(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Today is the first whole day that the narrator has left his daughter, Jessica, alone since his wife died from a complicated neurologic disease eight months earlier. His housekeeper, Juana, is taking care of Jessica while he attends a Girl Scout meeting. Jessica is an avid baseball fan, and she and her father have season tickets to the Houston Astros. Her conversations with her father are often about famous players, their batting averages, and their relative greatness. Tonight Jessica must watch the Astros game on television, a fact that upsets the family routine greatly.

The narrator has volunteered to assist the Girl Scout leader, Kay Randall, because he wants to encourage Jessica to reach out to others her age. So far, however, she has resisted joining the scouts. To demonstrate to her the importance of sticking to one’s commitments, the narrator is leaving her home tonight as he takes twenty-two young girls on a field trip to east Texas to collect wildflowers.

During this trip his mind wanders and he recalls various events—from earlier today, from a week or so earlier, and from his own childhood. He remembers his conversations with Jessica over the past two months; he encouraged her to give scouting a try, but her response was that Kay Randall and the scouts can never replace her lost mother. He recalls, as well, his own Cub Scout experience, when he was Jessica’s age. His den mother, Mrs. Clark, was so large that she could not sit in...

(The entire section is 497 words.)