(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Harry Noonan dries breakfast dishes as he waits for a college reporter to arrive for an interview. He has been hired to coach the freshman football team. His wife, Sherry, asks him to rent a studio for her, where she can do her painting. Their daughter, Daphne, is looking in the refrigerator for something to eat. She wants to stay for the interview, but Coach says no. He remembers a fall night seven years earlier when he set Daphne on a football field during the half-time ceremonies; she was dressed in a football uniform with the number “½” on her back. Now, Daphne asks him for help with her algebra. He declines, so she asks her mother, who says forget it.

After the reporter, Toby, arrives, he asks only a few questions and takes no notes. He then engages Daphne in conversation. Afterward, Daphne remarks that Toby was nice and Coach tells her that she would be wasting her time on him—like “trying to light a fire with a wet match.” When the newspaper interview appears the next day in the Rooter, it is full of inaccurate information, making Coach furious. Trying to console him, Sherry says that Daphne liked it.

Coach takes Daphne out for ice cream in order to explain why he is renting an apartment for Sherry. He denies Daphne’s suspicion they are separating and tells her about Sherry’s five-year plan for self-development. Coach is distracted from the conversation when one of his new players drives up with his parents....

(The entire section is 506 words.)