Though “The Japanese Quince” has far-reaching ramifications about the main characters’ lives (as does its central symbol), the story’s events transpire in less than an hour in the compressed length of less than three pages. Upstairs in the midst of his early morning pre-breakfast routine, Mr. Nilson becomes aware of a disturbing sensation that he cannot identify. Downstairs, when the sensation recurs, he decides to take a stroll in the garden square surrounded by the exclusive row houses of his neighborhood.
Once outside, Mr. Nilson is charmed by an ornamental tree and a blackbird singing in it. Suddenly, he becomes aware that his next-door neighbor is nearby, also admiring the tree, and the two, who have not been formally introduced, exchange a few laudatory remarks about the Japanese quince and the blackbird. Then, both becoming embarrassed, the pair bid each other good morning and return to their houses. About to reenter his house, Nilson again gazes at the tree and the blackbird, experiences the disturbing sensation, notices his neighbor (also about to reenter his house) gazing at the tree and bird, and then, “unaccountably upset,” turns “abruptly” into the house and opens his morning newspaper.