(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The story begins in Los Angeles, where the protagonist, Nick, who grew up with Benton in New England, now works in the recording industry. When Benton, with his girlfriend Olivia, flies to Los Angeles to sell his latest batch of paintings to a wealthy, eccentric patron, he calls on his old friend Nick for moral support. Nick has had trouble adjusting to the deals, drugs, and flamboyance of Southern California, but Olivia, who is constantly experimenting with drugs, seems at home with the decadent Hollywood scene. At the news that Benton’s younger brother Wesley has drowned in a boating accident, the three fly home, too late for the funeral but fortunate to find a flight at all so close to Thanksgiving.

They join what remains of Benton’s family (his mother Ena, his former wife Elizabeth, his son Jason, and his Uncle Cal), who are assembled at the dead Wesley’s house in the Connecticut countryside where Wesley had recently moved, it has been speculated, either to return to simplicity or to assuage some sort of guilt Ena has caused. Nick, too, finds rural New England serene and natural, a return to simplicity and tradition, with pumpkins, apple orchards, and picturesque graveyards, a place where “snow” means not cocaine but the real thing; he wishes he could live there again. The family reunion promises to be anything but peaceful, for when the three arrive from the West Coast, the other family members have already begun taking Wesley’s...

(The entire section is 582 words.)