Turtle wiggled no she said before she was even awake

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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 her under the sheet, prying her hand off my T-shirt and attaching it to her yellow stuffed bear, which had a pink velvet heart sewed onto its chest. “Sleep tight, don’t let the potato bugs bite.” 144 T H E B E A N T R E E S
“Tato bite,” she said. When I came back Snowboots had moved from Estevan’s lap and curled into the little depression where I had been. I sat in the space between them with my feet tucked under me. I no longer felt self-conscious, though I could feel almost a pull, like a flow of 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’ve been moping around because of having the responsibility of Turtle 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 sixty percent 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. If people really gave it full consideration, I mean, like if you could return a baby after thirty days’ examination like one of those Time-Life books, then I figure the entire human species would go extinct in a month’s time.” “Some people wouldn’t send them back,” he said. “I would have kept Ismene.” His eyes were closed. “Did you get up in the middle of the night to do the feeding and diapering?” “No,” he said, smiling a little. “I can’t believe I’m even asking you that. Does it hurt you a lot to talk about Ismene?” “At first, but not so much now. What helps me the most is to know her life is going on somewhere, with someone. To know she is 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. I thought of Turtle being raised by Virgie Mae Parsons, learning to look down her nose and wear little hats, and then I got it mixed up 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 be Ismene 145
nervous if you’re sleeping on the same sofa with somebody, I thought. Letting your mouth fall open any old way. Snowboots jumped off the sofa. I heard his claws scratch the carpet as he covered up his sins. “Why did they call you Nutters?” I remember Estevan asking at some point. I thought and thought about it, trying to fight my way out of some dream where Turtle and I were trying to get to the other side of a long, flat field. We had to follow the telephone wires to get to civilization.

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