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Lou Ann, who had lived here long enough to make the association, said the sound of the cicadas made her hot. For me it went way beyond that. I used the air hose to blast the accursed insects out of the low branches of the Palo Verde trees around Matties, sending them diving and screaming off through the air like bottle rockets. Every time I walked past the mural of Jesus Is Lord I begged Him for rain.

But every day the paper said: No precipitation expected.

"Remember that time at the zoo?" Lou Ann asked, still occupied with the Liberty, Kansas, horror. "About those Siamese twins born pregnant, or whatever it was?"

"I remember the giant turtles," I said.

Lou Ann laughed. "Now how's a turtle manage to be pregnant, I'd like to know. Do they get maternity shells? I almost feel like going back to see how she's doing."

"Do you know what Estevan told me?" I asked Lou Ann. "In Spanish, the way to say you have a baby is to say that you give it to the light. Isn't that nice?"

"You give the baby to the light?"

"Mmm-hmm." I was reading a piece about earthquakes under the ocean. They cause giant waves, but in a ship you can't feel it at all, it just rolls under you.

I twisted my hair into a knot to try and get it off my sweaty neck. I looked enviously at Lou Ann's blond head, cropped like a golf course.

"I was so sure Dwayne Ray was going to be a Siamese twin or something," she said. "Because I was so big. When he was born I had to ask the doctor about fifteen times if he was normal, before it sunk in. I just couldn't believe he was okay."

"And now you just can't believe he's going to get through a day without strangling or drowning in an ice chest," I said, but in a nice way. I put down the paper and gave Lou Ann my attention. "Why do you think you're such a worry wart, if you don't mind my asking?"

"Taylor, can I tell you something? Promise you won't tell anybody. Promise me you won't laugh."

"Cross my heart."

"I had this dream, one week after he was born. This angel came down, I guess from the sky-I didn't see that part. He was dressed kind of modern, in a suit, you know? With a brown tie? But he was an angel, I'm positive-he had wings. And he said: 'I was sent to you from the future of this planet.' Then he told me my son would not live to see the year two thousand."

"Lou Ann, please."

"But no, that's not even the scariest part. The next morning my horoscope said, 'Listen to the advice of a stranger.' Now don't you think that's got to mean something? That part's real, it's not a dream. I cut it out and saved it. And Dwayne Ray's said something about avoiding unnecessary travel, which I took to mean, you know, traveling through life. Not that you could avoid that. So what on earth was I supposed to do? It scared me to death."

"You were just looking for a disaster, that's all. You can't deny you hunt for them, Lou Ann, even in the paper. If you look hard enough you can always come up with what you want."

"Am I just completely screwed up, Taylor, or what? I've always been this way. My brother and I used to play this game when we were little, with a cigar box. That box was our best toy. It had this slinky lady in a long red dress on the inside of the lid, with her dress slit way up to here. It's a wonder Granny Logan didn't confiscate it. She was holding out a cigar I think, I s'pose she was a Keno girl or something, but we said she was a gypsy. We'd make believe that you could say to her, 'Myself at the age of fourteen.' Or whatever age, you know, and then we'd look in the box and pretend we could see what we looked like. My brother would go all the way up to ninety. He'd say, 'I see myself with a long beard. I live in a large white house with seventeen dogs' and on and on. He loved dogs, see, and Mama and Granny would only let him have just Buster. But me, I was such a chicken liver, I'd just go a couple of weeks into the future at the very most. I'd look at myself the day school was going to start in September, maybe, and say, 'I am wearing a new pink dress.' But I'd never, never go up even to twenty or twenty-five. I was scared."

"Of what?"

"That I'd be dead. That I'd look in the box and see myself dead."

"But it was just pretend. You could have seen yourself any way you wanted to."

"I know it. But that's what I thought I'd see. Isn't that the most ridiculous thing?"

"Maybe it was because of your father. Maybe you got kind of hung up on death, because of him dying."