Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 615
The story opens with dog stories that are being told at a wedding celebration by guests and the bride, because the bride has a bandaged leg and a slight limp from a dog bite. The dog stories relieve some of the tension in the air—caused partially by the bride, Christine’s,...
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The story opens with dog stories that are being told at a wedding celebration by guests and the bride, because the bride has a bandaged leg and a slight limp from a dog bite. The dog stories relieve some of the tension in the air—caused partially by the bride, Christine’s, pregnancy—but they also remind Christine and the groom, John, of another dog story about their old collie, Alexander. They’ve both sworn off retelling this story, and Christine thinks that this refusal to mention the story to the guests connects her with John more strongly than the ceremony about to take place. This is no ordinary wedding.
Christine and John’s wedding takes place outside, on an unseasonably hot July day; Christine wishes they had gotten married in June, but then she remembers that they had not decided to get married until May. They have been living together for about five years, but the pregnancy seems to have driven them to marriage. The ceremony itself is barely seen in the story, and Christine is glad that it all goes by quickly, in a kind of fog.
Stevie, Christine’s son from a previous marriage, was abandoned by his father when it was clear that Stevie had a learning disability. John, on the other hand, is very solicitous of Stevie, and it is his sweetness and patience that seem to bind Christine to her new husband. The story shifts directions during the reception: While John helps Stevie fill his plate, Christine notices the carpenter, Robert, walking to the studio John is having built for her as a wedding gift, and she decides to join him.
Now it is revealed that Christine was bitten by the dog while she was looking for a sink to buy for her new studio, but the search for the sink is not as innocuous as it sounds. She wants the sink because she has been talking about it with Robert and she thinks, because of her attraction to Robert, that mentioning that she stopped for the sink would add up to more than it was, to an irrevocable act. She even feels guilty about stopping at the sale for the sink and believes that perhaps she was bitten because her motivation was not pure.
Robert, too, feels some attraction for Christine, but the flirtatious edge his voice has is tempered by the fact that nothing can possibly come of it. Christine thinks that, because she is older and his temporary employer, this flirtation on her wedding day is innocent, but she also thinks his flirtatiousness makes a bolder claim than John’s solicitousness. When Christine accepts a marijuana joint from Robert, despite her pregnancy and her social obligations, the reader recognizes her attachment to him, her irrational—and therefore strong—bond with him.
When Annette, her art dealer from New York, enters the barn and smiles at Robert, jealousy, loneliness, and embarrassment overcome Christine. While Christine, Annette, and Robert talk, Robert learns for the first time that Christine is pregnant, and while Christine thinks about her pregnancy, she reveals that she feels that her life is not just closing down, it has always been closed down. Some clamp on passion and recklessness has never been released inside of her, she believes.
At this point, she brings up the story about Alexander, their collie who ran away for love. This story, which Christine earlier admitted bound her with John more than the ceremony of the wedding, is now revealed as a love story, a story of passion. Christine recognizes the lack of passion in her own life, leaves Robert and Annette behind, and returns to her husband and son.