Aging drifter Fern empties out her rented storage space and throws most of the stuff out. She hits the road, peeing by the side of the road when she needs to. She goes to work at an Amazon warehouse. She shows off her van to one of her co-workers. Amazon lays everybody off and she’s back on the road.
Why Fern might be hard to identify with: We’ll come to realize that, while she’s clearly suffered unjustly in various ways, she’s ultimately chosen to be homeless, which is ironically a very white-privilege thing to do.
- Ironic song lyrics to sing for someone with few possessions: While Shepherds Watch Their Flocks by Night.
- She doesn’t have a lot of stuff but what she has is fascinating: Her little stove, her Santa lamp, etc.
- The job she gets in an Amazon warehouse is believably mundane.
- Signature object: She’s named her van “Vanguard”
- She’s very much suffering real life national pain. We begin with a title: “On January 31, 2011, due to a reduced demand for sheetrock, US Gypsum shut down its plant in Empire, Nevada, after 88 years. By July, the Empire zip code, 89405, was discontinued.”
- It seems as if one of the items in storage might have belonged to her dead husband, from the way she hugs it.
- She has to pee standing up by the side of the road.
- She’s embarrassed to run into a woman with kids she used to tutor, who is clearly concerned for her. “If you need a place to stay, you can come over and stay with us. We’re worried about you.” “I’m not homeless, I’m just houseless. Not the same thing, right?”
- Parallel character: A woman in a similar situation talks about getting near suicide.
- We just invest a little. We don’t have much reason, because she really can’t take care of herself or anyone else. But we admire her ingenuity with her van, “The guy who had the van before he just had a mattress in the back but I didn’t want to keep it that way, I wanted to built the bed up so I could have storage underneath. You see that? This was my husband’s old fishing box, I put this little latch on it. Open it, the stopper holds it and creates more counter space.”
- We find out she taught the girl Shakespeare, so she’s upsetting our expectations of drifters.