(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

On a winter day, Joseph, a youngster of four, nonchalantly mentions to his mother that he wants to go down to the creek near the house. The family lives in a mountainous area, where, during the winter, hunters abound, making it somewhat dangerous for young children to play in the woods. The mother, busy at household tasks, puts off her son briefly before acknowledging his request. She gives in, but only grudgingly, making sure that he is dressed warmly in a jacket that marks him out for hunters so that he will not be mistaken for a target. Additionally, she recites a litany of “dos” and “don’ts” for the boy, which he bears patiently.

When her son is gone, the mother reflects on her behavior toward him. Sorry that her son does not realize that she, too, was once young, the mother begins to realize how little time she has given to communicating with Joseph. In her fussing over details, she has “missed the important things.” However, suddenly, she realizes that this day marks a week since the boy had been put on new medicine for his epilepsy. Though the doctor had assured her that there would be no ill effects, the mother nevertheless has spent the past seven days waiting for the moment when a seizure would strike. Now, her son gone off to wander in a dangerous environment, she fantasizes how he might fall into the creek and suffer a sudden seizure and drown. The mental anguish becomes too much, and she rushes out of the house to find him....

(The entire section is 486 words.)