“Gent” is told from the point of view of Jack, a twelve-year-old boy, from the time his mother marries Gent Mundy through the next two years. Jackie, as his mother calls him, realizes that his mother has married Gent to provide for her two children. Jack describes events dispassionately and accepts whatever happens in his new family.
The story opens with Jack giving a brief family history. His father, whom Jack remembers as a large and powerful man who was a hero in World War II, committed suicide by shooting himself. A year later, Jack’s mother, Jade, married a salesperson named Roger Trewly, who not long afterward also committed suicide by jumping off a bridge into the heavy rapids of Far City River. Neither husband left the family with any money. At the time of her second husband’s death, Jade was thirty-two and Jack eleven.
A year later, Jack and his sister LaDonna find their mother dressed up, looking like a little princess. Jade says she is going on a date. A few weeks later, she takes the children to dinner at Gent Mundy’s house, where he proudly shows them the redecorated rooms that are to be their bedrooms. Gent is a forty-eight-year-old bachelor, bald and spindly legged. He is enamored of Jade, whom he calls his little jewel, and he assures her his creamery business is doing well. It is LaDonna who speaks up and tells Gent that her mother would be happy to marry him. Jack thinks of his sister as someone who sees things as they are.
The children like Gent well enough, though he is excessively neat and overly concerned with cleanliness. On the day of the wedding, Jack wears a new suit and tie Gent has given to him, with a ten-dollar bill in the pocket. The ceremony takes place in a minister’s back office. Jack finds it hot and stuffy inside, and he goes outside and down the street where he buys his first pack of cigarettes and practices learning how to inhale. After the wedding, Gent takes his new family for a drive in the country in his Buick Roadmaster, and they stop by an old abandoned railway depot. Jack smokes his new cigarettes and watches Gent and Jade kissing awkwardly, Jade dropping her purse in the process.
Jack feels older now that he is smoking, and he secretly looks at some of Gent’s magazines with pictures of women in...
(The entire section is 638 words.)