(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Tommy Castelli’s prison is the candy store in which he has worked for a decade. Renamed by his wife, Rosa, who disliked his original name of Tony, Tommy was born and raised near this store. He dreamed of escaping from the tenement in which he was brought up, but by the time he was sixteen he had dropped out of a vocational school, where he trained to be a shoemaker, and was running out of options. Adrift and seeing little promise for his future, Tommy began running with a gang that had the money to buy silver café espresso urns and television sets and host the pizza parties that impressed the girls they admired. Their wherewithal was derived from shady dealings, among which was a liquor store holdup.

Meanwhile, Tommy’s father arranged for him to marry Rosa Agnelli, whose father agreed to bankroll a small candy store in Greenwich Village for the newlyweds. Not attracted to Rosa and reluctant to spend his life running a candy store, Tommy fled to Texas, where he bummed around for a while. Finally, however, he returned to New York. His friends and relatives were convinced that he had returned home to marry Rosa and set up the store Mr. Agnelli had proffered. His father’s marriage plans materialized, however, largely because Tommy failed to object. Now, ten years later, Tommy is twenty-nine and he finds his life a crushing bore. He regards the candy store, above which he and Rosa live, as his personal prison. Day after day, he works from eight in the morning until almost midnight, taking only one break, an hour in the afternoon when he goes upstairs to nap.

Tommy has tried to enhance his profits by putting a punchboard and a slot machine in his store. When the slot machine appeared, however, Rosa’s father stormed into the shop screaming that Tommy was a criminal. He broke the offending machine to...

(The entire section is 745 words.)