This story takes place on a drive home to the country from a medical appointment in town. Jinny has cancer and is on chemotherapy; she feels unwell and wears an uncomfortable hat because she has lost her hair. Her visit to the doctor ends with disconcerting news, but her husband, Neal, seems uninterested. In a supposed effort to be cheerful, he plays up to Helen, the young woman whom they are taking home to help while Jinny is ill. She senses that Neal will have a life and loves beyond her existence.

In the van, Neal becomes obsessed with teasing Helen about a forgotten pair of shoes; over her objections, he insists on picking them up from friends. Neither the girl nor Jinny are eager to visit this place, which turns out to be a bleak trailer-home surrounded by unfriendly dogs and occupied by a garrulous, obese couple that invite them to visit. Jinny just wants to go home and stays in the van, but Neal ignores her wishes and goes inside for a beer, which extends into a meal.

The teenage son, Ricky, returns to find Jinny waiting. More sympathetic than anyone else has been that day, he offers to drive her home. She surprises herself by leaving with Ricky at the wheel of Neal's van and by not caring what the others might think. He chooses a back-road that passes over a floating bridge. They stop. The dusk turns to dark and the stars emerge over dark water; exquisite beauty in a simple spot.

Jinny suddenly realizes that she has been without her hat all the while. The lad then kisses the much older woman. He admits it is the first time he has kissed a married woman; she tells him it will not likely be the last, and, soberly, he agrees. The tiny adventure of betrayal--an innocent form of sexual retaliation against her husband--brings a sense of hilarity, self-worth, and well being "for the time given."


An exploration of the many challenges posed by cancer and it's arduous, disfiguring treatments. Jenny's life is divided into the time before the diagnosis and the time after. As Neal draws away, she also contends with his life beyond the further division that will be marked by her death. Ricky's interest--if only a lark--reminds her that, with hair or without, she is still alive and capable of adventure and secrets.

Primary Source

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage


McClelland & Stewart

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