Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
“Like Mother Used to Make” by Shirley Jackson
Card picked: Six of Spades
From: The Lottery and Other Stories
Thoughts: David Turner is a meticulous young man. He has a neat three-room apartment which he is endeavoring to decorate in just the right manner. (The only thing lacking is a specific green glass bowl for the end table.) He’s a good cook and has been gradually acquiring full services of silver flatware which he keeps in a tarnish-proof box when not in use. Marcia is his neighbor. While he seems to somewhat fancy her, she is his opposite. Her apartment (which he has a key for, to let in repairmen and the like) is messy and haphazard.
On the evening in which our story takes place, David has invited Marcia for dinner. She’s a bit late, a bit untidy, and doesn’t seem to show proper interest in David’s flatware. During dessert, someone buzzes Marcia’s apartment and Marcia lets the someone in from David’s apartment. “Landlord, most likely,” [says Marcia]. “I didn’t pay my rent again.” But it isn’t the landlord, it’s a friend from where Marcia works, Mr. Harris. Marcia thinks nothing of inviting Mr. Harris into David’s apartment and offering him coffee and cherry pie.
[David’s] plan for the evening had been vague; they had involved perhaps a movie if it were not too cold out, and at least a short talk with Marcia about the state of her home…
If it wasn’t obvious before, David is not a party animal. As Marcia and Mr. Harris converse, David is pretty much left out. Marcia claims that she made the cherry pie, and David doesn’t object. Through omission, Marcia implies that the apartment is hers, and David doesn’t object to that either. In fact, after doing the dishes, he excuses himself–and goes “home” to Marcia’s apartment.
I liked all the details about David’s apartment. Generally, I find that I enjoy reading about the insides of rooms, which make Steven Millhauser and Bret Easton Ellis fun for me.
There is definitely a gender role flip going on in this story. David is the conscientious homemaker. The story starts with him coming home in the evening, but nothing is said about his job. His first concern is not forgetting to buy butter and then leaving a note to remind Marcia of their dinner plans. Marcia arrives tired from work. While she comments on all of David’s nice things, her appreciation doesn’t seem to go beyond that. And, as Marcia entertains her co-worker, David is marginalized. The question is: would I have particularly noticed what was going on with David if the names David and Marcia were reversed?
While there is a concerned wife/careless husband vibe going on, David and Marcia aren’t married, nor does he seem to be interested in marriage. He’s buying his own flatware, something that has wedding gift connotations for me. Is this 40’s/50’s code for “David’s gay”? David’s interest in Marcia seems to take a backseat to trying to make her a better person, even if it’s at a sacrifice.