Short Story #300: A Sense of Shelter by John Updike

Title:  A Sense of Shelter 

Author:  John Updike


Painting of John Updike.  Source: sits in class on a snowy day, contemplating his place in high school now that he was a senior, though still an outsider.  The center of his thoughts is telling Mary Landis of his love for her since childhood when she beat him in a race and Mary came back to give him his schoolbag after he ran away.  He makes his way through the day, going to classes and even lunch with classmates (though not really friends).  At lunch, William thinks about his chances with Mary now that she is a bit more socially isolated than in years past since they were seniors and she had spent previous years hanging with older students.  He makes his way through classes after lunch and then begins working on the school newspaper after school.  He manages his departure from the school at the same time that Mary is leaving, so they begin to chat.  He is frustrated by his stutter but continues chatting with her and praising her in their conversation.  Their conversation delves into feelings about the school and the future.  He finally tells her that he's always loved her and she seems to bat the comment aside.  He insists but finds himself confounded by her reaction.  He pushes forward and asks her to marry him and she says that he really doesn't and that he's going to be somebody.  He attempts to kiss her but she moves aside and then goes outside.  William wonders why she won't marry him and she says that they don't even know each other.  When asked what he knows about her, all he can say is that she's not a virgin, another mistake.  The conversation descends from there and William goes back inside, heartbroken and feeling empty inside.


It's a story many of us can relate to, for sure.  Boy likes girl,  Boy pursues girl.  Boy totally botches opportunity because boy doesn't really want the girl for the right reasons.  Sounds about right for many of our relationships in high school or life for that matter.  

Short Story #300 out of 365
Rating:  3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  10/15/2014
Source:  You can read the full story at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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