Round by Round Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As the story opens, the narrator, a reporter, sits at his typewriter, composing an account of the title boxing match he has just watched, working from shorthand notes and drinking whiskey as he types. Cush, an entertainment reviewer for the newspaper, enters, drops his coat at his desk and asks the reporter how the fight went. The reporter replies that it was great but he “wasn’t looking,” and offers Cush a drink. Cush tells him that the new musical he attended that evening was exactly like all the others but adds that reviewers are not able to tell the truth about what the audience really goes to see anyway. He points out that both mayor and censor were there.

The reporter continues to read his notes and compose his story, remembering while doing so details that will not get into the account—such as the behavior of the fiancé of the champion, Zabriski. Cush, now working at his own typewriter, asks how the fight came out. The reporter tells him that there is a new champion, that the fight was a classic example of science over strength, but that he “wasn’t there.” Cush figures out that the reporter means that Ann, his girlfriend, has dropped him, not for the first time. He asks who she is now dating.

The reporter does not answer right away, turning instead to his notes, his copy, and his memories of the fight. Finally, he states that it was not only one man. Cush asks why he keeps after her and suggests that a chorus girl would be more faithful. The reporter answers that no one is faithful anymore; the psychologists have brainwashed everyone into believing that it is enough to be yourself. Ann is herself with everyone.

The reporter goes to the window to adjust the shade, but it flies out of his hand to the top of the roller. He looks down to a desolate alley forty feet below, only to conclude that jumping would do him no good. He does not want to die; he only wants Ann to be there with him to share this glimpse of modern life.

In the next section, the reporter returns to his whiskey and his story; again his account of the action mingles with his memories of the atmosphere. The story shows the challenger, Romero, to be taking command of the fight by outmaneuvering the champion. Meanwhile, the reporter sees again in his mind the hoodlums in the crowd, the actions of the seconds, the new warning buzzer, the forty-light canopy illuminating the ring, the two great overhead clocks. He wonders how much action he has missed while looking at the time. He sees that he has notes for every second of the fight, except for two rounds, for which he borrowed notes.

Cush complains again about the quality of current shows. The reporter offers to swap their next...

(The entire section is 1113 words.)