The driver got out, pissed. He was a tall, handsome blond man, wearing jeans and a suede jacket. He had on expensive cowboy boots, handmade. He had a noticeable limp.
“Fuck this Jeep,” he said. “I thought it could go over anything. What a rip-off.”
A woman with long pale hair stepped out on the passenger side. She was the most beautiful woman ever seen on Hightop Mountain, the kind who could make men stupid with longing.
“I told you not to drive up here,” she said. She wrapped her arms around herself and looked warily at the shadows cast by the trees. “We’ll probably be eaten alive.”
The man went over and linked his arms around her. After a while, the beautiful woman backed away.
“Did your mother know she was naming you after outlaws?”
“I’m not such an outlaw,” the man said, sheepish.
“Not you.” The woman laughed. “Your brother.”
THAT NIGHT FRANK thought about the man who was clearly his brother and who hadn’t seemed familiar in the least. Frank had been doing his best to try to learn the constellations and he lay outside in the tall grass staring up. There was an awful lot they didn’t teach you in school, important things like how to survive. He thought he’d be ready to be sent overseas if he was drafted now, not that the army would ever have him at this point, not that he wanted to go. All the talk that people at the Farm had tossed around about getting back to the land was actually true for him. He felt wrapped up in Hightop Mountain, a part of it, as if the cells of his body had expanded to include fir trees, foxes, streams of green water. He had no plans to go anywhere.
He heard the Jeep again a few days later, honking its horn, driving up another logging road that wound even higher into the mountain. It was startling to hear so much noise in the deep quiet of the forest. The Jeep stopped and the driver got out. Frank could see his brother clamber on top of the roof. He started shouting Frank’s name like a madman.
“I know you’re out there,” Jesse called.
Frank said nothing. He knew how to wait. After a while, Jesse went away. Then it was quiet again.
The third time Jesse came searching for Frank, the beautiful woman was with him again. She was wearing shorts and hiking boots and a white shirt. They got out of the Jeep, slamming their doors. Birds took flight. The sky was filled with sparrows.
“You know where you’re going, right?” she said.
“I grew up here,” Jesse told her dismissively. “Of course I do.”
Frank followed them at a distance. They were making a loopy circle through the thick part of the woods.
“Did you ever think he might not want to be found?” the woman said.
The couple kept walking, annoyed with each other, getting scratched by brambles and bitten by flies. Before long even they could tell they were getting nowhere. They were utterly lost. There’d been a murder up here once, but Jesse didn’t mention it. They sat on a log, backs to each other.
“Fuck,” Jesse said. He looked over his shoulder. “There are bears up here.”
“Well, great, Jesse,” the woman said. “Perfect.”
It was late in the day. The sky was ashy. The woman was so beautiful she was like a magnet. Frank stepped out of the woods. He seemed like a shadow and then like a man. His own brother didn’t recognize him, so on that point they were even.
“What do you know!” Jesse crowed when he realized it was Frank who’d found them. “It’s you.” He leapt to embrace Frank, and Frank allowed himself to be hugged. Jesse took a step back, grinning. “You’re a fucking mountain man.”
The woman came over and stuck out her hand for Frank to shake. “Tia McCorry,” she introduced herself. “Thank goodness we found you. We are so lost.”
Jesse grabbed Frank by the arm. “They’re telling me you don’t remember me. That’s total bullshit, right?”
The blond man had green eyes. He was smiling at Frank, but he had a puzzled look under his smile.
“Total bullshit,” Frank said.
Jesse let out a whoop. “I knew you were shining them on. You weren’t going to forget me.”
As Frank led them back to their Jeep, Jesse told of his exploits in California. He’d hitchhiked out and that had been a blast.
“Making sure to fuck every woman he met,” added Tia. “You know your brother. Ultimate ladies’ man.”
“Yep,” Frank said.
Jesse had hung out in San Francisco for a while, then decided to hitch down the coast for a weekend. When he wound up in L.A., he was broke. He’d been there ever since, working at a nightclub, managing a few bands. That’s how he’d met Tia, who was a singer—or at least she planned to be. Several of his bands had broken through. He was making a ridiculous amount of money at this point.