(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

McCrae and Hughes are a male couple who have been living together for ten years. They are fastidious men and proud of their life together in their old colonial house surrounded by a pale blue picket fence. Although their neighborhood has undergone radical change over the decade, becoming a transient area with a multicultural population, McCrae and Hughes are acutely conscious of the significance of their elegant old house and lifestyle: “It gave them an embattled sense of holding on to something important, a tattered remnant of good taste in an area of waste overrun by rootless olive-skinned children.” While their Eden has fallen into a wasteland condition, they see themselves as custodians of a bygone era of culture and beauty.

The ten-year relationship has lost much of the early eroticism of their younger years. Their lives have become highly structured by the roles each has consciously and unconsciously adopted. Hughes is a successful costume designer, and McCrae spends much of his time attending to household duties and functioning as a “wife” and homemaker. One of the characteristics that initially had attracted Hughes to McCrae was the Cuban heels McCrae wore and his lacquered nails. Hughes saw his role in their relationship as a husband and protector for the more domestic McCrae.

This formerly happy couple is not getting along these days, principally because they are becoming dissatisfied with how quickly they are aging and the toll that this process is taking on both of them, although they avoid any overt reference to their dilemma. They are alarmed over their loosening thighs, bony feet, and yellowing toenails. They silently yearn for tenderness from each other over their melancholy entrance into rueful middle age. They feel lost and depressed in their separate bedrooms; they become embarrassed when they accidentally touch each other while having their...

(The entire section is 774 words.)