(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Sarah and Tommy are an affluent couple leading a comfortable life in suburban New England. On the face of it, nothing is wrong with their lives, but one shadow plagues their happiness: They both have a drinking problem. As Sarah and Tommy go to their third party on a certain night in August, Sarah recounts a story about a young child eaten by an alligator. Tommy does not seem to respond to the story, and Sarah begins to reflect on the troubled state of their marriage.

The party is one of many in the couple’s customary routine of drinking and socializing, interspersed with name-dropping and boasts of European travel. After the party concludes, the couple go home. Sarah, who is driving, begins to feel the effects of her heavy alcohol consumption and starts to hallucinate. Her visions are brought to a sharp halt when she runs over a teenage boy standing in the middle of the road, killing him instantly.

The police exonerate the couple in the death of the boy, Steven Bettencourt. No charges are filed, and Sarah is not prosecuted or held legally accountable for the young man’s death. Nevertheless, Sarah feels a severe sense of guilt and vows to give up drinking and orient her life in a new, more positive direction. This resolution, however, does not improve her emotional state. Indeed, Sarah feels disoriented by no longer drinking; it is as if her entire identity had previously depended on her alcoholism.

During the next three...

(The entire section is 564 words.)