Short Story #301: The Outage by John Updike

Title:  The Outage

Author:  John Updike


Painting of John Updike.  Source: storm strikes the New England town that knocks out the power.  Brad decides to go into town and run some errands since he cannot work from home as usual.  His visit to the town center run into some problems since the power is out and many places cannot complete the transactions.  On his way home, he encounters a neighbor that he is not as familiar with, Lynne.  They chat about the storm and lack of electricity.  She explains that her husband is away and so she decides to walk about.  He invites her into the car and offers her a ride home.  When they get to the house, the burglar alarm is going off and Brad helps to turn it off.  While in the house, they continue to chat and he notices how much her house is like hs own.  She offers him some coffee but he asks for a drink of what she had been having.  The two move into an embrace.  They make their way upstairs, continuing to undress.  They enter the master bedroom that is filled with mementos from her marriage and family, while he notices his own house from the window.  The storm contrasts with their sexual expressions and just as they are go further, the electricity comes back on.  There is a clear break in the rhythm between the two and the two find themselves ashamed and he decides to leave.


I like the title and the connection between the tryst and the idea of an "outage."  In some ways, it seems that the two generally don't do this but that this has created an unlikely opportunity to explore.  In this way, the power outage seems to represent a sharp disconnect in the relationships for both characters, but yet, not one that ends things permanently.  

Short Story #301 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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