(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Laurie and Michaela have been friends since their senior year at Skidmore College. Because neither girl has definite plans, they have rented an apartment in Saratoga together while holding down nondescript jobs.

One spring evening about a year out of college, they are rocking themselves in wicker chairs at home facing tall bay windows, open to admit the warm breeze. They are waiting for Laurie’s mother’s current boyfriend, Ted Bremmer, to arrive for dinner. Laurie’s mother, who lives in New York City, works for a business firm. She has asked the girls to give the presumably middle-aged man a little tender loving care while he is in Saratoga to direct a television spot for the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

While killing time, the two girls talk of Laurie’s mother, whose affairs Michaela has always followed with interest. In Laurie’s opinion, her mother has not been very discriminating in her choice of boyfriends, but she has been with Ted for almost a year, longer than with some of the other “jerks.” Although she allows that her mother feels comfortable with Ted, she distrusts him. She explains that the previous summer, Ted ogled her while the three of them were at the shore. Michaela, grinning mischievously, suggests that Laurie test him by attempting to seduce him. When Laurie objects, Michaela volunteers to try it herself. Laurie has always compared herself unfavorably with Michaela, whose control over things, grace and ease, “a sensuality that offered refuge yet promised nothing,” she admires. She reluctantly acquiesces to Michaela’s suggestion.

Ted appears belatedly with excuses and a bottle of good wine. At first, he lavishes his attention on Laurie rather than on Michaela, who he is meeting for the first time. He talks disparagingly about his work but nevertheless appreciates the role of television spots in paying for programming. As the conversation proceeds, Laurie becomes more critical and Michaela more appreciative of these television commercials....

(The entire section is 824 words.)