At a glance:
- Author: Rachel Ingalls
- First Published: 1992
- Type of Work: Short Stories
- Genres: Short fiction, Novella
“Sis and Bud” and the title novella of BE MY GUEST both explore how children shape the workings of families. “Sis” and “Bud” are two children who have been adopted by the same couple. Bruce, known to his sister Alma as Bud, becomes obsessed with learning about his birth parents. On his twenty-first birthday, he gets his records from the adoption agency. Soon thereafter, he begins investigating his birth mother and her relatives.
As Alma nears her twenty-first birthday, Bruce tries to convince her to obtain her records as well. Always more ambivalent about her birth parents than her brother is, she hesitates. Bruce takes her for a drive on her birthday and drops her at the adoption agency; since she is there, she gets some minimal information. Bruce offers to perform the same kind of search for Alma’s birth mother as he has for his own, and she allows him to do so.
The novella’s interest lies in the ways that Bruce and Alma act toward their birth parents. Both surreptitiously become involved in the lives of their birth mothers. Alma looks for an opening to tell her birth mother who she is, becoming emotionally close as they work together. Bruce, in strong contrast, seeks ways to destroy the family his birth mother has formed.
In “Be My Guest,” it is a child who attempts to form a family. While Sandra Beale is house sitting for her aunt, eleven-year-old Eric rings the doorbell and presents her with an unusual story. He claims that his son, the “real” Eric, has somehow managed to switch bodies and has taken over the adult life that rightfully is his. Fearing that this fantasy may be an indication of an abusive household, Sandra hesitates to telephone the boy’s father or the police, who would be likely to return him to his home. When Eric’s father comes looking for the boy, Sandra lies and says only that she saw a similar boy walking down the street. Eventually, she changes her mind and telephones him.
Sandra meets Eric’s father, Roy, several days later, while out on a walk. She learns more about the relationships that Eric has with his family, including Roy’s third wife, from whom Roy is divorced. Drawing on his charm and craftiness to draw Sandra to Roy, Eric gets the kind of mother he really wants, while Sandra finds herself in a happy marriage instead of her former, unsatisfying engagement that she had been thinking about breaking off.
Did this raise a question for you?