(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Elise is speeding through San Francisco, alternately rambling on to Rob and singing along with the radio. Rob, her trusted confidant and one true friend, is a German shepherd. Elise is bright, a college graduate with at least a smattering of foreign-language ability, but promiscuous, cynical, and self-deprecating. Her conversations with Rob reveal her childhood in a financially secure but disordered family with a philandering father. Her self-identity and self-contempt tie into her sexual abilities. She became sexually active in her teens and was briefly married in high school; she attributes the fact that she got a college degree to having slept with one of her professors.

Elise is a classic beauty: golden hair, intensely blue eyes, perfect features, a lithe body, and flawless skin. Although she is twenty-seven years old, she looks like she is barely out of her teens. Men of all types find her irresistible, and she has made her way in life for some time as a mistress. Her current “owner,” as she thinks of the men who support her, is Richard Wrighthill, a middle-aged married man with the resources to give her an expensive apartment, a maid, furs, and a new Cadillac convertible. Richard met her at the home of her former benefactor, Wimberley, a middle-aged man dying of cancer. Struck by her exquisite beauty, Richard immediately decided that he was in love. Wimberley, worried about what would happen to Elise when he died, suggested to her that it would be in her best interest to become Richard’s mistress.

Richard convinced himself that Elise was as good and sweet as she was angelic-looking, although her constant...

(The entire section is 672 words.)