While Peter is reading a book on a bench in Central Park, he is interrupted by Jerry, a total stranger, who announces that he has just been to the zoo. Anxious to return to his reading, Peter reacts with merely vague interest and lights his pipe, but he is immediately made uncomfortable by Jerry’s queries about his marital status, children, work, and menage of cats and parakeets. After repeating that he has been to the zoo and that Peter will read about it in the papers the next day if he does not see it on television that very night, Jerry follows several digressions about sociological class distinctions, literary tastes, and his daylong wanderings. He also gives a detailed description of his rooming house and its characters on the Upper West Side. Peter is embarrassed to hear these sordid details.
Jerry says that, unlike Peter, he owns little except for toilet articles, pornographic playing cards, eight or nine books, cutlery, empty picture frames, an old Western Union typewriter that prints nothing but capital letters, and a small box containing letters and some sea-rounded rocks that he picked up on a beach when he was a boy. Then he tells of his mother’s desertion of his father and him, as well as her promiscuity, alcoholism, and death at Christmas. He continues with his father’s accidental death and the demise, on Jerry’s high school graduation day, of his guardian, a dour aunt. Jerry confides that his relationships with women are limited to solitary encounters with prostitutes and that his only love affair was a brief one, at age fifteen, with a Greek boy.
Then he launches into a...
(The entire section is 661 words.)