The Stories

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

“Color of Darkness.” A young boy named Baxter has a bizarre relationship with his often-absent father. Baxter wants to be close to his father, physically and emotionally, but his father admits that he does not know people, that he cannot even remember the color of his former wife’s eyes or of Baxter’s eyes. The boy accuses his father of always thinking about something else, and his father thinks of his son as an infant brother whom he does not know well.

Baxter’s father, upset to learn that his son sleeps with a toy crocodile, buys him a puppy, but Baxter only likes the dog’s misbehavior, such as when he soils the floor. One day, Baxter and his father argue over something that Baxter has in his mouth. It turns out to be his father’s wedding ring, negligently cast aside. After being forced to spit out the ring, Baxter kicks his father in the groin and calls him a foul name.

“Why Can’t They Tell You Why?” Paul, a young boy, finds a box of photographs of his long-dead father, whom Paul never knew. He stays home from school for several days, looking at the photographs. His mother, Ethel, who refuses to let her son call her Mama, criticizes Paul after hearing him tell his friend over the telephone that he is a “sick kid.”

One day, a few months later, Ethel awakens to find that Paul is not in his cot. She goes to the kitchen to search for him—skeptically because Paul never eats anything, as far as she can tell. She finds him at the back stairs, sleeping protectively beside the photographs. She tries to take them from him, saying the photographs are the cause of his being sickly. She wants to punish him and says she will...

(The entire section is 686 words.)