(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrative begins with a young woman’s observations of her father’s careful ritual of preparing his household for the night. He is the head clerk at Bergson’s Export Agency, and she feels a mild contempt for him as a worker, for his pride of ownership, and for the devotion to convention that he exhibits in his daily life and in the fulfillment of his church obligations. In contrast, the young woman thinks of Fred, her young man, and “his air of unbalanced exultation.”

Once the doors and windows are locked, and the household put to sleep in the jerry-built house that her father will own outright in fifteen years, the young woman leaves for her rendezvous. She hears again, in her imagination, her father’s statement about having improved the property, and she remembers the apple tree that has produced one more tasteless apple each year since it was planted.

She meets Fred, ready, she thinks, for anything. Fred has borrowed a car, he says, and she settles into her dream of reckless adventure. They drive outside the city, past a roadhouse, and, to please her, Fred goes deeper into the countryside. She is aware of his restiveness, his mood of desperation, as he drinks from his bottle. She is also aware of the assertion of his will over hers. As they drive deeper into the country, the protagonist, excited as always by Fred’s need to live on the dangerous edge of things, by his seeming nonchalance in his inability to find a job in the economically depressed 1930’s, by his...

(The entire section is 618 words.)