Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
Late in the evening, a drugstore owner and his assistant are closing up for the day. Sam Carr, the small, gray-haired proprietor, stops Alfred Higgins, his adolescent helper, just as the young man is leaving for home. Alfred has worked there for six months, and this is the first time Mr. Carr has ever varied the evening routine of bidding his employee “good night” without even looking at him. Alfred is unnerved by his boss’s softly menacing manner as he blocks his exit.
Mr. Carr asks Alfred to empty his pockets before he leaves. When Alfred feigns surprise and then indignation, Mr. Carr reveals that he knows the exact items that Alfred has stolen that evening: a compact, lipstick, and toothpaste. Moreover, he tells Alfred that he has suspected him of petty thievery for some time but wanted to be proved wrong because he liked him. Now, he believes, he has no alternative but to call in the police.
Mr. Carr pauses to let Alfred absorb the full impact of his sense of betrayal and disappointment. Alfred admits to himself that repeatedly he has been in serious trouble since leaving school and has been unable to hold on to a job. He feels afraid and ashamed. Mr. Carr seems to sense Alfred’s emotional pain and decides to call Alfred’s mother before summoning the authorities. Clearly, Alfred is at a decisive point in his life.
Anxious to appear indifferent and self-reliant, Alfred is nevertheless hoping desperately to be rescued...
(The entire section is 587 words.)
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‘‘All the Years of Her Life’’ is set in a drugstore in an unnamed city that may well be New York. The story begins one evening in late summer when Alfred Higgins, who works in the drugstore, is putting on his coat, ready to go home. The owner of the drugstore, Sam Carr, says he wants to have a word with Alfred before he leaves.
Alfred knows something is wrong because of the tone of voice in which his employer speaks. His heart begins to beat fast. Mr. Carr asks him to remove some items from his pocket, including lipstick and toothpaste.
Red-faced, Alfred tries to protest. Then he grows frightened and does not know what to say. He removes the items from his pocket. Mr. Carr asks him how long he has been stealing from the store, and Alfred says he has never done it before. But Mr. Carr knows Alfred is lying. Alfred is always getting into trouble at work, and he cannot hold a job.
Mr. Carr reproaches Alfred, saying he had been willing to trust him. He does not immediately want to call the police. He indicates he will call Alfred’s father, but Alfred says his father is not at home. Over Alfred’s protests, Mr. Carr decides to call Alfred’s mother instead. He explains to her that Alfred is in trouble and asks her to come to the store.
They wait in silence until Mrs. Higgins, Alfred’s mother, arrives. Mr. Carr explains that Alfred has been pilfering small items from the store. Mrs. Higgins asks her son whether...
(The entire section is 641 words.)