Heroes of the Frontier - Dave Eggers Page 0,1

threat to the social contract. She was a green-eyed animal with a burst of irrationally red hair and a knack for assessing the most breakable object in any room and then breaking it with incredible alacrity.

Josie, hearing the roar of a truck passing through on the nearby highway, poured herself a second cup. This is allowed, she told herself, and closed her eyes.

But where was the Alaska of magic and clarity? This place was choked with the haze of a dozen forest fires, spread around the state like a prison break, and it was not majestic, no, not yet. All they’d seen so far was cluttered and tough. They’d seen seaplanes. They’d seen hundreds of homes for sale. They’d seen a roadside ad for a tree farm looking for a buyer. They’d seen another RV, not unlike theirs, parked on the side of the road, under a high sheer mountain wall. The mother of the family was squatting on the side of the road. They’d seen lacquered log cabin homes. They’d seen in a convenience store also made of lacquered logs, a T-shirt that said Don’t blame me. I voted for the American.

So where were the heroes? All she knew where she had come from were cowards. No, there was one brave man, and she’d helped to get him killed. One courageous man now dead. Everyone took everything and Jeremy was dead. Find me someone bold, she asked the dark trees before her. Find me someone of substance, she demanded of the mountains beyond.

Alaska had been on her mind only a few weeks before she’d decided to leave Ohio. She had a stepsister, Sam, up in Homer, a stepsister who was not quite a stepsister, and who she hadn’t seen in years but who had held great mystique because she lived in Alaska, and owned her own business, and piloted a boat or ship of some kind, and had raised two daughters largely alone, her husband a fisherman gone for months at a time. To hear Sam tell it he was no prize and his absences no great loss.

Josie had never been to Alaska and outside of Homer had no idea where to go or what to do there. But she wrote to Sam, telling her she was coming, and Sam wrote her back, saying that was fine. Josie took this as a good sign, that her stepsister who she hadn’t seen in five years just said “fine” and did no kind of beseeching or encouraging. Sam was an Alaskan now, and that meant, Josie was sure, a plainspoken and linear existence centered around work and trees and sky, and this kind of disposition was what Josie craved in others and herself. She wanted no more of the useless drama of life. If theatrics were necessary, fine. If a human were ascending a mountain, and on that ascent there were storms and avalanches and bolts of lightning from angry skies, then she could accept drama, participate in drama. But suburban drama was so tiresome, so absurd on its face, that she could no longer be around anyone who thought it real or worthwhile.

So they flew up and found their baggage and then found Stan. He owned the recreational vehicle she had rented—the Chateau—and he was standing outside baggage claim, holding a sign with Josie’s name on it. He was as she imagined him—a retired man in his seventies, hearty and with a way of swinging his hands, as if they were heavy things, bunches of bananas, he was delivering. They loaded their luggage into the vehicle and were off. Josie