Through recall, Larry Woiwode engages in a discursive examination of two households, particularly the home of the narrator, for a period of about six months, from April to fall.
A glowing doorknob, with its paint and grime removed in the spring, is a reminder to the narrator of the time and energy expended on it before it began to shine “like a miniature burnished sun.” With the door swung against the left end of the table at which he is now sitting and “walling” him in “somewhat on one open side,” the knob still shines “above the edge” of his vision in the room in a ramshackle apartment house.
It is fall now, and the narrator is at work on transcribing notes that—or so he believes at times—will be an “indisputable proof of the existence of God.” These notes range over a thirteen-year period during which he has had “different opinions or interpretations of their meaning during different recastings of them.” He especially desires to leave the events, not of his making, free of “subjective coloring.” This new work is a “stock-taking interim.”
Now “walled-in” at the table, the narrator begins to recall the effects of bolts of lightning striking twice at the apartment house. Following the first bolt, he recalls, he simply sat at the table, feeling guilty about not being able to get at the work he set for himself. Picking up a glossy magazine, he read an article on guerrilla warfare in Palestine. The account of the violence and of bystanders being injured by bombs merely sharpened the guilt he does not wish to examine.
The next bolt came within a matter of months; a week or two later, he saw a troubling cartoon in the same glossy magazine: “a pair of angels on a cloud, looking over its edge, one of them with a bunch of jagged cartoon thunderbolts under an arm, and had a caption that went something like ’Get him again!’” The bolts meant external change, at least for the “upper limbs” of the oak tree in his yard.
In the time covered by these recollections, the narrator’s wife gave birth to their first son “right there in the apartment house.” Soon, the baby son changes from an “indrawn center of internal listening” to a freer human being, grasping and grabbing at objects. Then, he begins to laugh, freely and heartily, especially when he plays “games” with his parents and eight-year-old sister. What is particularly thrilling is the happy occasion when the family is together in the same room and his mother lifts him up to the mirror, in which he sees the various angles from which he can view the family. When the sister gives the...
(The entire section is 1080 words.)