Chapter 4: Lucky Buster Lives

Taylor and Turtle are driving Lucky Buster home to Sand Dune, Arizona. Although Lucky Buster is thirty-eight years old, he has the mental capabilities of a child. He lives with his mother, Angie Buster who is used to having Lucky run away. Although Lucky has a couple minor injuries, he survived amazingly well in his few days in the hole. While Turtle and Lucky sleep in the car, Taylor contemplates her relationship with her boyfriend Jax and the idea of "luck." On reporter has told Taylor that Turtle's and Lucky's futures will forever be linked, according to a Chinese belief that says the person who saves a life is responsible for the person she saves forever.

Angie Buster owns a diner and a hotel, the Casa Suerte, in Sand Dune, and welcomes the three travelers when they arrive. Taylor notices a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe covered with yellow bows, now being taken off since Lucky has returned safely. A local reporter Red is already there to take pictures of Turtle and Lucky. Angie energetically brings food for everyone, including another customer named Collie Bluestone, who is in rooster-fighting business. She also tells stories about Lucky's runaways in the past. In private, Angie tearfully tells Taylor how grateful she is that Taylor brought Lucky home safely.

Finally, Taylor and Turtle return home to Tucson. Jax and Taylor sit up in bed, talking and enjoying each other's company. Jax thinks about how he admires Taylor's lack of self-consciousness about her appearance. Jax loves Taylor, but senses that she does not need him, and worries aloud that she will run away with the garbage man. Then he gives her a long list of phone messages, mostly from reporters, but also from her mother Alice. When Taylor hears Alice is leaving Harland, she wants to call right away, but stops when she realizes how late it is in Kentucky. Finally, Jax tells her that Oprah Winfrey called, hoping that she and Turtle will appear on an episode of her show, "'Children who have Saved Lives.'"

Chapter 5: The Secret of T.V.

Taylor and Turtle are on the plane to Chicago, where they will appear on the Oprah Winfrey show. Neither mother nor daughter has flown on a plane before, and both are excited. When they arrive in Chicago, they ride in a limousine to the studio. Taylor thinks that the driver must have a funny job, driving around royalty and serial killers and all kinds of people in between.

When they arrive in the studio, the wardrobe woman is helping Turtle get dressed for the cameras. She wants Turtle to change out of her overalls and into a dress instead. The "secret of T.V." is that even though the dress is way too big, they can just pin it up in the back, and no one will know the difference. The other kids on the show include a cub scout who got help when his scoutmaster collapsed on a hike, and a fourth-grade girl who saved her sister from a dog attack by hitting the pit-bull with a Barbie convertible. No one seems to be harassing them about their clothes. After haggling with the wardrobe woman, Taylor finally asks Turtle what she wants to wear. Turtle wants to wear her own overalls, and Taylor refuses to let the woman go against Turtle's choice.


Chapter Four introduces yet another mother-child pair: Angie and Lucky Buster. Like Alice and Taylor, Angie is also a single mom. Taylor is dating Jax, but he is not Turtle's father, and at this point Taylor does not think about him as a permanent part of her life. Single motherhood is already an important theme in the novel. In fact, the book affirms untraditional family structures in its many manifestations. For now, the reader should connect Alice, Taylor, and Angie as three examples of mothers willing to sacrifice anything to give their children a sense of love and security. In the context of this novel, a mother's love is strong to the point of being fierce. The reader may remember in the second chapter when Taylor is holding on to Turtle's hand so tightly it is almost painful, and when Lucky returns to his mother, she "envelop[s]" him like a "starfish." Angie's inability to keep Lucky from running away parallels Taylor's future conflict: she, too, will not always be able to protect her daughter, or keep her from straying from home.

The luck and chance motif is further developed in these two chapters. We should note Taylor's thoughts about "luck" in Chapter Four. She renews her commitment to a belief that she should try to not think of "luck" too much. Taylor seems to be saying that no one can rank one kind of luck over another, or no one can say for sure how lucky a person is. As she points out, one might think Lucky Buster unlucky for his mental retardation, or lucky that he cannot conceptualize the severity of his accident.

These lines on "luck" will serve a larger purpose in the novel. The reporter's comment about the Chinese belief that Turtle is now obligated to Lucky for life will continue to haunt Taylor. Indeed, this event is the point from which the novel's plot takes off. Turtle's life is changed forever as a result of the chance occurrence she witnessed. Taylor's character and the novel as a whole will not dwell on whether this was a lucky event or an unlucky one. As the novel goes on, the question of what's good for Turtle becomes all the more muddied. Taylor cannot think too much about, or figure it all out in her head; instead, what is right is to just keep living life, seeing where her good or bad luck takes her. It is not for her—or the reader—to know if chance happenings are bad or good, but rather, that they happen, and they change the lives of the people in the middle of them. This sentiment is communicated already in Chapter Five, when the mother and daughter appear on the Oprah Winfrey show. Taylor is a little nervous about flying, and thinks that "children saving lives" is a stupid subject for a T.V. show, but nonetheless, feels obligated to accompany Turtle through the aftermath of Lucky's accident.

Chapter Four also introduces Jax's character in more detail. Jax symbolizes all the men who have never been needed by Alice or Taylor, or any independent woman. The reader should recognize that he sees this situation for what it is, and loves Taylor anyway. One detail in particular helps to clarify his role. He feels Taylor's body and knows that it is not a promise he will get to keep her. Like Taylor and Turtle, he is caught in his own game of chance. He knows that Taylor feels ambivalent about him, but he continues to see where his luck will take him.