(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As a woman on her way home with a bag of groceries crosses a bridge, she sees a younger woman ahead of her cradling a bundle. The bundle might contain flowers or a baby; the first woman cannot tell which. She thinks that if she catches up with the woman and finds that it is a baby that she is carrying, she might smile at the baby, admire its hair or nose, and ask how old it is. Or she might say, “What lovely flowers,” although she believes that this remark will not lead to much conversation.

As the first woman thinks about all this, the young woman stops and leans over the edge of the bridge as if something in the water has caught her eye. The protagonist stops also, sets down her groceries, and peers down to learn what it is the young woman sees in the water below. Just as she looks back up, “in a graceful curve as of a ballet gesture,” the young woman throws the bundle over the side of the bridge. The protagonist tries to guess the weight of the package—does it contain a spray of flowers or a helpless infant? She cannot tell which. She tries to scream but cannot, realizing immediately that whether it is a baby or flowers will make no difference, as she will not tear off her jacket and scarf and leap into the river. As she looks down, she still cannot tell if what she sees is a flower or a baby’s bonnet, or if it is paper from around flowers or a baby’s blanket.

Finally, the protagonist runs up to the young woman and asks what she has thrown off the bridge; however, the young woman acts as if she does not know what she is talking about, or as if her act is insignificant. She merely says, “I think it is going to rain again. It’s ruined everything I planned.” After the young woman walks away, the protagonist sets down her own grocery bag, “as if it contains bottles, quarts of heavy rich milk.” She then takes a cantaloupe out of her bag, palms it as if it were a basketball and heaves it into the river. As the story ends, “she tries to remember the soft plop of entry, and failing that, listens for a cry.”