“Remember the Dandelions,” she wrote inside the yellow cover and drew a flower whose face was a smiling sun. “Think of me when you ask if you’ll love again.”

I had a sense that something important was unfolding and felt both edgy and hopeful. Then my mood would change and I’d think it was all daydreaming.

Or vanity.

According to Tug, everyone was alive because of Jupiter, the biggest planet that captured all the dangerous asteroids that entered the solar system. He’d said that when we’d camped out on the Cinnamon River and lay in our bags looking up at the stars, glad to be alive after the near-wreck with the young killer’s racing car.

Who was I and what could happen at a hotel on a lake in September?

I was still tired from the week at Ray’s mill and I took long naps after reading about architecture and landscaping and proper food presentation and looking at pictures of lush interiors and table settings.

Less interesting was learning hiring regulations, federal labor law, and the interpersonal techniques necessary to becoming a persuasive and respected boss — without overpaying your employees or becoming their friend.

I’d start to get disgusted and then remember my father’s successful brother I hadn’t seen in years, how out of the blue he’d yanked me free from Ray’s mill and into the college with Professor Adkins. Though school had started, I’d never applied or taken a test or filed any papers.

By January, I could manage the Blue Heron Uncle Ernie had just purchased on the southern shore of Lake Chelan.

The name “Blue Heron” reminded me of the Carlsons and their horse ranch in New Mexico, where I’d worked as a farrier, shoeing their blue Appaloosas and living in the clean little house with the trellis of yellow roses whose scent I’d smelled at night through the screen.

The roses made me begin to think again of Joyce, how we’d almost made love the morning Tug and I had arrived from Oregon.

The first day of class, Adkins had asked what made you fall in deep, abiding love with another person, and how that was like the affection guests felt toward a good hotel. I might have raised my hand and answered, “Maybe kindness, and the ability to hope and be hurt — ”

I knew the taste of Joyce’s lips, the gentle pressure of her breasts against my chest, the sweet smell of her brown hair, the tenderness of her voice when she asked me to say I loved her, but there was nothing to be done.

Ray could scream at his frightened employees and drink and hunt and stay married for years while he slept with Sherry, his large-breasted, red-haired secretary from the sawmill. Meanwhile, sad and pretty Joyce left plaintive notes on my door and soldiered on with Charlie, the surprise baby that had caused her to marry Ray.

Half-heartedly, I leafed through photos of grand hotels and resorts and read the captions as I traveled east to west across the country, from Virginia to Yosemite to Hawaii, then back, north to Canada, to Vancouver and Banff.

When I saw the blue-green water of a reef off Kawai, I remembered Paul Banner’s apartment-lab in Mussel Bay and the six-foot aquarium where the yellow-gold fish from The Blue Fin safely swam, darting like a live sword in sudden glinting flashes.