(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Tony, who is about to serve thirty days—easy time—for auto theft, meets with his uncle, Alex, who is on probation. Concerned about Tony’s first stay behind bars, Alex wants to give him a quick lesson in fighting. He soon grows impatient with Tony’s lack of fighting skills, however, and exclaims: “Didn’t your old man teach you nothing?” Tony remembers how his father once tried to get his brother Jimmy and him to spar. They did not show enough aggression, so their impatient father took Tony’s gloves, put them on, and beat Jimmy himself. Jimmy got a nosebleed and Tony remembers trying to stop the flow of blood that should have been his.

After Tony finally collapses from his uncle’s fighting lesson, Alex reluctantly offers to go back to jail himself with him. He says that he can call his parole officer and arrange it easily, but Tony says that he will take care of himself. They agree to meet at eight the next morning for the drive to the jail.

As Tony goes home to shower and change, he notes the beauty of the place in which he lives. His house faces the sea, and open land—much more in his childhood than in the present—surrounds the immediate cluster of houses. He remembers the stables and a helicopter landing in the strawberry fields and reflects on how the hunting land and the farmland have been parceled off, with tract housing encroaching on the open space. At home, Tony must lower his head as he enters a low-ceilinged room; this reminds him of when he became big enough to be wooed by the same football coach for whom his brother had played. Tony was flattered to be offered a spot on the football team, but...

(The entire section is 674 words.)