(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This slice-of-life account focuses on a commuter husband, involving only those events that occur between late afternoon and bedtime. The story begins on the commuter train that carries Andrew from the city to the suburbs, where he works in his garden, plays with his children, eats, takes a post-dinner stroll, plays chess with Hilda, his wife, and then prepares for bed. Aiken, however, does not restrict himself to the external plot, which is prosaic in its typicality, but instead includes his protagonist’s inner life, which indicates that Andrew has, at best, a tenuous grip on his sanity.

In the first part of the story, Aiken presents Andrew as an executive who attempts to put the “staggering load of business detail” behind him as he “devours” the evening newspaper on the train. When he reaches his station, he begins his walk home and thinks about “news amusing enough to be reported to Hilda.” He sees his children playing, and after engaging them in light banter about how much he is needed in his garden, he jokes with his children and wife about having lost the flannel trousers that are apparently part of the “uniform” he wears as he readies himself for the gardening ritual.

Gardening is a welcome respite for Andrew, for whom the “order” is a welcome change from business. With his children, particularly Martha, Andrew has a series of ritualized games in which the actors have clearly assigned roles: The children hide his...

(The entire section is 551 words.)