Now an adult, the narrator remembers conflicts he had with his parents, mainly his father, when he was twelve years old. The story begins with three quick vignettes of his father: striking a kitchen match with one hand to light his cigar; talking about his first job in America, selling water to men building skyscrapers; and peeling an artichoke “with both hands simultaneously . . . until with a groan that was the trumpet of all satisfaction he attained the heart.” Interspersed with general anecdotes about his family, most of which involve food, the narrator reveals his adolescent crush on Pattie Donahue, a patrician classmate. As he attempts telepathically to turn Pattie’s disinterest into a devotion to match his own, his parents decide that he should begin working in his father’s grocery store.
Daniel envies his carefree classmates but is forced to follow his cousins’ examples and spend his Saturdays working. He is embarrassed to be working while his friends play, and even more so when Pattie comes in to shop with her mother. He is also embarrassed by his father’s job; he wants him to “commute instead of work, like the others.” He resents his father’s wanting to mold him in his own fashion: “The constant pouring of commands from a triumphant father shivered and shattered my sense for work; he wanted me by his side, proud of an eldest son, any eldest son. . . . he had been poor, he wanted me to see what he had done for himself and for us all.” At the same time, he loves and admires his father tremendously; when he is invited to join his father for lunch, he is proud. Having the “Business Men’s special” with Dad in a restaurant is one of the compensations; he sees choosing food as the act of a god—“only gods and businessmen don’t have mothers to tell them what to eat.”
A crisis does not...
(The entire section is 753 words.)