(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Jerry Moynihan says goodnight to his mother before he leaves for the evening to meet Kitty Doherty, whom he has not seen for three weeks. Jerry is clearly infatuated with Kitty, although he is painfully shy and awkward. Although warned by officemates that nurses are trouble, he regards Kitty as a well-educated, superior person from the best side of town. He finds excuses to show up wherever she is and then walk her home.

When he does not see Kitty for a few weeks, he convinces himself that she is dying to see him but then concludes that she is actively avoiding him because of some unspeakable indiscretion. He fears that he has said something obscene and yearns for a knife with which to take his life.

One beautiful summer evening, distracted to the point of madness, Jerry tries to catch Kitty’s tram and is forced conspicuously to chase it down the street. He finally waits outside her house until a comrade, Paddy Kinnane, approaches and asks what he is doing. Paddy wonders if Jerry has a date with a woman. Embarrassed, Jerry lies that he is waiting for a male friend and soon slips away from Paddy.

Jerry quickly takes up a post elsewhere on the street and, when Kitty approaches, frightens her by calling to her from the shadows. In the conversation that follows, she tells him she has been staying home with her mother, who is suspicious of Jerry because he will never come to the door and introduce himself. The mother is convinced that his intentions are untrustworthy, and Jerry is chagrined to learn that Kitty has had other boyfriends and that others have noticed his interest in her. Kitty admits her attraction to Jerry and insists that he kiss her, which he reluctantly does in spite of finding it “a very sissy sort of occupation.”

When he arrives home late and his mother questions where he has been, Jerry resents the intrusion and stomps off to his room. Lying in the dark, wracked with guilt, he goes into his mother’s room to apologize and breaks down sobbing; his mother consoles him with endearments he has not heard since his childhood.