In February, Denny, Zoë, and Enzo take a trip to a cabin in north-central Washington owned by a relative of Eve's. Eve and her parents don't attend, but a variety of other cousins and relatives are there. Eve insisted they go so that Zoë would have the opportunity to meet the relatives, the reasoning put forth by others being that Eve is going to die soon. Enzo takes great offense to this reasoning and wonders why the relatives waited until Eve became ill to be available to Zoë and Denny. Despite Enzo's inner turmoil with the situation and dislike of the intense cold, he greatly enjoys the nightly gathering around the fire pit where he can see stars and listen to the coyotes.
Enzo has a deep sense of justice and right and wrong, and he sees the family situation at play here as a clear wrong. Enzo's sense of familial responsibility presumably entails being available and present even during good times, not just times of tragedy. However, he's still able to find some good in the situation. Remember that coyotes are a trickster character in Native folklore, and are at the top of the "spiritual food chain." Enzo is able to feel close to them during this time.
Around the fire pit one night, Enzo notices that Denny has an admirer, Annika. She is a young teenager whom Denny apparently met years ago, but Enzo notes that her body is fully developed and is therefore, for all intents and purposes, an adult. Throughout the week, Annika positions herself near Denny whenever she can, doting on Zoë and openly admiring Denny. Enzo notes that he can't tell if Denny is unaware or not, but that he acts like he is.
Enzo here sets up how the reader is supposed to view Annika: as physically an adult, but with the mind, foresight, and social standing of a child. She's not particularly clever as she tries to spend time with Denny; even Enzo can see right through it. Denny's apparent lack of awareness, though, creates tension.
Pausing the narrative, Enzo asks who Achilles is without his tendon, and says that since he himself is mute, he's been able to study rhetoric without distractions and therefore knows what makes a true hero: flaws. He says that the true test is whether a champion can overcome obstacles, preferably of his own making, and that a hero with no flaw is uninteresting. As examples, he suggests Michael Schumacher, who is a fantastic driver, but not a fan favorite because he's remote and unapproachable, unlike the charismatic Ayrton Senna. Similarly, nobody applauds the sun just for rising, since it hasn't overcome adversity to do so. Finishing, Enzo says that to truly tell Denny's story, as Denny is a true champion, he must include his missteps and failings.
To some extent, we can reasonably attribute Enzo's careful characterization of heroes and how they function within a narrative to his studying of television, his understanding of driving personalities, and his position as a listener. We see as well how much Enzo idolizes Denny, as he's conflated here with Senna, Enzo's hero. This passage further works to create tension and a sense of dread, as the reader is now aware that Denny is about to make a grave mistake.
Near the end of the week, the weather reports become unpleasant, and Denny decides he needs to leave early. Annika, coincidentally, decides she too needs to leave early, buying herself hours of time sitting next to Denny. On the morning of their departure, the weather is horrendous, and the cousins implore them to stay, but Denny insists on leaving. Zoë, in the backseat with Enzo, is frightened of the car slipping on the ice, and Enzo works himself into a frenzy until Denny demands that Zoë make him calm down. Zoë grabs Enzo, holds him tight, and begins to sing to him. Enzo tells the reader that he wishes he were a master of destiny enough to have orchestrated the situation, but he was truly scared.
Enzo wishes he could “manifest” a different situation than this one, but often he’s just too subject to his natural dog instincts. Annika continues to position herself close to Denny, and Enzo's tone makes the reader question what she's going to do.
The drive is horrendous. Roads are closed and Denny is forced to take detours. After seven hours, Denny asks Annika to call her parents so they can try to get them a hotel room, but there are none available. They keep going after Denny installs their chains, and at the top of a mountain pass, rain suddenly begins. Denny removes their chains and they begin their descent down the mountain toward Seattle. Their five-hour drive had turned into more than ten.
Annika gets even more than she bargained for with their drive so extended due to the weather. Denny is described as a hero for getting them over the mountains in one piece and overcoming the adversity of rain, ice, and snow to do so. The rain, further, heralds success, but also alludes to a coming challenge.
Annika calls her parents, who tell her that they just missed the closing of a highway due to flash flooding and rock slides. Enzo thinks to himself to beware the whimsy of Fate, for she's a “mean bitch of a lab.” Still on the phone, Annika tells her parents that she'll stay with Denny that night. Denny is confused, but doesn't object. Enzo tells the reader he doesn't know why Denny didn't take action, suggesting that maybe he needed to connect on some level with someone who reminded him of Eve and the passion they shared.
This passage recalls Enzo's earlier statement that a good narrative is reliant on setting up expectations and delivering on them in exciting ways. Here, he's setting up the expectation for what's going to happen between Denny and Annika, and the reader understands that it's not going to be positive.
After they arrive home, Denny puts Zoë to bed, changes his clothes, and pulls out a beer. Annika asks to shower and Denny sets her up in the bathroom. He goes to his bedroom, sits down on the bed, and falls asleep. Enzo lies down and falls asleep with him. A short while later, Enzo opens his eyes to see Annika standing over Denny, wearing nothing but his bathrobe, watching him sleep. After a moment, she shrugs off her robe and pulls down Denny's pants. Denny mutters "don't," but he's still mostly asleep. Annika tries to shoo Enzo, but Enzo is angry. He doesn't attack, but says the zebra keeps dancing. Annika returns her attention to Denny.
Remember that Annika is a teenager, and Enzo has encouraged the reader to see her essentially a child in a woman's body. The reader is asked in this scene to consider the potentially dangerous intersection of this state of being, as evidenced by what is described as assault of Denny. The zebra makes an appearance in this awful situation, as again its presence is associated with sexual domination.
Enzo says he has to believe that what Annika did was without Denny's consent. Finally, thinking of how he failed to protect Zoë's toys from the zebra, Enzo barks and Denny wakes up, sees Annika, and leaps away. Enzo continues to bark at the demon in the room. Denny, frantic, asks Annika what she's doing, and where his pants are. Annika replies that she loves him, and crawls onto the bed, reaching for Denny. Denny replies that he's married and yells at her to stop.
Finally, Enzo is able to overcome the zebra's spell by thinking about how he was unable to offer his protection before. Denny is portrayed as though he's been taken advantage of, despite Enzo's earlier admission that Denny possibly craved the passion he'd shared with Eve. This leads the reader to wonder how complicit Denny may have been.
Annika darkens and says she thought Denny liked her. Denny implores her to put her robe on, telling her he'll take her home, and it's not legal. Finally, Annika melts, saying that he kissed her and she thought he loved her. Denny says relatives kiss on the cheek, and Annika continues to cry and say she loves him. Denny wants to comfort her but can't, and finally tells her that he's leaving the room and when she's clothed they can discuss it further.
Like other characters, Annika is motivated by love, however misguided it may be. Denny is very careful to not touch Annika and it's made clear that he sees how terribly wrong this situation is.
Annika emerges in the bathrobe a while later, puts on her own clothes in the bathroom, and sits down with Denny. He offers to take her home, but she says she already called her father to come get her. Denny cautiously asks what she told her father, and Annika says that she said the bed is too uncomfortable here. Denny apologizes for giving her the wrong impression, but that she's too young. When her father arrives, Annika gets in the car. Her father waves to Denny standing in the doorway, and they drive away.
Here, the power of story is acknowledged, and it's indicated that the degree of power that the story will have varies depending on who tells it. Denny is aware even at this early stage how the events of this night could be spun to harm him. Annika too acts as though she's well aware of the power she holds with her account.