"That's right. That's me. You've got loads of friends. Lou Ann's your friend, and Edna and Mattie and all the others, and they all love you and take care of you sometimes. And Estevan and Esperanza were good friends too. I want you to remember them, okay?"
"Steban and Mespanza," she nodded gravely.
"Close enough," I said. "I know it's been confusing, there's been a lot of changes in the management. But from here on in I'm your Ma, and that means I love you the most. Forever. Do you understand what that means?"
"That beans?" She looked doubtful.
"You and me, we're sticking together. You're my Turtle."
"Urdle," she declared, pointing to herself.
"That's right. April Turtle Greer."
On an impulse I called 1-800-THE LORD, from a public phone in the City Library where we'd come after Turtle decided she'd like to look at some books. I don't know what possessed me to do it. I'd been saving it up all this time, like Mama and our head rights, and now that I'd hit bottom and survived, I suppose I knew that I didn't really need any ace in the hole.
The line rang twice, three times, and then a recording came on. It told me that the Lord helps those that help themselves. Then it said that this was my golden opportunity to help myself and the entire Spiritual Body by making my generous contribution today to the Fountain of Faith missionary fund. If I would please hold the line an operator would be available momentarily to take my pledge. I held the line.
"Thank you for calling," she said. "Would you like to state your name and address and the amount of your pledge?"
"No pledge," I said. "I just wanted to let you know you've gotten me through some rough times. I always thought, If I really get desperate I can call 1-800-THE LORD.' I just wanted to tell you, you have been a Fountain of Faith."
She didn't know what to make of this. "So you don't wish to make a pledge at this time?"
"No," I said. "Do you wish to make a pledge to me at this time? Would you like to send me a hundred dollars, or a hot meal?"
She sounded irritated. "I can't do that, ma'am," she said.
"Okay, no problem," I said. "I don't need it, anyway. Especially now. I've got a whole trunkful of pickles and baloney."
"Ma'am, this is a very busy line. If you don't wish to make a pledge at this time."
"Look at it this way," I said. "We're even."
After I hung up I felt like singing and dancing through the wide, carpeted halls of the Oklahoma City Main Library. I once saw a movie where kids did cartwheels all over the library tables while Marian the librarian chased them around saying "Shhhh!" I felt just like one of those kids.
But instead Turtle and I snooped politely through the stacks. They didn't have Old MacDonald Had an Apartment, and as a matter of fact we soon became bored with the juvenile section and moved on to Reference. Some of these had good pictures. Turtle's favorite was the Horticultural Encyclopedia. It had pictures of vegetables and flowers that were far beyond both her vocabulary and mine. She sat on my lap and together we turned the big, shiny pages. She pointed out pictures of plants she liked, and I read about them. She even found a picture of bean trees.
"Well, you smart thing, I would have missed it altogether," I said. I would have, too. The picture was in black and white, and didn't look all that much like the ones back home in Roosevelt Park, but the caption said it was wisteria. I gave Turtle a squeeze. "What you are," I told her, "is a horticultural genius." I wouldn't have put it past her to say "horticulture" one of these days, a word I hadn't uttered myself until a few months ago.
Turtle was thrilled. She slapped the picture enthusiastically, causing the young man at the reference desk to look over his glasses at us. The book had to have been worth a hundred dollars at least, and it was very clean.
"Here, let's don't hit the book," I said. "I know it's exciting. Why don't you hit the table instead?"
She smacked the table while I read to her in a whisper about the life cycle of wisteria. It is a climbing ornamental vine found in temperate latitudes, and came originally from the Orient. It blooms in early spring, is pollinated by bees, and forms beanlike pods. Most of that we knew already. It actually is in the bean family, it turns out. Everything related to beans is called a legume.