(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

An unnamed husband and wife are in the middle of a fierce domestic battle that threatens to break up the family and lead to the dividing up of household items. Both parents are concerned with what will become of their son after they divorce. The scene turns out to be an imagined one, however, as both parents are merely reading quietly as their son works on a puzzle.

At times, the husband and wife argue over the division of domestic duties such as cleaning, dusting, and cooking. Because the wife works as a teacher and spends much of her time correcting papers, the house sometimes appears chaotic, a condition that her husband frequently mentions. He is highly concerned with order and the responsibility and division of domestic duties; he would like his wife to work on these periodically—that is, in a scheduled way. Their quarrel over dividing up duties leads him into an obsessive attempt to remember the origins of his concern over her sloppiness. As the narrative moves back several hours to a scene in which the wife promises to try harder to be neat, his memory again forces him to account for why he has taken her to task for her failures as a housewife. He admits that he has taken it out on her because of something that happened at work that has been bothering him all day. Not content with that explanation, he traces his resentment even further back to the early hours of the morning, when he wanted to have sex and she complained that she was too tired....

(The entire section is 537 words.)