After Shane’s mother died he moved to Alaska and earned ten-thousand dollars unloading long-liners of cod and halibut, slumbering through the bright northern nights on a wooden platform raised just above the bay-shore. That was when he first really got into coffee and cigarettes, when he read Mason & Dixon, and finally stopped playing the violin, selling it for far less than it was worth at a pawn shop (possibly the only) in Homer. He met a girl named Jade up there, who wore her hat to the side and cut fish all day. Shane thought they might start a nice Alaskan life together, eventually building a sauna and learning to hunt and gather, but Billy went back to her home in Ohio, leaving Shane a little keepsake (a French fish of translucent blue glass), which never left his pocket. When the season ended he returned south, seeing Aurora Borealis for the first time just outside of Whitehorse. A month went by and he woke up on the sand dunes of the Oregon coast, alone, with a copy of The Recognitions and two shirts. Hiking down the highway, he caught a ride to Newport, and walking the length of that town’s great bridge across Yaquina Bay, was picked up by an elderly Christian man who was dreadfully concerned about the state of his immortal soul. He left Shane in the suburban sprawl of Coos Bay, another suburb without a city. As he was raising his thumb to the road, a blue Volvo which had just passed paused, as if it meant to stop, but, figuring it was already beyond the hitchhiker, it might as well keep going. Minutes later a long-haired, bearded man in an ancient red pickup truck pulled over, and took Shane all the way to Brookings, the southernmost Oregon town on the coast highway. He was a farmer, and they ate his vegetables the whole way down, raw, but he drove slowly, leaving Shane in Brookings with a big juicy eggplant just in time for the sundown, when it was not likely he would catch any more rides. As he looked around the beach, beginning to think of finding a place to sleep, the blue Volvo came over the ridge and two girls, one driving and the other sitting cross-legged in the back, invited him in.

“Where are you going?” the driver asked.

“Mill Valley.”

“Where’s that?”

“San Francisco. You?”

“Los Angeles, eventually.”

“Where are you coming from?”

“Vermont. You?”


They didn’t want to drive in the darkness, but still pulled over at the California border to take photographs and turn on a Joni Mitchell compact disc, burned. They stopped not long after, drove up a Forest Service road, into the woods, and she turned off the car, and they sat there in the silence for a moment, and Daphne (the driver) got out, and Ashby (the cross-legged sitter) followed her, and Shane, scratching his head vigorously, followed Ashby.

Daphne slept in the back of the Volvo and Ashby and Shane slept on a tarp on the ground. She said they had been picking up hitchhikers the entire way across Canada, and that one, around Jasper, had fallen in love with Daphne, and they had walked singing in the broad valleys around Hundred Mile House, and looked up at the gargantuan rock called the Squamish Chief, considering wild plans, but when they hit Vancouver, he disappeared on the north side of town, and though Daphne said she had seen it coming, had in fact talked with him explicitly about his plan of divergence, Ashby suspected she was surprised, and deeply hurt by the occurrence. Thus they re-entered America in silence.

They spoke of something, one of those particular conversations when both parties are falling asleep and thus, one never knows when the dialogue will end, the terminus looming over every sentence.

“Have you read Tropic of Cancer?” she asked.

“Yeah. Did you know he almost named it Icing the Equator?”

“No.” There was a long pause. “Do you think the dew will fall,” she asked.

“You can count on it, we are only a few miles from the ocean.”


“Do you fear the dew?” She laughed.

“I wouldn’t say it is fear, but when I wake up wet it takes all day for me to dry out.”

“It will be hot tomorrow. Are you happy, to be here.”

“I’m not here.”

“Where are your?”

“I don’t know. Somewhere else.”

“Do you wish you were here?”

“Yes, yes. Absolutely.”

In the morning the sleeping bags were cold and heavy with moisture. Daphne was singing songs from the Smithsonian Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music, which she seemed to have virtually memorized (she was a jukebox, effortlessly cycling through over eighty tracks, and only occasionally deviating from the collection to sing Biz Markie, The Pretenders, or a chorus from Hum’s You’d Prefer and Astronaut). They had eaten oatmeal everyday for three months.

“It sticks to your ribs” Daphne said.

“That’s not the only thing it sticks to.” Ashby starred at her and eventually, self-consciously, spit on her bare foot, which sent Maggie skipping across the clearing in a joyful mock rage. “She has a lot of energy in the mornings, but I like the night.” Ashby was preparing to embark on a lifestyle-training program (covering diet, media consumption, sleep and exercise schedule, meditation regiment, and so on) evidently inspired by ancient Mayan texts, or else somehow orally linked to the practices of presumably sagacious Mayan elders. Thus, she was determined to thrash to her heart’s content in the remaining weeks of their freedom. Her ceremonial initiation into the order (likely some torch lit hundred-year old Vermont barn affair, which numerous registered Socialists in attendance) was in fact the only event which stood to limit the length of their current road trip.

On the road again, they let the hitchhiker drive, something they seemed philosophically opposed to, but allowed, in practice, and only against their better judgment, still, to belay the insecurity, the commented continually upon the situation.

“We’re letting the hitchhiker drive.”

“I know, it’s sinister.” Though they both enjoyed that hot car state of sleeping and waking, heavy heads falling with each turn in the road. And the enormous trees awed them. Shane attempted to promote their ease.

“I’m an excellent driver. I had a commercial license once.”

“Then why are you hitchhiking?” Daphne was the more skeptical of the two. Her road-trip romance was already successfully concluded, whereas Ashby was still in the process of completing that youthful and liberal requirement, and, in her ongoing evaluation of Shane, was growing more optimistic by the hour.

The pulled into Yreka and Shane filled the Volvo with 87, pumped and paid for it. This garnered serious praise from the Vermonters. His driving eligibility would no longer be questioned. At a “green mall” the trio was confronted with a distinct California predicament, as their funds were limited, they could pursue only one of two attractive activities: eat soybean and pesto sandwiches on organic rosemary bread or stagger into the oxygen bar for a legal dose.

Daphne and Ashby decided upon the food, Shane the oxygen. When offered a variety of flavors, he hesitated.



“Why not?”

“Well it’s just, it’s usually a feminine choice.”

“I wasn’t aware flavors of oxygen were gendered.”

“Where are your from anyway?”

“Just gimmie my shit OK?”

“Rodger dodger.”

When he stepped out into the light he was so focused he could stare through the pavement, discerning subterranean microorganisms in their deathless pursuit of nourishment. Daphne and Ashby were sitting on the hood their automobile, the sun hanging brightly above them, shoeless, they smiled, licking their lips, breathing deeply the air of such possibility.

“Are you high?” Ashby asked, looking deeply into Shane’s eyes.

“I’m something.”

“He’s high,” they laughed to each other, and Shane laughed, and there they stood, the girls eating and the boy looking up at the jet streams. They regained the highway, southbound once more.

Shane, still high on the lavender oxygen, attempted to explain himself to them. He began historically, materially, but within minutes had transgressed deep into his present ideological state, his feelings of betrayal by the left, his latent homosexuality, his second-degree bourgeois guilt.

“So, can I ask you a personal question?” Shane moved her eyebrows together, ever so slightly.

“Fire away.”

“Do you do anal?”

“Of course. You know the male orgasm isn’t as simple as you might think.”

“But doesn’t it hurt?”

“Only at first.”

“Well, I did anal a couple times with my boyfriend. You had better be really relaxed, or else…”
“Or else what.”

“Or else don’t plan on sitting down for a while. Definitely don’t plan any road trips.”

“Your boyfriend, is he beautiful?”

“Oh he’s a hunk, sho nuff, but, there are problems.”

“Of course there are.”

“No, you don’t understand.”

“Of course I don’t.”

It was a hot day, Shane took off his shirt in the backseat and fell asleep with a blade of grass protruding from his mouth.

“He’s a bit of a hunk,” Daphne said.

“My boyfriend’s a bit of hunk,” Ashby replied.

“What does that have to do with it?”

“It has everything to do with it.”

“I see. Nonetheless, he’s hunky. The hunkiest hitchhiker yet.”

“Yes. I might sleep with him tonight.”

“What do you mean?”

“Hell’s fire Daphne what do you think I mean?”

“I see. What about…”

“He slept with other girls. I told him not to, that I didn’t like it like that. Then he kept doing it. So it’s only fair.”

“Is that why you want to fuck the hitchhiker, so things will be fair, cause once you open that door Thor knows what will follow.”


Shane woke up from a dream about Adam Smith, the historical accuracy of which he was less than comfortable with.

“Adam Smith was kidnapped by gypsies, briefly, as a child.”

“Is he the one who said you would be as sheep among wolves?”

“Isn’t that the bible? Adam Smith is the father of economics.”

“They don’t have economics in the bible?”

“That’s a good question.”

“Anyway, it’s right on, about the sheep among wolves, word is bond.”

“You feel like a sheep.”

“Yeah.” Daphne stuck her arm out the window and let her hand rise and fall on the air, opening and closing the spaces between her fingers to manipulate the forces of lift.

“I’m a wolf.” Ashby looked at Shane and Daphne rolled her eyes.

They stopped at an ocean beach somewhere in Mendocino. Ashby ran to the sea like some kind of Baywatch hippie, removing her clothes, which drifted slightly with the south wind and fell in a cinematic trail behind her. Daphne walked slowly up to a giant piece of seaweed, which she picked up and began twirling above her head. The centripetal force made a great whooshing sound that started a small flock of gulls into flight. Ashby was afraid of the ocean.

“It’s time to face my fears,” she said to herself, aloud.

“What are you afraid of?” Shane was right behind her, naked, his penis shrunken like a thistle in the briar.

“Your penis, it is, so small.” She laughed.

“Not all the time. Sometimes it is impressive. Is that all you are afraid of, the ocean and small penises?”

“I am afraid of black holes, and nuclear power. I guess my own ability to be mean is scary. I can be so mean.”


“Like in the car, earlier, when you were sleeping hunkishly in the back, Daphne was singing a really beautiful song, an Odetta song or something, and I told her to stop singing.”

“That doesn’t seem so mean.”

“You don’t understand.”

“Of course I don’t.”

The car had no brake lights or turn signals, so come sundown they found a little side road and a clearing beside a tributary of the Russian river, and they pulled out their sleeping bags, two of them slightly weightier than the third with the lingering of last night’s dew. They didn’t eat anything. Maggie went to sleep in the back of the car and Ashby led Shane down to the bank where they dropped their bags and she rolled cigarettes of Drum tobacco and even lit his for him. She exhaled.

“Do you want to have a one-night stand with me?”

“Only one night?”

“Well, we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.”

“Which, presumably, will be tomorrow night.”

“Anyway don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

“I thought you had a boyfriend.”

“I want you, I have since we picked you up.”

“I want you to.”

Somewhat mechanically they began making out and engaging in heavy petting. Shane went down on her and then was inside her.

“I have to tell you something,” she said. “I come really easily, in fact, I already did. But keep going, maybe I will again.

“Do you want me to put on a condom?”

“You have one?”

“I think so.”

“Well, yeah.” He rifled through his bag and found a condom and put it on. She wrapped her legs around him and they made love in the moonlight (somehow it was only ironically romantic, but this bothered neither of them, nor did they speak of it explicitly). Then they lay on top of their sleeping bags and smoked more of the Drum tobacco and listened to the river.

“This is my first one night stand,” she said.

“I had one other, with a girl who also slept with the history teacher, in high school, at least that’s what she said.”

“What happened to her?”

“She moved to Indiana to study opera.”

“The history of?”

“No, she wanted to be a singer, Björk meets Maria Calles.”

“That sounds nice.”

“I never saw her again.”

In the morning they all sat silently in the car. The road had become extremely windy, they had to drive slowly; a fog had settled over the northern California coast.

“What will we do when we get to San Francisco?”

“Eat chowder in a bread bowl, ride the cable car, buy a used copy of Reality Sandwiches from City Lights, talk to the bums, go to the movies in Castro, buy a spot of heroin, get high in Golden Gate Park, stare into the well lit windows of the Museum of Modern Art in the midnight of an empty downtown.”


“Or you could go to the Exploratorium and loose yourself in it’s famed Tactile Dome.”

“What about you?”

“Well, I could show you a few sights, I’m from there you know.”

Moving through coast towns they saw they varied colored smokes of stoves fueled by different woods: oak, lilac, pine. People sat on porches or in truck beds with faraway eyes directed at each other, at the ocean, at the highway and its riders, few and far between. They could feel the strength of community in those towns, it radiated outward from lone gas stations and mini-marts where Chet stopped by to see who was working late, where everyone took the time to stop and speak, and the light in the trees didn’t go unnoticed. Around Bolinas the fog lifted, and as they drove up over Mount Tamalpias, the city stretched out before them.

They paid a five-dollar toll to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and rolled the windows down all the way. Ashby was very quiet, her eyes shining. Daphne had ants her pants.

“How did all those ants get into your pants?” Shane asked her.


They parted a day later. Ashby watched the hitchhiker disappear in the rearview mirror. She meant to stay in touch with him, but the little green book in which she recorded her contacts managed to stay in California when she returned to New England. She googled him to no avail, but still thinks of him often enough, particularly when she sees a map of Alaska or California. She is sure he is somewhere in that part of the country.

Ashby spent four years working odd jobs and being poor before finally enrolling in a remote college to study “Human Ecology.” She registered for classes such as “The Mystics” (among them Rumi, Hafez Sirazi, Farid ud-Din Attar, Gurdjieff), “Landscape Design,” and the popular “History of Property.” She would house sit for friends in the most deliciously peaceful houses in the world, up in the Green Mountains, nestled below the majestic Abraham. She came home this evening and went for a run in the rain, the sun was shining and the hills and trees were lit up by that rainbowesque lighting that always takes her breath away. When she got back she scrubbed the dirt and sweat off of her body and trimmed her fingernails. She turned on public radio and poured herself a class of cheap white wine. For dinner she had buttermilk pancakes and over-salted and over-peppered scrambled eggs. She and her man are going to Montreal this weekend. She’s been looking forward to it all summer. The thing she loves most about that beautiful city is the Notre-Dame Basilica. It makes her cry.

Daphne teaches pre-school in Burlington. She started studying Buddhism and at last went to Asia in search of deeper knowledge. But the ornate forms of practice she found didn’t agree with her austere sense of the religion. She didn’t like the all the Tibetan demons, or the lavish Theravada temples. Though she didn’t make it to Japan, she found Zen most closely resembled what she wanted from an external ideological structure. Everyday she has those magical moments which make her think “I love being a teacher.”

Shane was killed in a car accident in Jalisco a year later. He wasn’t driving. The authorities found his passport in his pack and contacted his brother, who flew to Mexico to identify the body with the intention of bringing him back to the United States for a proper funeral and burial. Upon seeing the body, however, he remembered how his brother admired Edward Abbey’s burial in the Cabeza Prieta Wilderness, and he set out to do something along similar lines to honor the deceased.