from Red Ant House

The first time I saw this girl she was standing at the bottom of the coal pile. I thought she was a little wrinkled dwarf woman with her sucked-in cheeks and pointed chin. She had narrow legs and yellow eyes. They had just moved into the Old Perino house. This was the red ant house.

"I'm having a birthday," the girl said. She was going around the neighborhood gathering up children she didn't know for her birthday party. She told us they had a donkey on the wall and beans in a jar.

"What kind of beans?" I asked her.

She shrugged.

"Hey you guys," I said to my brothers. "This bean wants us to go to her birthday party."

"My name's not Bean."

"What is it then?"

"Theresa Mooney."

"You don't look like a Theresa Mooney."

She shrugged.

"Hey you guys, this girl named Bean wants us to go to her birthday party."

She didn't say anything then. She turned around and started down the street toward her house. We followed her.

In her yard was a grease monkey. Her yard was a junker yard with car parts and cars all over the place, and a grease monkey was standing up against one car, smoking a cigarette.

"Joe," the little dwarf girl said, "what do you think of a name like Bean?"

He considered it. The man was handsome, with slick black hair and blue eyes, and he gave the dwarf a sweet look. I couldn't think of how such a funny-looking child belonged to such a handsome man. "It's an odd one," he said. The girl looked at me, her eyes slant. "One thing about a name like that," he said, "it's unusual. Everybody would remember it."

That idea she liked. She looked at me with a little grin. She said, "My name is Bean."

Just as if the whole thing was her idea.