Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

This dreamlike story, about a writer who returns to his native Brisbane, Australia, to give a reading of his work and is attacked by a mysterious man, begins with the writer’s earliest memory. His mother’s Doberman, Maxie, is ill with heartworm and crawls under the house to die. Colin crawls in after him and stays there holding him the whole day until his father crawls under and coaxes him out. This memory is connected to another one, from a year later, in which his father tries to teach Colin how to swim. As Colin gasps and thrashes to stay afloat, he wears the same look of desperation his father wore when he tried to get the child to come out from under the house.

The story then shifts to the present as Colin, a successful writer living in England, has come to Brisbane, his hometown, to read from his fiction. However, the story still focuses on the past, as Colin recalls how he and his mother did not become close to each other until after he had left home and had begun to write her letters and how his father died during World War II when Colin was only six years old. He also recalls a diary left by his father, in which he had recorded his impressions of Athens, Greece. Later, when Colin goes to Greece, he tries to recover some defining image of his father by visiting the places his father did. During this visit, a man, mistaking Colin for someone else, begins talking with him and then spends the day with him, guiding him around Athens, only to disappear...

(The entire section is 498 words.)