turned out there weren’t rest rooms there, just picnic tables, so I took Turtle Guardian Saints 201
behind a giant marshmallow-shaped boulder. Ever since I’d found out she was three years old, we’d gotten very serious about potty training. When we came back Estevan and Esperanza were standing by the guard rail looking out over an endless valley of boulders. A large wooden sign, which showed dinosaurs and giant ferny trees and mountains exploding in the background, explained that this was the lava flow from a volcanic explosion long ago. Along with the initials and hearts scratched into the sign with pocket knives, someone had carved “Repent.” The setting did more or less put you in that frame of mind. There wasn’t a bush or tree in sight, just rocks and rocks, sky and more sky. Estevan said this is what the world would have looked like if God had gone on strike after the second day. It was a peculiar notion, but then you had to consider Estevan’s background with the teachers’ union. He would think in those terms. They seemed uncomfortable out of the car so we stayed on the move after that, driving down an endless river of highway. After my VW, driving Mattie’s wide white car felt like steering a boat, not that I had ever actually steered anything of the kind. Estevan and Esperanza didn’t have proper drivers’ licenses, of course—that was the very least of what they didn’t have—so to be on the safe side I did all the driving. The first night we would try to go straight through, pulling over for naps when I needed to. Lou Ann had made us a Thermos of iced coffee. For the second night, I told them, I knew of a nice motor lodge in Oklahoma where we could most likely stay for free. Estevan and I talked about everything you can think of. He asked me if the alligator was a national symbol of the United States, because you saw them everywhere on people’s shirts, just above the heart. “Not that I know of,” I told him. It occurred to me, though, that it might be kind of appropriate. 202 T H E B E A N T R E E S
He told me that the national symbol of the Indian people in Guatemala was the quetzal, a beautiful green bird with a long, long tail. I told him I had seen military macaws at the zoo, and wondered if the quetzal was anything like those. He said no. If you tried to keep this bird in a cage, it died. Shortly after sunset we left the interstate to take a two-lane road that cut through the mountains and would take about two hundred miles of New Mexico off our trip. I wished we could keep New Mexico in and cut out two hundred miles of Oklahoma instead, but of course Oklahoma was where we were going. I had to keep reminding myself of that. For some reason I had in the back of my mind that we were headed for Kentucky. I kept pictur- ing Mama’s face when we all pulled up in the driveway.

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