Skip to content

The Bean Trees - Part One

The Bean Trees

Barbara Kingsolver

Part one

Country bar
Taylor: Dear Mama. Two days now, and guess where I am? Oklahoma! And guess what? I'm in the heart of the Cherokee nation! Wanted to be here since you told me about my one-eighth Cherokee blood. I am in the middle of nowhere, which is where I stopped when the VW gave up. But it's come 1500 miles not bad for an old car. Got it fixed okay. Headed west. Love, Taylor.

Waitress: Coffee?

Taylor: Thanks. You got anything to eat that costs less than a dollar?

Cowboy: There's your tomato ketchup, sent there, Sadie? Here, lady.

Taylor: You think being broke is a joke? Have it yourself -ketchup's good on dessert. Waitress: Oh, he don't mean nothing by it. Do you, Earl?


Waitress: Him and his old lady're having a bad quarrel. I can do you a burger for 99 cents.

Taylor: That her over there? In the blanket? She sick?

Cowboy: Yeah, she's a sick Indian, and she's gonna get even sicker. Sadie, can't a guy have some peace here?

Taylor: I'll have the burger.

Outside bar

Taylor: Fresh air! Right. Head south on Interstate 35. Then west on-

Woman: Miss –

Taylor: Thanks, I don't want any souvenirs. I'm part Cherokee Indian myself.

Woman: Not souvenirs. Here – Take this baby.

Taylor: Is this your kid?

Woman: My sister's. She is dead.

Taylor: Am I missing something here? Are you saying you want to give me this child?

Woman: Yes.

Taylor: If I wanted a baby, I could have stayed in Kentucky. The guys there, I could have had babies coming out my ears.

Cowboy: Martha!

Taylor: Is that your man?

Woman: Don't get him over!

Taylor: Look, you just can't give somebody a kid. You've got to have papers and stuff.

Woman: No papers. There isn't nobody know's it's alive. And nobody cares.

Cowboy: Martha!

Woman: Here –

Taylor: You can't do this to me. You've done it. Now what. You got any ideas, kid? Guess you haven't. See here, I'll take you inside, put you on the counter. Sadie can keep you till your auntie comes back. Aw no! The bar's shut. The lights are all out. Sadie! Hey, Sadie! Shit fire son of a bitch!

Motel reception

Taylor: Hi. Nice evening.

Motel Woman: Kind of chilly, though.

Taylor: Ma'am, I can't tell you how glad I am to see a motel out here. Last place I stopped, more 'n an hour ago, they closed up in front my very eyes. I began to think we’d have to sleep on the back seat. Say, do you own this place?

Motel Woman: My son owns it.

Taylor: So it's a kind of family thing?

Motel Woman: Sure is.

Taylor: You seem like a kind person. So I'm not going to beat around the bush. I can't really afford to pay for a room and I wouldn't even bother you except I've got a child out in the car that's wet and cold and looking to catch pneumonia.

Motel Woman: Well, Honey ...

Taylor: I'll take anything you've got, and tomorrow I'll change every bed in the place, wash up, anything you tell me. Let me go get the baby. You won't mind if I bring the poor kid in here to warm up while you decide.

Motel bathroom

Taylor: It just takes a little persuasion. Now, first thing is to get you into a bath warm you up. Hey, let go my hair. How can I undress you? Okay, have it your own way. Can you talk? Maybe you only speak Cherokee. I can't help you there. Oh – look at you! Oh my, you're just one mass of bruises. Here, let's get that wet diaper off. Oh! so sore. What did they do to you? Right, in you go. Hey, let go, you won't drown! Let go! – you're like a mud turtle. Know what my mama says? 'If a mud turtle bites you, it won't let go till it thunders.' Mud turtle, that's you.

On the road again

Taylor: Dear Mama. You'll never believe! – I am now qualified to be a real Cherokee Indian. Got myself a Cherokee daughter! She's maybe a couple years old, and I call her Turtle cos she won't let go of me. The people here at the Broken Arrow Motel have been real good, and my purse is full again.

With Christmas and New Year gone, I'm on the road again. Arizona, here we come.

Taylor: Shee-it, turtle! I showed mama I could change the tires, but she didn't tell me what to do when both back tires are shredded. One twenty dollar bill, a couple of dimes and a quarter – all I got left. Well, let's see what they can offer us in Jesus is Lord Used Tires. Hell, who'd dream up a fancy name like that?

Matti: Oh, that was my husband Sam. Jesus is Lord Used Tires is what he wanted to call our business. You might say he was kind of fanatical. Bless his soul.

Taylor: You run it on your own?

Matti: Sure do. Sorry to tell you, hon. These tires are bad. They're in ribbons.

Taylor: How much for new ones.

Matti: I could give you a pair of retreads, put on and balanced, for sixty-five.

Taylor: I'll have to think on that one.

Matti: It's too early in the morning for bad news. Want a cup of coffee? I was just brewing up.

The shop office

Matti: Are you on the road?

Tylor: Have been. Now I guess we'll see how we like Tucson.

Matti: Oh, you will. I ought to know. I've lived my whole life here. Did you say you're looking for a job?

Taylor: No. But I am.

Matti: What kind you looking for?

Taylor: Anything really. I have experience in house-cleaning, x-rays, blood counts, changing tires and picking bugs off bean vines.

Matti: That's a peculiar resume.

Taylor: I guess I've had a peculiar life. Hey, Turtle, you're spilling juice all down me. I guess you don't have bean vines round here. That kind of limits my options.

Matti: Well, heck yes, girl, we've got bean vines! Come on out back and let me show you something. Taylor: Okay Turtle, guess we're in for a surprise. Wow! This garden is awesome! You’ve got everything!

Matti: Oh, I got mouths to feed.

Taylor: Yeah? I thought you were on your own.

Matti: Oh, one way I am. Another way, I'm not.

Lou-Ann 's house

Taylor: Dear Mama. You teaching me to change tires has sure come in useful. That's my job now. At the Jesus is Lord Used Tires Company! Me and Turtle are looking for somewhere to stay. First place we saw, they were all seventies hippies. Hope the next place is better.

Lou-Ann: Angel? Oh. Can I help?

Taylor: I've come about the room.

Lou-Ann: Oh yeah. The room.

Taylor: Can I take a look at it?

Lou-Ann: Sure. I'm sorry. Come on in. Is this your little girl?

Taylor: Yeah, this is Turtle.

Lou-Ann: Oh that's an unusual name.

Taylor: It's only temporary. Until we hit on her real name.

Lou-Ann: You and your husband?

Taylor: Hellfire, no. There's just me.

Lou-Ann: Oh, you're just like me! Like me and Dwayne Ray! (Starts crying)

Taylor: Did I say something wrong?

Lou-Ann: No. No, it's me. He just walked out. That's the second time.

Taylor: Who walked out? Your husband? Dwayne Ray?

Lou-Ann: Nooo ... Dwayne Ray's my baby. That's him now. Angel's my husband. I gotta pick him up.

Taylor: Turtle, it's not just you and me that's got problems.

Lou-Ann: I am being so unthoughtful. Can I get you both a Pepsi?

Taylor: That'd be great. Look, I'm Taylor Greer. What's your name?

Lou-Ann: Lou Ann Ruiz. I guess I'd better get used to being Lou Ann Logan again.

Taylor: Nothing wrong with that. My mama brought me up all by herself after my daddy went off.

Lou-Ann: There, honey. You ain't sent from these parts, are you?

Taylor: I sure am not. Born and bred in Kentucky. The Bluegrass State.

Lou-Ann: You are not!

Taylor: I am so!

Lou-Ann: So am I! Whereabouts in Kentucky?

Taylor: Pittman. I been there all my life.

Lou-Ann: Lexington!

Taylor: No! So what about this room?

Matti's garden

Taylor: Dear Mama. You'll never believe! Got a room I can afford, and Lou Ann – she owns the place – is like an old school friend. So we're fine. Just wish Turtle would say something. Anything. Gotta go. I'm in Matti's garden and she sure needs help.

Taylor: Matti, this garden is just about full!

Matti: I can see empty spaces.

Taylor: Matti, that priest that drops by with the station wagon ...

Matti: Father William.

Taylor: Yeah, Father William ... Who are all those people he drops off and then picks up again? You know, they're always speaking Spanish.

Matti: Yeah.

Taylor: Well, who are they?

Matti: Kind of friends.

Taylor: Friends? All of them? Where they from?

Matti: Taylor, you ever heard of a sanctuary?

Taylor: Sure I know what a sanctuary is. A place for birds, where nobody's allowed to shoot them.

Matti: That's right. They've got them for people too.

Taylor: I beg your pardon? Why should people need a sanctuary?

Matti: You know, Taylor, your little girl looks like she could do with some attention.

Taylor: Oh, okay. Look Turtle, here's squash seeds, here's pepper seeds, and here's eggplants.

Matti: That's just going to confuse her. Show her something she can understand. Something that looks like what you eat.

Taylor: Okay. Turtle, remember white bean soup with ketchup? Mmmm, you like that. Well, this is a white bean. Turtle: Bean.

Taylor: Hah! Turtle: Bean.

Matti: Well, don't just sit there, the child's talking to you.

Taylor: That's right, Turtle, that's a bean. And you're just about the smartest kid alive!

Turtle: Humbean.

Taylor: She talked!

Lou-Ann's kitchen

Lou-Ann: Leandra, Leonie, Leonora, Leslie, Letitia ...

Taylor: Lord have mercy, have you been trying out names all the way from Agatha and Amy?

Lou-Ann: Oh Taylor, hi, I didn't hear you come in. I thought I'd do half the book today and the rest tomorrow.

Taylor: Here, Turtle.

Turtle: Humbean.

Taylor: Look, I know I don't know her real name. But even if you hit the right one, what do you expect her to do? Jump up and scream and kiss you?

Lou-Ann: Don't be mad at me, Taylor. I'm just trying to help. She worries me. I'm not saying she's dumb, but, you know, she doesn't have too much personality.

Taylor: Sure, she does. She grabs onto things. That's her personality.

Lou-Ann: Well, no offence, but that's not personality. That's automatic.

Taylor: Oh, thanks a lot.

Lou-Ann: Taylor, look, I know you're out at work all day, but all the magazines say you have to play with children to develop their personality.

Taylor: So? I play with her. I bought her a book today. Here, Turtle.

Lou-Ann: Okay, you play with her. I'm sorry.

Taylor: Nothing personal. I'm just in a crappy mood.

Lou-Ann: I'm always more relaxed after I've washed my hair. Lois, Lola, Lolicia, Lolita... Ohjeez, take this book away from me.

Taylor: Lou Ann, have a beer with me. I want to talk about something, and I don't want you to get offended.

Lou-Ann: Okay, shoot.

Taylor: Lou Ann, I moved in here because I knew we'd get along. It's nice of you to make dinner for us all, and to take care of Turtle sometimes I know you mean well.

Lou-Ann: I do, Taylor.

Taylor: But we're getting like some TV soap opera. For chrissake, it's not like we're a family. You don't have to do all this.

Lou-Ann: But I want to.

Taylor: But I don't.

Lou-Ann: I always try to do things for the best. And it always turns out for the worst.

Taylor: Lou Ann!

Lou-Ann: I was so careful not to upset Angel. And now, my husband ran off, and he took the TV. And I'll tell you one thing, when something was bugging Angel, he'd never of stayed up half the night with me talking and as for laughing ... We never laughed together! You're not still mad at me, are you, Taylor?

Taylor: Peace, sister.

Lou-Ann: Peace and love, get high –

Together: and fly – with the dove!

Doctors consulting room

Taylor: ...Thanks, Dr Pelinowski. But I'm worried about some stuff that happened to her a while ago. I'm – I'm her foster parent. And I think she was abused.

Dr Pelinowski: Well, I can see no outward evidence of lasting physical damage ... Let's have a look at the X-rays ... You told me she was two years old.

Taylor: Yeah, well, from her size, she's still in diapers, and she's only just starting to talk. Mind you, after her first word she hasn't stopped.

Dr Pelinowski: Miss Greer, you were right about physical abuse. These are healed fractures. See here where the arm was broken. But the hands. The hands are an excellent index of age. On the basis of height and general development, I agree with your assessment that she's two years old. But the hands tell a different story. She's three.

Taylor: Three!

Dr Pelinowski: Sometimes in cases of deprivation, a child will simply stop growing. A condition we call failure to thrive.

Taylor: She's thriving now. I know. I have to buy her clothes.

Dog Doo Park

Lou-Ann: Taylor, don't take on so.

Taylor: But three years old. She should have been out of diapers and talking a long time ago!

Lou-Ann: Turtle is talking. Listen up.

Turtle: Bean, Bea-nut, Com and Bean. Bean, tomato, pepper, squash.

Taylor: But three years old! She needs a miracle.

Lou-Ann: She'll catch up. All the magazines say so. Come on, Taylor, let's go sit under the wisteria. You know, I like it there.

Taylor: I thought you said it reminded you of Angel.

Lou-Ann: It does.

Taylor: Lou Ann, you gotta forget him. It's been six months. He walked out last April.

Lou-Ann: There! Did you see that?

Taylor: See what?

Lou-Ann: Turtle – when you said April. She looked up – it's her name.

Taylor: Don't be stupid.

Lou-Ann: Say it again, go on.

Taylor: April! April! Hell-fire, you're right! She looks up when I say it! April Turtle, April Turtle!

Turtle: April Turtle, April Turtle.

Lou-Ann: Oh, shoot, look at the wisteria. All the flowers have gone. Two weeks ago, it was so pretty.

Taylor: I wish I knew what was going on at Jesus is Lord Used Tires. Matti won't say a thing, and the cops have been round, asking questions.

Lou-Ann: The cops?

Turtle: Ma! Ma! Ma!

Taylor: What is it, Turtle?

Turtle: Bean tree.

Taylor: What? What are you talking about now, Turtle? Have I missed something?

Lou-Ann: Look up – over your head.

Taylor: What?

Lou-Ann: The wisteria – it's like a tree!

Taylor: So?

Lou-Ann: Well, look at its seeds. Don't they just remind you of the beans you bring home from Matti's?

Turtle: Bean tree!

Taylor: Bean tree! Oh, Turtle! April Turtle.

Lou-Ann: Taylor, you have just had your miracle.