(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The title suggests how ordinary a scene this brief story presents. In a quiet corner of an unnamed park in an unnamed city, an unnamed woman sits in the sun with her family—what could be more typical, more universal? Her husband, Morton, who works at a university, is pale and intelligent, enjoying some time out-of-doors with the Sunday paper. Their three-year-old son Larry is playing in the sandbox, earnestly digging a tunnel. The mother sighs, content with her life.

Suddenly another child about Larry’s age throws a shovel of sand at Larry’s head, narrowly missing him. Clearly, he does this on purpose, and he stands with feet planted, waiting for Larry’s reaction, but Larry barely notices. His mother scolds the child as she would her own, reminding him kindly that throwing sand is unsafe. In response, the child throws more sand, and this time some lands in Larry’s hair.

Larry now comes out of his concentrated stupor and notices the boy’s behavior, but he waits for his mother to act. She speaks sharply, scolding more forcefully, while the two boys continue to look expectantly at her. Morton is still reading his newspaper, not paying any attention. The other boy’s father does react, however. He announces that because they are all in a public park, his son Joe can throw sand if he wants to.

Now, as the mother has run out of resources, Morton finally becomes aware of what is going on. He tries to reason pleasantly with...

(The entire section is 467 words.)