Nineteen miles west of town, Drew’s client Mike and his wife Carol summered in a neighborhood of attractive homes along the meandering Bluebird Creek, formerly Bog Creek. The development was known locally as Snob Hollow. While the occupants were not all snobs, there was little time in the accelerated northern summer for mingling with locals, what Bluebird Creekers called “fraternizing.” But the Khourys were different, self-­consciously inclusive, inviting often inappropriate local guests to their gatherings—­gun nuts, fellow Pickleballers, smiling evangelicals, conspiracy theorists, and cabinetmakers—­despite the likely awkwardness. Mike was fond of saying, “You can learn a lot by observing fish out of water” and “I admire their neolithic lifestyles and the curious pidgin with which they pour out their hearts.” So, Drew decided, he was a snob after all, though proud of his politics. 

This was Drew’s hometown, but it was not Lucy’s. She was from Omaha and when she grumbled about Sweet Grass County, he would say that Omaha was nothing to be proud of. They’d met at the University of Nebraska, he in law school and she in the school of design, industrial architecture specifically: her senior project was portable helicopter hangars for exploration, or war. Drew had thought they were minimalist homes informed by Japanese design. And that was how they met. They had more than enough love for each other, but upon their settling in Montana, the detachment they felt from their surroundings was unhelpful and they worried they’d grown drab. 

He’d had more social connections here once, but it was a workingman’s town and him going to law school had converted those friendships into painful acknowledgments. Lucy said that getting somewhere among people going nowhere was a mistake, and she made no secret of her feeling that she was stuck—not only with his car (his last tidbit of continuity; he’d had it since high school) but with a town that she sometimes called, not un­reasonably, a shithole. She wasn’t excited by Drew’s work, which was mostly small-scale real estate stuff, nasty divorces, fiery car crashes, and that one shooting at the Dollar Store with spent 9mm cartridges all over the skin care section. And while she wished she could leave her job in home health, here, you took any job you could get. So Lucy was studying for an appraiser’s license, sheer desperation. Appraise what? Drew wanted to know. She was an attractive young woman and had only recently said, “I need to take this pulchritude somewhere it’ll do me some good.” Drew’s eyebrows went straight up at that.

Soon after he set up his practice, Drew and Lucy had taken a two-mile stretch of I-90 under the adopt-a-highway program in its name. Nobody in this area was interested in the program and so they didn’t have to compete for a stretch close to home. In fact, the last time they’d headed out, with their bags and safety vests, Drew had the sense they were seen as risible figures, that it might not have been the best advertisement for Moore Law. A cold wind was blowing from the east and the plastic bags had to be run down, wind sprints the motorists enjoyed. Beer cans made up most of the trash. From the window of a black pickup truck, a diaper was flung, narrowly missing them. Drew picked it up gingerly, remarking that it weighed a couple of pounds, and when he dropped the diaper into Lucy’s bag, she exclaimed, “Oh, Drew, we must think of our future. Let’s freeze my eggs!” A big Greyhound flew by with tiny moon-faces in its many windows. They ducked into the following gust and gazed at their almost-full bags.