Cimarron Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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Shortly after resigning herself to the fact that her husband, Kenny, will be absent from the birth of their first child, Coral sees a television news broadcast reporting that Kenny has been killed in Beirut, Lebanon. He is a victim of a terrorist car bomb attack on his military barracks. Over the ensuing weeks, Coral takes poor care of herself. Still numbed by Kenny’s death, she exists only mechanically. She is thus relieved when her in-laws, Gene and Margo, take charge of her life by moving her to their somewhat unkempt rural trailer court at Cimarron Acres.

As more time passes Coral and Margo become closer. Coral also gets to know Lee, a single mother who lives in a neighboring trailer. Lee’s conversations center on the perils of being a single mother and her conceited ten-year-old daughter, Tracy—who Lee believes is gifted with “second sight.”

As Coral spends her free time taking walks, she notices the details of Cimarron Acres. At first she is uneasy with the ugly environment, especially a landfill behind the trailer. As she studies the mildly unpleasant children and mothers who inhabit the park, she worries about how her own child will turn out. Meanwhile, she also becomes acquainted with Kenny’s brother Paul, who occasionally has dinner with his parents.

As the weather grows warmer, Coral gets bigger and her routine continues with little change. At times, Coral, Margo, and Gene laugh together at Coral’s accurate impersonations of little Tracy and Margo’s impersonations of Lee. One day Lee bursts in to announce that she has won five hundred dollars in a lottery with numbers that Tracy picked. Lee uses the money to prepare a special birthday party for Tracy.

Feeling relaxed on the day of Tracy’s party, Coral is finally comfortable among her new neighbors and they are now used to her. As she and Paul sit together in Lee’s yard, watching the festivities, Coral suddenly realizes that she has forgotten to buy Tracy a gift. Although she is not particularly fond of Tracy, she feels awful because she knows that each childhood birthday comes only once. Meanwhile, Tracy and Lee make a big production out of gathering presents from the guests. When Tracy sees that Coral has no gift for her, she calmly tells her of a “vision” she has had of Coral’s baby in heaven, lying happily next to the Doberman who killed it. At first Coral is overcome by the fact that anyone—even a child like Tracy—can be so cruel to a pregnant mother. Then she realizes that her baby will be healthy, as Tracy is only being vindictive.

The story concludes with Paul’s distant voice coming to Coral as she hugs her well-rounded stomach and thinks about her baby.