Then You Get Up and Have Breakfast Summary

Pam Houston


Pam Houston's short story "Then You Get Up and Have Breakfast" is about the narrator's relationships with men—two men in particular. One of them, Carter Thompson, is on his way out of the narrator's life; the other one, Erik Sorenson, is in the process of falling in love with her.

Readers familiar with Houston's work will know that her female protagonists seldom make good choices in men. The problem with Carter is that he tends to demean the narrator. He expects her to wait for him even though he seldom shows her any affection. Erik, on the other hand, loves being around her. However, he is a suicidal alcoholic.

The narrator meets Erik through a mutual friend, Paul Stone, who lives in a small town called Hope in Colorado, where the narrator has inherited a ranch. Just over 300 people live in Hope, and the narrator (who remains unnamed in this story) has noted the lack of eligible men in town. Nevertheless, she decides to go to the Fourth of July party that Paul is throwing, and it is there that she meets Erik.

Erik is described as a big Norwegian man whose last girlfriend died and the one before that nearly drove him crazy. He has come to Hope to visit his friend, Paul. Erik drove to Hope in a broken down truck with a huge cannon loaded in the back. Erik has planned to fire a bowling ball out of the cannon to top the night's fireworks display.

In the course of the story, Erik and the narrator make love, something that the narrator and Carter never did. Carter liked to kiss, but when it came time to go to bed, he literally turned his back to the narrator. Erik, on the other hand, is thoroughly in love with the narrator on every level. By the end of the story, Erik even shows signs of attempting to control his drinking for the narrator's sake. He has given up hard liquor, though he continues to drink a lot of beer.

The overall tone of the narrator's voice signals an unwillingness to fully trust Erik. It is hard to believe that this relationship will work out for her, though she seems incapable of losing hope. While on a photography shoot, the narrator meets another woman, named Gloria, who also has the tendency to fall for troubled men. She tells the narrator that you just have to love this type of man harder.

"Then You Get Up and Have Breakfast" was published in Houston's collection Waltzing the Cat. Jessica de Rothschild, writing for the London Spectator, commented on Houston's collection as being well written and filled with "unexpected insight."