(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The unnamed narrator’s girlfriend, Marge, has recently left him, so he goes from Montana to east Texas to fish with his friend Kirby and Kirby’s friend Jack. As they drive through downtown Houston in the early morning rain, the narrator sees the buildings as “like tall jails . . . the shutdown of a life.” Depressed, he feels unable to measure up to the Texas myth that “the world can be tamed—it’s a bull that can be wrestled, and with strength and courage and energy you can lift that bull over your head and spin it around and throw it to the ground.” Moreover, because he is unready to take on the responsibilities of being a husband and father, he feels like an imposter, trying to live a “strong” life, “fast and free, scorning weakness.” Both Jack and Kirby are married and have children, and the narrator envies them.

As they drive, they hear animal noises in a box in the back of Jack’s jeep. When Jack tells them it is a coyote, the others assume that he is joking. Later, they launch a boat in Galveston Bay and notice a billboard showing a beautiful, smiling woman named Renee Jackson who is missing; the narrator finds himself on the verge of tears, presumably because he associates her with his own missing girlfriend. This time Marge has left him not for the usual reasons, but because she was tired; the narrator admits to himself that he does sometimes get really wild. Jack tells the narrator it is all right to cry over the missing...

(The entire section is 558 words.)