Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 288
The characters in Stuart Dybek's short story "Pet Milk" include the narrator, his grandmother, Kate (his girlfriend), and a young man. The narrator's grandmother has a home across from a railroad yard. She constantly listened to an old radio on low, and, the narrator recalls, she used evaporated milk in her coffee. "Pet milk" brand name of the evaporated milk that she used.
The narrator, a Chicago native (a detail discernible in his later discussion of taking the "El" train to school), describes how the can opener "bites in neatly" to the can—a can whose "very shape suggest[s] that it could condense milk without any trouble." The narrator is poetic. His second-largest story by volume recounts his twenty-second birthday, spent with his girlfriend, Kate.
During the time of the narrator's flashback, Kate (along with the narrator) is a year out of college and is working at the investment firm, Hornblower & Weeks. She and the narrator regularly meet at a restaurant called the Pilsner. One one evening in particular (which the narrator remembers within the course of the story), they drink champagne and leave dinner early, inspired by mutual passion. They take a train up to Kate's home in Evanston.
The young boy is an individual who sees Kate and the narrator when they are on the train. He is described as "a high school kid in shirt sleeves, maybe sixteen, with books tucked under one arm and a cigarette in his mouth." The boy waves to them as they pass, which sets in motion the narrator's final memory, of when he was a boy himself, with books and a cigarette. He comments that he always hoped to catch sight of individuals like his adult self.