(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Roberto Michel opens his story not by telling what happened but by mulling over how it should be told and why it must be told. Once he decides that “the best thing is to put aside all decorum and tell it, ”he recounts the events of his Sunday morning stroll along the Seine. His excursion is quite uneventful until, while lighting a cigarette, his eye catches an interesting scene in which a blond woman seems to be attempting to seduce a teenage boy.

With nothing better to do, Michel watches the scene carefully. As he notices the boy’s nervous reactions to the woman’s advances, Michel begins to imagine the particulars of the situation, details that he attempts to divine from his somewhat distant observations. Michel imagines in considerable detail the boy’s background, his relationship with his friends, even his home life. He then begins to imagine the events of the morning that led the boy to this precarious situation. Now certain in his own mind of what is happening, Michel begins to derive a perverse pleasure from foreseeing the possible endings of the “cruel game,” imagining both escape for the boy and conquest for the woman.

Michel notices a man in a parked car near the scene, but he is unable to establish his role in the seduction. Before the scene can disintegrate before his eyes, Michel readies his camera, still ruminating about the possible denouements of the story unfolding only a few feet away. When he finally snaps the photo, his action is noticed by both the woman and the boy. Irritated, the woman approaches Michel and demands the film. In the meantime, the boy seizes the opportunity to escape, “disappearing like a gossamer filament of angel-spit in the morning air.” The...

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