Erdrich starts this story in a very unexpected manner. He starts with the speaker talking in third person which makes it more interesting. The speaker is a young boy named Lyman that lives in a reservation for Indians. He speaks of how he becomes the owner of a local cafe after long hours of working as a waiter, manager and cook. He then talks about when his business was destroyed and had to sell it. The money that he gets out of his business, he uses it for a car that he liked. The car was a red convertible that was bought between himself and his brother, Henry. They both love to be together and have fun so one day they decide to go off on a never ending trip.
They head out to different states and make it all the way to Alaska after meeting a young girl on the side of the road. She welcomes them to her family's home and they all become good friends. Once the two brothers decide to go back home, Henry is drafted into the war. This puts on a big stress for Lyman because he isn't used to living without his brother.
Once Henry comes back from the war, Lyman notices many changes in him and is worried for his brother. Henry at this point seems very distant and uneasy. His mind is filled with many thoughts that he doesn't share anymore with his brother. His whole family notices the drastic change in him, but is too scared to confront him, except for Lyman. Lyman had already finished fixing the convertible, but decided to trash it completely in order for his brother to have some type of motivation to do something.
Henry see's the broken down convertible and decides to fix it up. He takes days to fix it and then the confrontation between the two brothers finally occurs. They both finally go for a ride in the convertible. Then drive up to the river and have a good time while drinking. They finally talk about what happened while Henry was off at war and Henry admits that he is not well. They fight about who is to keep the car and with this Henry makes a decision that changes the whole story. He jumps in the water and seems to just be having fun, but he never comes back out. Lyman then also drives the convertible into the river and walks away from the whole thing.
This story makes it all seem like the typical life that a soldier goes through because many people that go off to war don't come back home the same way as they left. Much stress is put on them and their family. Henry was just a boy that was at the wrong place at the wrong time and didn't have the same luck as his brother. I think that Lyman blamed himself for not being able to help his brother, but he knew that nothing could really be done anymore.