‘Evening On The Côte D’Azur – 1952’ by Richard Yates

Evening On The Côte D’Azur – 1952 by Richard Yates, 1974

The magic trick:

Establishing the protagonist as a mother, first and foremost

Betty Meyers, when we first see her, is a mom. And she has her hands full with three young children in that first scene. That’s our introduction. For the rest of the story, she will be the stressed-out mother.

It colors the rest of the plot. She goes out with some friends and has a fling with one of the officers at the base. That first scene changes how you assess the situation. Are you more offended, thinking of those three children at home? Maybe you’re more sympathetic, thinking of those three children at home. Either way, the way the story introduces Betty is the key factor. And that’s quite a trick on Yates’s part.

The selection:

When Bobby saw her coming he took off and she had to run after him, clumsy in the loose sand, knowing that she must look a sight with the heavy flesh wobbling in her play-suit. Finally she caught him and gave him a couple of good hard smacks. He set up an awful howl but he came along nicely enough, once she had a grip on his wrist. The French kids he’d been playing with backed away shyly, holding their hands to their mouths. She hated to hit him – it always made her feel like hell afterwards – but he’d been asking for it all afternoon. He’d stopped crying by the time they got back on the promenade – still snuffling, but she could tell the worst was over. “All right, now listen,” she said. “Do you have to go? Because if you do, speak up now. I don’t want you bothering me all the way home. Do you?”

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