(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

An unnamed female narrator begins her story with a description of her romanticized picture of an ideal relationship, in which a woman has just kissed her bearded husband good-bye on their ranch. The narrator wishes she could paint the picture to see if she is the woman in the painting.

She has moved west from New Jersey and now lives in Colorado. She has always been attracted to cowboys and is involved with an emotionally distant wildlife specialist named Homer. Every year, Homer spends five weeks studying a herd of deer on a ranch in Montana, and this year the narrator goes with him, primarily because she knows if she does not, some other woman will. She was once madly in love with Homer, but by the time they arrive at the ranch, her passion for him is evaporating.

Homer spends all the daylight hours at his observation post, seldom moving, and if the narrator goes with him, she is not allowed to move or talk except when he does. Homer’s contract to study the deer is up the week before Thanksgiving, and the narrator is excited about being home to prepare a holiday feast because her family always traveled over the holidays. Homer thinks her plans are childish and decides to stay another week at the ranch.

The narrator becomes friendly with the ranch owner, David, a poet and vegetarian who practices sustainable organic ranching and will not hire ranch hands who smoke cigarettes. She realizes that David is the type of man to whom she should be attracted but never is. When she and David share tea and take walks on the ranch, he tells her about the woman that Homer had an affair with the previous year and how devastated the woman was when Homer ignored her calls and letters after he left....

(The entire section is 704 words.)