Chapter 1

Part I

On the morning of Christmas Eve, Lute Fliegler and his wife, Irma, are lying in bed at their home in Gibbsville. Lute wonders if he should wake up his wife to have sex. They already have three children, and besides, Irma may want to sleep in. Lute gives in to his desire and wakes up Irma. Afterward, Lute goes back to sleep, and Irma looks through the window at the snow on Lantenengo Street. She thinks about their neighbor Sylvia Bromberg and the fact that Jews don’t observe Christmas. She has hated Mrs. Bromberg since the summer before, when Sylvia had a baby and screamed through a whole evening. She returns to bed and thinks about the fact that she and her husband belong to the desirable Lantenengo Street. He is a car dealer who works for Julian English. Perhaps next year their social status will be high enough for them to join the Country Club. She wonders if Julian and his wife, Caroline, are “having another one of their battle royals.”

Part II

The smoking room at the Country Club is now coed, but in the past it used to be only for men. The most highly regarded club members gather there at the beginning of parties, and the drunker these members get, the more they welcome members of lesser status. Harry Reilly is a big and jovial Irishman who likes telling stories in paragraphs. While he tells a dirty story, Julian watches him and wonders why he hates him. He imagines how funny and confusing it would be for people if he threw a drink at Harry’s face. He speculates that, if he acts on his impulse, people will think that he is upset about Harry always trying to seduce Caroline. Ted Newton, a dentist and potential Cadillac buyer, interrupts Julian’s thoughts. The band is playing, and Constance Walker, who is considered to be unattractive and known not to be a virgin, is getting physical with different men on the dance floor. Word gets out that Julian has thrown a highball at Harry’s face.

Part III

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(The entire section is 946 words.)