Because George Stoyonovich left school on an impulse when he was sixteen, he has been through a string of unsatisfying jobs. Now he is almost twenty years old and unemployed. He does not go to summer school because he feels that the other students will be too young. He does not go to night school because he does not want the teachers to tell him what to do. Instead, he stays in his room most of the day, sometimes cleaning the apartment, which is located over a butcher store. His father is poor, and his sister Sophie earns little, so George has little money to spend.
Sophie, who works in a cafeteria in the Bronx, brings home magazines and newspapers that have been left on tables. George sometimes reads them along with old copies of the World Almanac that he owns. He has begun to dislike fictional stories, which now get on his nerves. At night, he roams the streets, avoiding his old friends and seeking relief in a small park that is blocks beyond his neighborhood, where no one will recognize him. In the park, he thinks of the disappointing jobs that he has held and dreams of the life he would like to lead: He wants a good job, a house of his own, some extra money, and a girlfriend. Around midnight, he wanders back to his own neighborhood.
On one of his night walks, George meets Mr. Cattanzara, a man who lives in the neighborhood and works in a change booth in a subway station. George likes Cattanzara because he sometimes gave George a nickel for lemon ice when George was a child. Cattanzara sometimes comes home drunk, but on this night, he is sober. He asks George what he is doing with himself, and George, ashamed to admit the truth, says he is staying home and reading to further his education. He then claims he has a list of approximately one hundred books that he is going to read during the summer. George feels strange and a little unhappy about what he has said, but he wants Cattanzara’s respect....
(The entire section is 789 words.)