Part II: Reenactment
In Part II, the boy takes over as narrator and picks up where “Ma” left off, but the narration is aimed directly at the girl. He has become a documentarian for his sister, who is too young to remember this trip.
As the boy shares his reflections with his sister, he is able to understand a change in the family dynamic. He recalls that they used to be unified, with everyone having fun and laughing when they first moved in together; now, even though they are all physically together, he is aware that something is different. He is lost in thought but can’t seem to find the words to express his understanding of the lost children, the dead Apaches, and everything he has seen on this trip, a moment that is reciprocated at the end of Part I by the previous narrator, Ma. Instead, he reminds his parents that they told him they could see the UFO museum. Sadly, the museum is closed for the summer.
They reach the town called Truth or Consequences and find a motel for the night. Pa heads out to interview a blood descendant of Geronimo, and Ma reads her book. The kids ask if she will read to them to help them fall asleep. She agrees and reads them the Fifth Elegy.
This elegy focuses on the refugee children riding on the tops of trains and hearing horrible stories about getting caught by Border Patrol. One night, one of the older boys offers to tell them a story so long as they promise to think about it after he’s done and remain quiet. The boy utters one line: “When he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.” The kids stay silent, apart from one who wishes to hear it again.
The next morning, the family is back on the road. The boy continues to insightfully observe the behaviors of his family and offers reflections about the interactions between his parents and his sister’s eccentricities. The depth of his existential musings shows that Ma’s assumptions about this trip’s impact are correct.
The boy’s philosophical depth grows when he shares the reason why he asks Ma what would happen if he and his sister were lost. He wonders if that would make Ma and Pa pay more attention to him and the girl. While he states that he has become a documentarian in order to record the trip for his sister, he also does so as a way to come to terms with the fact that his parents are splitting up right in front of his eyes.
Maps & Boxes
The family reaches Chiricahua Apache territory, and the boy continues to recall stories from history told to them by Pa. As he recounts the Apache warrior stories, he again asks questions about getting lost with his sister. Ma asks him to remember their phone numbers and instructs them to find a big road. The boy whispers to his sister about finding Echo Canyon. The questions about getting lost are increasing.
They stop to buy food to prepare to stay in a house in the Burro Mountains. When they arrive and unpack, the kids are upset because their parents have chosen the room with separate beds, which means the children will have to share one. While the parents nap, the boy takes care of the girl by playing with her and making sure she is fed.
After dinner, the girl falls asleep, and Pa goes on a walk with his equipment. The boy follows Ma out to the porch and helps her record...
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the Sixth Elegy. This elegy involves an old woman falling off the train in the middle of the night. The only person who seems to notice her absence is one girl. The woman once offered the girl water, and she is forever grateful. Naive, she hopes the old woman is okay.
The next morning, the family packs their things and treks into the mountains. They stop to eat in silence as the sun rises overhead. The boy, uncomfortable because he notices his parents aren’t talking to each other, yells “hat” into the mountain range. The echo returns, bringing a smile to everyone’s face and reminding them of a routine biking trip they used to take in the city. The tension is lifted, although the girl refuses to believe echoes are not people yelling back at them.
At the cabin, the family has a nice dinner together. The boy wants to stretch out this moment because he knows these moments will soon cease. He asks questions about wishes and past memories and impending futures, and the family plays along.
That night while everyone sleeps, the boy sneaks into the car to get the elegy book Ma reads to him, but he takes her whole box and recorder, too. His goal was to read and record, but the boy feels compelled to see what else is packed away. He covers the bed and the girl, who is asleep next to him, with items. After many emotional responses to Ma’s clippings and notations, he sees a map with a circled “XX.” He decides that must be where Manuela’s daughters are now and feels he can help Ma find them.
The boy decides he and the girl will head to Echo Canyon together and find the lost girls. He knows he will get in trouble and believes his parents will find them at the end of their journey. The boy makes his own map and draws out his route for Ma and Pa. He also leaves a note in case his map is not clear.
While Box V, Ma’s box, contains a pages-long list of items like the others, this box also contains pictures of items from the story. The reader is able to look at the maps Ma has in her box along with the boy’s drawing. The box also contains multiple mortality reports, news clippings with pictures and articles about the child slave trade and homeless children in New York, a poem, and other loose clippings.