(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story opens with the narrator, Emily Ames, reading a gossip column about Carstairs Jones marrying a famous former movie star, and she decides that this man must be the same Car Jones whom she knew many years earlier. She then recounts the history of that extraordinary spring when she first met Car Jones in the seventh grade. She relives the day when she played “truth or consequences” with friends and said that she would rather kiss Car Jones than be eaten alive by ants.

Emily and her mother moved to the university town of Hilton the fall before the principal action of the story takes place. Emily felt like an outsider in this town. As a recent transplant from the North to the South, she felt removed from her classmates; at eleven years of age, she was younger than her seventh-grade classmates; and the fact that her mother was rich embarrassed Emily, who felt “more freakish than advantageous.” She felt socially insecure and approached the playground always with excited dread. On one particular April day, she was asked to play truth or consequences with the popular girls. After some innocuous questions, they sprang the big question on her: Would she rather be covered with honey and eaten alive by ants in the desert, or kiss Car Jones? When Emily said that she would prefer the kiss, the other children began to tease her. She did not feel overly embarrassed by the attention, however, because she felt that she had suddenly been discovered after months of invisibility.

If Emily felt socially insecure, Car felt socially removed. The...

(The entire section is 644 words.)