(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Ben and Sally Trupp, their two daughters, and their fourteen-year-old son, Murray, are visiting Ben’s parents in Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. A highlight of the annual trek from the Trupps’ home in Boston is the opportunity for Murray to shoot his father’s old Remington .22, a gun given to Ben when he was about Murray’s age. As the father and son go out to a field to shoot the rifle, Ben remembers his son’s last birthday, when he tapped Murray’s head to quiet him and the boy, holding the cake knife, threatened to kill him if he were hit again. Sally agreed that Murray was too old to be hit, but Ben, watching his son carrying the rifle, thinks he looks very young.

In the field, the gun does not fire, and Murray curses and throws a tantrum. Ben, unable to help, remembers how his father, also named Murray, taught him to shoot this same gun. The two return to the house, where old Murray, to calm his grandson, promises action and calls Dutch, a local gunsmith. That evening, Ben, his father, and young Murray drive to the gun shop—actually the crowded cellar of Dutch’s home.

Ben realizes that neither he nor his son has ever been in such a place, that it is only his father who would have stumbled on it. He reflects on his own cautious and prescribed life as against his father’s disorderly but somehow more real one. Old Murray introduces his grandson to Dutch as a perfectionist, a boy with drive, and then extols Dutch’s talents to the others. Ben...

(The entire section is 608 words.)