Ace in the Hole Summary
by John Updike

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Ace in the Hole Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Ace Anderson is a former star high school basketball player. As the story opens, he is driving home after being fired. Fearing the wrath of Evey, his wife, he finds some consolation in listening to “Blueberry Hill” on the car radio, while he sucks powerfully on a cigarette. Reverting to adolescence, Ace challenges the teenager in the fat car in the next lane, emerging triumphant when his opponent’s vehicle stalls. He then decides to stop at his mother’s house to pick up Bonnie, the baby. His mother offers him the consolation that he was probably seeking by welcoming his dismissal from a job that had no future. She also states that he and Bonnie are welcome in her house if Evey is too angry. Evey, she suggests, is a wonderful girl, but she is a Catholic and should have married one of her own kind.

When Ace declines his mother’s offer, she changes the subject by informing him that his name is in the newspaper. Ace, remembering a former coach’s advice about avoiding cars when you can make it on foot, sets out for home at a gallop, with Bonnie in his arms. At home, he indulges in the ritual of combing his hair in an attempt to get the look of Alan Ladd, the popular film star. Worried about Evey’s impending arrival, he turns on the television, opens a beer, and finds the newspaper article, which states that a current basketball player has come within eighteen points of the county scoring record set by Olinger High’s Fred Anderson in the 1949-1950 season. Ace is angered at being referred to as Fred, however, and the article only increases the tightness in his stomach, which is similar to the pregame jitters of high school days.

When Evey...

(The entire section is 460 words.)