(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Mitchell Hayes, a forty-nine-year-old bartender at a small-town, working-class bar, feels old, exhausted, and depressed one night. He is alone in the bar with its manager, Bob, after closing time. The police have just left, after taking Mitchell’s statement about a rape that occurred in the bar that night.

Earlier that night, five men had arrived on motorcycles near closing time and ordered beers. The men were loud and edgy, and Mitchell thought they had been using drugs. The stepfather of a teenage boy and girl, Mitchell fears and hates drugs. A young woman came into the bar to buy cigarettes and asked Mitchell for change. The five men intercepted her before she could get to the cigarette machine and raped her on the floor, despite Mitchell’s presence. After the rape, Mitchell went to the sobbing woman and handed her clothes to her, then called 911 and Bob. Mitchell wished he could comfort the young woman, but she kept crying. He knew both of the police officers who responded to his call and had gone to high school with one of them, Smitty. After the woman was taken away on a stretcher, Mitchell told Smitty that he could have stopped the assault, but Smitty said that was the job of the police, and if Mitchell had intervened, he would probably be in the hospital along with the girl.

When Mitchell gets home, his wife, Susan, awakens and comes into the dining room, where he is smoking and drinking a beer. He tells her what has happened, and she agrees with Smitty that he could not have prevented it. However, Mitchell is sure that if he had intervened and ended up in the hospital, she still would...

(The entire section is 664 words.)