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Turtle wiggled. “No,” she said, before she was even awake.“Yes,” I said. “Time for bed.” I carried her in and tucked herunder the sheet, prying her hand off my T-shirt and attaching itto her yellow stuffed bear, which had a pink velvet heart sewedonto its chest.“Sleep tight, don’t let the potato bugs bite.”144TH EBE A NTR E E S
“Tato bite,” she said.When I came back Snowboots had moved from Estevan’s lapand curled into the little depression where I had been. I sat in thespace between them with my feet tucked under me. I no longerfelt self-conscious, though I could feel almost a pull, like a flowof warm water, at the point where our knees touched.“It seems like, if you get to know them well enough, every-body has had something awful happen to them. All this time I’vebeen moping around because of having the responsibility ofTurtle forced on me, and now I feel guilty.”“That responsibility is terrible if you don’t want it.”“Oh, big deal. The exact same thing happened to about sixtypercent of the girls in my high school, if not the whole world.”“If you look at it that way,” he said. He was falling asleep.“I guess that’s just the way the world has got to go around. Ifpeople really gave it full consideration, I mean, like if you couldreturn a baby after thirty days’ examination like one of thoseTime-Life books, then I figure the entire human species would goextinct in a month’s time.”“Some people wouldn’t send them back,” he said. “I wouldhave kept Ismene.” His eyes were closed.“Did you get up in the middle of the night to do the feedingand diapering?”“No,” he said, smiling a little.“I can’t believe I’m even asking you that. Does it hurt you a lotto talk about Ismene?”“At first, but not so much now. What helps me the most is toknow her life is going on somewhere, with someone. To know sheis growing up.”“Sure,” I said, but I knew there was another side to this, too.Where she was growing up, what they would raise her to be. Ithought of Turtle being raised by Virgie Mae Parsons, learning tolook down her nose and wear little hats, and then I got it mixedup with police uniforms. A little later I realized I had been asleep.We both rolled in and out of sleep in a friendly way. You can’t beIsmene145
nervous if you’re sleeping on the same sofa with somebody, Ithought. Letting your mouth fall open any old way.Snowboots jumped off the sofa. I heard his claws scratch thecarpet as he covered up his sins.“Why did they call you Nutters?” I remember Estevan askingat some point. I thought and thought about it, trying to fight myway out of some dream where Turtle and I were trying to get tothe other side of a long, flat field. We had to follow the telephonewires to get to civilization.