In “Vermont,” characters in a typical Beattie milieu are revealed in intimate relationships. Noel, whose wife, Susan, has finally had to tell him that she has been having an affair, comforts the narrator when her own husband, David, announces his imminent departure. Although Beattie seldom describes her characters physically, Noel, the more generous and understanding lover, appears to be physically awkward and unattractive compared with David, who, early in the story, pities Noel for his “poor miserable pajamas.”
Noel tells the narrator that she “will be better off” without David, and he does his best to take David’s place as a friend and a father to her young daughter. When he eventually suggests that she and her daughter move in with him, she considers and finally protests that she cannot say that she loves him. He answers, “Nobody has ever loved me and nobody ever will. What have I got to lose?” If the narrator really does not love him, however, she has much to lose. When she later reveals that she has been considering his comment carefully, possibly because she does not find him unlovable (and cannot accept the bleak outlook he has for himself), he comments, “Well, I’ve told you about every woman I ever slept with. Which one do you suspect might love me?” They are speaking by telephone, and the narrator whispers to herself, “Me!”
David appears again at the story’s end to visit his former wife and his daughter and to reveal the extent of his confusion in his current relationship; he is not happy with his new girlfriend.