The first story is the union of man and woman; only after comes the breakdown, of two sons locked in. The year is 1944. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry does not disappear flying during wartime for the French Resistance. He does not meet his end off the coast of Toulon. As ever, in full command of his P-38 Lightning, St. Ex crosses the Atlantic until, fatigued and out of fuel, he crashes down in the Great Plains. Without landing gear he slows his descent by skimming three hillocks. Rescued by a blank-faced farm girl whose family takes him in, St. Ex repays them by following their only daughter to a riverside grove where — but this is not that story.
St. Ex and the girl have twin boys and live on a small farm, north of the river but far from her parents. Together, they recreate the planets from Le Petit Prince, down to the last baobab and moon rock. One day, St. Ex invents a telescoping ladder, though he never finishes it, and on his deathbed he pulls his sons close to whisper in their ears: Al, find a bridge to the south and make your name great. Roy, stay in the north and till my memory. Remember to look after your dear maman.
The next morning Al walks down to the plains, and marks his path with brick cairns. He returns north to tell Roy what he has seen. Roy, Al says, there is a grid in my mind, full of order and commerce. I can no longer live like you. Draw me a sheep, Roy says. What? Al says. That’s what father would say, if he were here, Roy says.
Al returns south of the river to map out axes and symmetry. There, a church to the east, and there, a bowling alley to the west. On the outskirts, he leases out to a big-box store. Soon, caught in the fever of development, Al chops down the grove where his parents made them, and in the clearing finds a patch of wild roses.