The story opens with an arresting, vividly detailed description of an eighty-yard run made from scrimmage by Christian Darling, a football player at a Midwestern university. Immediately after the descriptive passage, the reader learns that Darling made the run during football practice in 1925, fifteen years earlier, and that the episode has been reconstructed in his mind as he stands on the same practice field, the site of his former triumph. Now thirty-five, Darling recalls and retraces his downhill course in life from that moment of triumph and promise.
Christian’s fellow players, his coaches, and his girlfriend, Louise Tucker, were impressed and predicted great accomplishments for him. Louise proudly drove him from the field in her convertible and kissed him in such a way that he knew for the first time that she belonged to him. However, the promise of glory at a major university was not fulfilled. A German boy named Diederich came from the third string and proved a better ball carrier than anyone else around, being named to All-American teams. For two years, Christian, a good blocker, cleared the path for his teammate through the big linemen of Michigan, Purdue, and Illinois. Still, he was considered an important man on campus, and an adoring Louise lavished gifts on him.
After graduation, Christian and Louise married and moved to New York City, where Christian became a representative of his father-in-law’s company, an ink manufacturing firm. While Christian worked, Louise attended plays and visited art galleries. She acquired a taste for modern painters such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Paul Klee, decorating their expensive Manhattan apartment with reproductions of their paintings. Christian preferred paintings of animals to theirs. When the economic crash of 1929 came, Louise’s father lost everything, and Christian was left unemployed.
With time on their hands, Louise wanted to continue her cultural activities, but Christian had developed no aesthetic or intellectual interests....
(The entire section is 832 words.)