(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrator, an eighteen-year-old woman, is riding in the front seat of a speeding pickup truck next to the driver, Jack, an older man. For her birthday, he has given her a five-year diary with a little lock and key, and she is trying to work the lock, which is jammed. Suddenly Jack thinks he sees his wife driving toward them in her Cadillac. He pushes the narrator to the floor and keeps his hand on her head as the Cadillac approaches. The girl notices the dirt on the floor and smells the cigarettes in the ashtray. On the tape deck, she hears Roseanne Cash singing, and she observes the bottle of tequila from which they had been drinking as it nestles against Jack’s crotch.

As the Cadillac passes and honks, Jack waves to his wife, commenting sharply on her obsession with driving exactly fifty-five miles an hour while he is barreling along at more than eighty miles per hour. The narrator scolds Jack for keeping his truck so filthy, especially for the beverage cans littering the floor, and for the muddy, manure-stained boots he always wears. Jack gently mocks her and orders her back into the seat. He knows, he tells her, that his wife will not see her, just as he knows that his wife always drives fifty-five miles an hour and that she will make him meatloaf for supper that night. Jack also says that he knows what the girl will write in her diary. Tonight, Jack says, she will put in her diary that she loves him; next year, she will record her wonder at what she really ever saw in him; five years from tonight, she will have forgotten his name.

Protesting, the narrator offers her own scenario. She declares that tonight she will write that she loves Jack deeply; next year, she will record her waiting for him to come home to a candlelight dinner; last, she will write of her joy at their little boy saying his first word while their little girl nurses at her breast.

The narrator’s scenario pleases Jack, but he remains cynical and scoffing. He declares that the narrator’s version of the future will never happen and that in her heart of hearts, she, too, knows that it will never be.