(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In the Peter Pan Diner in Cleveland, Ohio, Reggie and Gunther struggle to write a screenplay. They are trying to make money and to create an artistic project, but they are also trying to make sense of their own lives. Their collaboration is marked by both a sense of desperation and a certain companionship, but their relationship is not one of equals. Reggie is a professional writer who, like the vast majority of his peers, cannot adequately support himself through his writing. Gunther is a newly wealthy real-estate baron who is seeking to parlay his riches into fame in cinema. Reggie originally answered an advertisement for a handyman, but when he revealed himself to be a writer, Gunther was determined to exploit his new employee’s talent on behalf of his nascent ambition to make it big in motion pictures.

Gunther reveals his darkest aspects in an incident with a Pakistani woman. The woman, one of Gunther’s tenants, complains that the heat is not working in her house but to no avail. As a way of striking back at Gunther, Reggie gives the woman her landlord’s unlisted telephone number. This act is the high point of Reggie’s resistance against Gunther and almost causes Gunther to sever the collaboration with Reggie.

Gunther’s treatment of the Pakistani woman outrages Reggie’s wife, Tina, and makes her realize she can no longer tolerate the tradeoff between the financial rewards her husband gets from Gunther and the loss of integrity...

(The entire section is 559 words.)