“You hear that?” she asks. They’re thirty miles from the last gas station, last anything. The old hatchback full of her brother’s stuff putters along the interstate. A blip in a child’s snow-globe, but there’s no snow here. Only dust and the rare shrub. Montana’s eastern plains sprawl to the edge of vision.
Tilts his head, “Car do something funny?”
“What?” shoots him a confused look. “No, the radio.”
“Oh. What happened?”
“They said there’s a lighthouse in—somewhere in Wisconsin. Got struck by lightning and needs repairs.”
“And a new keeper.” Reaches over and whacks him in the arm.
Drops his book, “The hell? What’s your—”
“Oh please, I barely touched you. You’re not listening to me.”
“I am. A lighthouse in Wisconsin. It burnt down and they’re going to fix it, what about it?” pulls the seat-back lever, sits upright. Roots around near his feet for a bottle of water in the bag of snacks. “Want anything?”
“Sure, hand me that root beer. And it didn’t burn down, just got some damage…Thanks. O-oh, fizzy.” Looks at the label. “The hell is this brand? Some Montana specialty? It’s good, you want a sip?”
“Eh, okay. Oh…Hm-mm, yeah that is pretty good. I don’t usually like—”
“You should do it,” she says.
“What? Do what? Here,” hands the root beer back. “Fix the lighthouse?”
“Yeah, and live there. Be the new keeper. They said they needed one. I wonder if the last one is okay, they didn’t say what happened. Just that—oh, no, they did, that’s right. Said he retired.”
“I’m not going to be a lighthouse keeper.”
“What do you mean ‘Why not?’ you’re driving me to Why Not right now.”
Nods to herself. The plains roll by, or they don’t, it’s hard to tell. Without any substantial variation in the landscape the journey has a mesmerizing effect. The whoosh of air slipping through cracked windows does little to prove movement.
Lets off the gas and pulls off the road.
“What’re you doing?”
Puts the car into neutral, steps on the brake, “Look me in the eye and tell me you actually want to do this.”
“You hear a thing on the radio about a lighthouse and all of a sudden you’re convinced that’s my destiny? What the hell?” scoffs and shakes his head.
“This isn’t about the lighthouse, Blake. But when I heard that I thought, ‘Wow, that sounds way more like my brother than what he’s about to do’. I can’t see you doing this for more than two months before you lose your mind. You’ve had more jobs than me and my friends combined. You’ve done well at every one of them. You shouldn’t be working for anyone, you should be doing what you do best.”
He grunts. “Yeah? What’s that?”
“You know what. You could be the next great American poet. Hell, forget the American limiter. I’ll bet you’ve been working on something”—touches his head—”that captures this out here,” waves at Montana. “Haven’t you? Even while you’re reading.”
He nods, “Yeah.”
“So do it, if you can. Look me in the eyes and tell me you actually want this gig in Chicago.”
He turns, their eyes lock…