(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Sean Kennedy’s father is nearly a stranger to him; his mother has told him and his older sister, Mary, that he is in a rest home. When Sean is six years old, his father inexplicably shows up one day and takes the children home to the apartment where they live with their mother. Neither child has a key; Mr. Kennedy, who is dangerously and frighteningly exuberant, climbs with them to the roof of the four-story building to break into the apartment through the fire escape. Once inside the apartment, he excitedly begins to rearrange books and then insists on washing the windows. The fearful children stay with him, not knowing what else to do.

When the doctor and orderlies from the asylum arrive to take the father back, Mr. Kennedy grabs Sean and climbs with him to the windowsill. Sean stares down at the cracks in the sidewalk for a time, until they are finally pulled back in.

Sean apparently has forgotten the incident when the story encounters him next as a college student. Terrified of being alone, he is determined to find a wife. He marries a reserved and intelligent young woman, and for four years they drift, never becoming closer. They have two sons, John and Philip.

The next two scenes show Sean’s attraction and aversion to his father’s imbalanced pattern: Drunk and determined to get into his mistress’s apartment, Sean climbs to the fifth story to try to break in. Gradually he comes to his senses and gives up. Later, a...

(The entire section is 423 words.)