Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 467
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 other father, as he would reason with an erring student. However, the other man is not impressed with his calm manner, his “civilized” intellectual approach. He would rather settle the dispute with blows.
As the two men stand facing each other, the mother wonders how she can stop the inevitable battle. Morton is clearly off balance, not used to settling things this way. He stands unsteadily, and his voice trembles. “This is ridiculous,” he says. “I must ask you . . . ” “You and who else?” the man asks.
Finally, Morton turns his back and walks away awkwardly, gathering up his family as he heads out of the park. For reasons that she cannot articulate, even to herself, the mother is angry and ashamed. Always before she has been proud of her husband’s and her son’s sensitivity and delicateness. Now, although she is relieved that the confrontation was resolved without a fight and agrees with her husband that a fight would not have solved anything, she feels defeated.
As they leave the park, Larry struggles and cries. He does not want to go home. The mother cannot calm him, and Morton finally threatens that if she cannot discipline the boy he will do it himself. “Indeed?” she replies. “You and who else?”