(Short Stories for Students)

Mr. Beaver
One of Gran’s boarders, Mr. Beaver leaves for the Y. M. C. A. after Caesar attacks him in the dining room.

Blind Polar Bear
The blind polar bear at the zoo reminds the sisters of Mr. Murphy and inspires their

Jean Stafford
reminiscences. ‘‘Patient and despairing,’’ he is an object of scorn, called a ‘‘‘back number,’’’ or something out-of-date, by a farmer and the monkeys across from him. Why the polar bear reminds them of Mr. Murphy, aside from the fact that he is scorned by the gossiping society of monkeys, is one of the intriguing aspects of the story.

When he is a puppy, before Gran changes his name to Caesar and makes him an attack dog, Laddy is a genial and charming puppy. The sisters received him as a present from Mr. Murphy, and they treat him with love, pampering him and allowing him to go away for long hunting weekends. After Gran takes charge of him, however, chaining him to the house and cuffing him on the ears when he misbehaves, the dog rapidly becomes an ‘‘overbearing, military, efficient, loud-voiced Teuton,’’ which is like a description of a German soldier. Gran’s philosophy with Caesar is that, ‘‘A dog can have morals like a human,’’ but his morals rapidly become nothing but viciousness and ruthlessness.

The black bear in the zoo is ‘‘a rough-andtumble, brawling blowhard,’’ whose roaring bravado would make him a man of action were he a human.

Two years older than her sister the narrator, Daisy ‘‘lives with a happy husband and two happy sons’’ in a town two hundred miles west of Denver. The girls had moved there to work at a dude camp, or a ranch that city people visit, after Grandma died; Daisy presumably stayed there while her sister went east. Clumsy and awkward as a child, Daisy is asthmatic as an adult and needs to carry around injections of adrenaline. She is extremely close to her sister despite the fact that they see each other very infrequently, and they share the bond of helping each other through the ‘‘terror and humiliation’’ of their childhood. When the time comes to leave her sister at the end of the story, Daisy reveals how much she cares about her sister by clinging to her on the train platform.

Jimmy Gilmore
Jimmy is a boyfriend of the narrator’s, but Gran makes the narrator uncomfortable about the relationship, and it ends soon afterwards.

Gran, which is what Mrs. Placer asks the girls to call her, is the sisters’ foster mother, whom the narrator describes as ‘‘possessive, unloving, scornful, complacent.’’ A childhood friend of their grandmother, she takes in the orphaned sisters and becomes the beneficiary of their parents’ life insurance policy, which the girls have been told is quite meager. Gran is a childless widow who moved to Colorado for the sake of her dying, tubercular husband, and she spends her time gossiping about the people of Adams. An extremely powerful and effective manipulator, Gran surrounds herself with people loyal to her by making them feel that she is a good-hearted and self-sacrificing person. Her...

(The entire section is 1328 words.)