Summary—Chapter Eight: The Miracle of Dog Doo Park

“I have always thought you had a wonderful way with words,” he said. “You don’t need to go fishing for big words in the dictionary. You are poetic, mi’ija.”

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Taylor and Lou Ann sit with Turtle and Dwayne Ray in Roosevelt Park, which the local kids call Dog Doo Park. Much to her dismay, Taylor has just found out that her mother plans to marry Harland Elleston, who works at a paint and body store. Lou Ann tells Taylor she should feel good that her mother has enough life in her to marry again, and she accuses Taylor of disliking men. Taylor disagrees, thinking longingly of Estevan. Lou Ann reminisces about her excitement when she first met Angel. The wisteria vines in the park that once seemed dead now bloom a beautiful purple, and Taylor relates them to a biblical story about water pouring out of a rock. Turtle sits in the dirt saying the names of vegetables. Edna Poppy and Mrs. Parsons walk by, and Taylor jokes with Edna, who is wearing all red, as she always does. Mrs. Parsons mentions that Angel stopped by Lou Ann’s house this morning while Lou Ann was out. When Taylor asks, Lou Ann says that if Angel wanted to, she would let him move back in.

One day, Taylor tries to apologize to Estevan for Mrs. Parson’s rude comments about immigrants. He says that she is like most Americans, who think that if something bad happens to someone, that person deserves it. Taylor and Estevan compliment each other’s speech: Taylor loves Estevan’s impeccable English, and he thinks her Kentucky accent and expressions are poetic.

Taylor slowly begins to understand what Mattie meant when she called her shop a sanctuary. People come and go often and quietly, and Mattie frequently leaves for days at a time, “going birdwatching”—that is, looking for people who need a safe place to hide.

Taylor decides to take Turtle to the doctor on account of her history of abuse. When the nurse assumes Taylor is Turtle’s foster mother, Taylor does not correct her assumption. Dr. Pelinowsky determines that Turtle stopped growing as a result of her abuse, a condition called “failure to thrive.” He shows Taylor x-rays of Turtle’s compound fractures and says that although he assumed Turtle was two years old, the x-rays indicate that she is actually three. When Taylor protests that Turtle has been growing of late, he assures her that failure to thrive is a reversible condition. While he talks, Taylor looks out the window into the garden, where a bird has made a nest in a cactus.

After they go to the doctor, Taylor and Turtle meet Lou Ann at the zoo. Taylor learns that Angel came back to tell Lou Ann he is leaving for good to join a rodeo on the Colorado-Montana circuit. Lou Ann accuses Taylor of taking Angel’s side, but Taylor explains that if she criticizes Angel now, Lou Ann will resent her if Angel ever returns. Over the course of their conversation, Taylor refers to the month of April. Turtle looks up quickly, and the women realize that Turtle’s real name is April.

Summary—Chapter Nine: Ismene

Esperanza attempts suicide by swallowing a bottle of aspirin, and Estevan comes to tell Taylor the news. While Mattie takes Esperanza to a clinic, Taylor keeps Estevan company in her house. Taylor realizes that in times of crisis, she “fall[s] back on good solid female traditions,” and she tells Estevan she will either keep feeding him or keep talking. He tells her to talk. They sit next to each other on the couch and talk, and Taylor feels terribly attracted to Estevan. She tells a story about a classmate, Scotty Richey, who electrocuted himself on his sixteenth birthday. She explains the cliques at her high school. At the top of the social ladder came the town kids, then the motorcycle crowd, then the farm kids (her group), who were called Nutters because they earned money by picking walnuts. Taylor says that even the Nutters had one another, but Scotty did not fit in anywhere. Suddenly, she gets angry at Esperanza, who, unlike Scotty, had someone, but nevertheless tried to kill herself.