In the story "I'm Here," Frank Bascombe is asked to come see the Hurricane Sandy-damaged home he sold years ago to Arnie Urquhart.

"If one of these speculators suffered what I've suffered here, you know what would happen to him?" Arnie's turned and started back down the berm, his loafers taking on sand. He's stared at his ruin for long enough. He doesn't really want my advice.

"He'd get richer, Arn," I say.

Like most conversations between consenting adults, nothing crucial's been exchanged. Arnie just needed someone to show his mangled house to. And there's no reason that someone shouldn't be me. It's a not-unheard-of human impulse.

"Here's what I'd do, Arnie," I say to Arnie's back, heading down the berm. "Sell the son of a bitch and let somebody else worry about it. It's OPM. Other people's money." I don't know why, but I'm now talking like a Jersey tough guy.

Arnie's not hearing me. He's already down by my car in the shifting fog. It's gotten colder than I want to expose myself to in just my light jacket. My toes are stinging up through my shoe soles.

Arnie stops by my blue car, turns to look at me, where I'm still halfway up the sandy-weedy extrusion, the house shambles behind me. The foghorn emits its baleful call from nowhere. The striper fisherman's long gone. Likewise, the Glucks (we always called them the "Clucks"). It's just us. Two men alone, not gay, on an indeterminate mission of consoling and being consoled which has suddenly revealed itself to be pointless.