Page 45

"Cabbage, cabbage, cabbage," she said.

Lou Ann said, "I know a guy that would just love her. Did you ever know that fellow downtown that sold vegetables out of his truck?" But Turtle and Bobby Bingo would never get to discuss their common interest. He had disappeared, probably to run off with somebody's mother.

"Your mother wouldn't be marrying Harland Elleston," I told Lou Ann, getting back to the subject at hand.

"Of course not! That big hunk is already spoken for."

"Lou Ann, you're just making a joke of this whole thing."

"Well, I can't help it, I wouldn't care if my mother married the garbage man."

"But Harland Elleston! He's not even..." I was going to say he's not even related to us, but of course that wasn't what I meant. "He's got warts on his elbows and those eyebrows that meet in the middle."

"I'll swan, Taylor, you talk about men like they're a hangnail. To hear you tell it, you'd think man was only put on this earth to keep urinals from going to waste."

"That's not true, I like Estevan." My heart sort of bumped when I said this. I knew exactly how it would look on an EKG machine: two little peaks and one big one.

"He's taken. Who else?"

"Just because I don't go chasing after every Tom's Harry Dick that comes down the pike."

"Who else? You never have one kind thing to say about any of your old boyfriends."

"Lou Ann, for goodness' sakes. In Pittman County there was nothing in pants that was worth the trouble, take my word for it. Except for this one science teacher, and the main thing he had going for him was clean fingernails." I'd never completely realized how limited the choices were in Pittman. Poor Mama. If only I could have gotten her to Tucson.

"Well, where in the heck do you think I grew up, Paris, France?"

"I notice you didn't stick with home-grown either. You had to ride off with a Wild West rodeo boy."

"Fat lot of good it did me, too."

"Well, you did get Dwayne Ray out of the deal." I remembered what Mama always said about me and the Jackson Purchase.

"But oh, Taylor, if you could have seen him. How handsome he was." She had her eyes closed and her face turned up toward the sun. "The first time I laid eyes on him he was draped on this fence like the Marlboro man, with his arms out to the sides and one boot up on the bottom rung. Just chewing on a match and hanging out till it was time to turn out the next bull. And do you know what else?" She sat up and opened her eyes.

"What?" I said.

"Right at that exact moment there was this guy in the ring setting some kind of a new world's record for staying on a bull, and everybody was screaming and throwing stuff and of course me and my girlfriend Rachel had never seen a rodeo before so we thought this was the wildest thing since Elvis joined the army. But Angel didn't even look up. He just squinted off at the distance toward the hay field behind the snack bar. Rachel said, 'Look at that tough guy over by that fence, what an asshole, not even paying attention.' And you know what I thought to myself? I thought, I bet I could get him to pay attention to me."

A child in a Michael Jackson tank shirt rumbled down the gravel path on a low-slung trike with big plastic wheels, making twice as much noise as his size would seem to allow for. "This is a O-R-V," he told us. Now I knew.

"I know you." He pointed at Lou Ann. "You're the one gives out money at Halloween."

Lou Ann rolled her eyes. "I'm never going to live that down. This year they'll be coming in from Phoenix and Flagstaff to beat down our door."

"Watch out when the bums come," he told us. "Go straight home." He tore off again, pedaling like someone possessed.

The gravel path cut through the middle of the park from a penis-type monument, up at the street near Matties, down to the other end where we liked to sit in a place Lou Ann called the arbor. It was the nicest thing about the park. The benches sat in a half-circle underneath an old wooden trellis that threw a shade like a cross-stitched tablecloth. The trellis had thick, muscly vines twisting up its support poles and fanning out overhead. Where they first came out of the ground, they reminded me of the arms of this guy who'd delivered Mattie's new refrigerator by himself. All winter Lou Ann had been telling me they were wisteria vines. They looked dead to me, like everything else in the park, but she always said, "Just you wait."

And she was right. Toward the end of March they had sprouted a fine, shivery coat of pale leaves and now they were getting ready to bloom. Here and there a purplish lip of petal stuck out like a pout from a fat green bud. Every so often a bee would hang humming in the air for a few seconds, checking on how the flowers were coming along. You just couldn't imagine where all this life was coming from. It reminded me of that Bible story where somebody or other struck a rock and the water poured out. Only this was better, flowers out of bare dirt. The Miracle of Dog Doo Park.