By Ruchika Gupta
CBSE Class 12 English Lesson 5 Should Wizard Hit Mommy Explanation Notes
Should Wizard Hit Mommy CBSE Class 12 NCERT English (Vistas) Lesson 5 – Detailed explanation of the Lesson along with meanings of difficult words. Also, the explanation is followed by a Summary of the Lesson. All the exercises and Question and Answers given at the back of the lesson have been covered.
Class 12 English (Vistas) Chapter 5 Should Wizard Hit Mommy?
by- John Updike
Introduction to the lesson
Before you read
Here is a story about the worldview of a little child, and the difficult moral question she raises during the story session with her father.
The story revolves around Jack who is a father to two kids — Joanne (Jo) and Bobby. His wife Clare is carrying their third child. Jack had a habit of telling his daughter, Jo a story every evening and on Saturday afternoon naps. This time when he was telling her a story, she interrupts him and asks him questions whenever she feels that things that are being told are not right. So jack now finds himself in a fix and doesn’t know how to resolve Jo’s questions. Parents feel that children should do or think exactly what they are told. They should believe whatever they are told by their parents. But is this the right attitude. This moral question is raised by the story and left for the reader to decide what should be done.
About the Author
John Hoyer Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009) was an American novelist, poet, short-story writer, art critic, and literary critic. One of only three writers to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction more than once. Updike published more than twenty novels, more than a dozen short-story collections, as well as poetry, art and literary criticism and children’s books during his career.
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Should Wizard Hit Mommy Summary
The story starts with the daily routine that Jack had been following for two years with his daughter, Jo. His daughter was two years old when the tradition started and today she was 4 years old. The tradition was that Jack would tell Jo a story out of his mind everyday in the evening before going to bed and also on every Saturday afternoon during her nap time. Noe the issue was that it had been so long that he had been telling her stories that he did not have any good ideas for stories left with him. Even Jo didn’t sleep during the story sessions anymore. So everyday when he used to tell her a story, the basic plot of the story used to be same – revolving around Roger, an animal who used to change everyday. Roger used to have a problem and he would approach the wise owl for help, who would send him to the wizard. The wizard would solve Roger’s problem but ask for more pennies than Roger had and would also give him a solution to go fetch the pennies from a specific place. Then Roger would go to that place, fetch the pennies and would happily go back and play with his friends. After playing happily with his friends, Roger would go back home before it got dark, to wait for his father who would be on his way back from Boston. Then Jack would describe what all Roger and his family had for dinner and then end the story.
On this specific Saturday afternoon nap, Jack asked Jo that about which creature did she want to hear a story, to which she replies a “Skunk”. So Jack started the story with Roger skunk who was a very stinky animal. None of his friends liked to play with him. One day he went to the wise owl and shared his problem. The wise owl then told him to go visit the wizard. Then the skunk went to the wizard and shared his problem. The wizard then helped him to solve his problem and asked him how he wanted to smell. To this, Roger skunk replied that he wanted to smell like roses did. With the wizard’s magic, he started smelling like roses. Then he did not have enough pennies to pay to the wizard, so wizard told him to go to the magic well, turn around three times and he would find three pennies there which he could fetch and give to the wizard. The skunk did exactly what was told and got the wizard his pennies. Later, he went out and all the other animals gathered around him as he was smelling very good but when he went home, his mother did not like the smell and asked who had made him smell like that. Roger skunk told the whole story to his mom and his mother said that she liked his smell earlier and he smelled the way a little skunk was supposed to smell. So then the skunk told his mom that the other animals ran away from him because of the foul smell but his mom said that she didn’t care. She took him right back to the wizard and as soon as the wizard opened the door, she gave him one on blow his head with her umbrella and the wizard changed the skunk’s smell and he smelled foul again. While going back, the skunk heard the train coming. His father was coming on that train. They had dinner together. When the skunk was about to sleep, his mother came to him and told him that she loved him the way he was and there was no need to change. The story ended there. Then Jo asked her father whether the animals ran away from the skunk after that to which he replied “no”. All of them had now got used to the way he smelled. Jo did not like the way skunk’s mother forced him and made him smell foul again. She wanted that her father should tell her another story the next day in which the wizard hits mommy back and refuses to change the skunk’s smell back. Then Jack told her that he would see and the main point of the story was that the skunk loved his mother more than any other animal in the woods and that mommy knew what was right for him. He then told her to sleep as her baby brother was also sleeping. He then closed the door and went downstairs.
His wife was painting the chair rail. He heard some footsteps above and then scolded Jo. The footsteps fainted.Then Clare asked him that it was a long story and to that he replied “the poor kid”. Then he watched his wife do the painting and working but was very tired to help her. Also, he thought that their marriage was not in a good state and also that there was no solution to it. He also said that he didn’t feel like talking to her nor touching her.
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Should Wizard Hit Mommy Lesson and explanation
In the evenings and for Saturday naps like today’s, Jack told his daughter Jo a story out of his head. This custom, begun when she was two, was itself now nearly two years old, and his head felt empty. Each new story was a slight variation of a basic tale: a small creature, usually named Roger (Roger Fish, Roger Squirrel, Roger Chipmunk), had some problem and went with it to the wise old owl. The owl told him to go to the wizard, and the wizard performed a magic spell that solved the problem, demanding in payment a number of pennies greater than the number that Roger Creature had, but in the same breath directing the animal to a place where the extra pennies could be found. Then Roger was so happy he played many games with other creatures, and went home to his mother just in time to hear the train whistle that brought his daddy home from Boston.
Nap- a short sleep, especially during the day.
Custom: tradition, trend
Wizard- a man who has magical powers.
Magic Spell- a form of words used as a magical charm .
Pennies- a small sum of money.
Every evening and on Saturday afternoon naps, Jack used to tell his daughter a bedtime story. This habit started when Jo was 2 years old and now that Jo was 4 years old, Jack did not have any creative ideas for stories. Most of the stories that he used to tell Jo revolved around the same plot concerning an animal named Roger. In every story Roger used to be a different animal with some kind of a problem. Then Roger would go to this wise owl to take help who would in turn tell him to go to the wizard. Then Roger would take his problem to the wizard who would help him in exchange for some pennies (money) mostly a bit more than what Roger had with him. After helping him, the wizard would ask him to go to a certain place to fetch some more pennies and Roger would do exactly like that. Then after paying the wizard, Roger would go back and all the other animals would start playing with him. He would be very happy and later, he would return home just in time to wait for his father who would be returning from Boston by train.
Jack described their supper, and the story was over. Working his way through this scheme was especially fatiguing on Saturday, because Jo never fell asleep in naps any more, and knowing this made the rite seem futile. The little girl (not so little any more; the bumps her feet made under the covers were halfway down the bed, their big double bed that they let her be in for naps and when she was sick) had at last arranged herself, and from the way her fat face deep in the pillow shone in the sunlight sifting through the drawn shades, it did not seem fantastic that some magic would occur, and she would take her nap like an infant of two. Her brother, Bobby, was two, and already asleep with his bottle. Jack asked, “Who shall the story be about today?” “Roger…” Jo squeezed her eyes shut and smiled to be thinking she was thinking. Her eyes opened, her mother’s blue. “Skunk,” she said firmly. A new animal; they must talk about skunks at nursery school. Having a fresh hero momentarily stirred Jack to creative enthusiasm.
Supper- an evening meal, typically a light or informal one.
Fatiguing- cause (someone) to feel exhausted.
Rite- a social custom, practice, or conventional act.
Shone- past participle of shine.
Skunk- A small cat sized animal.
Stirred- move or cause to move slightly.
Jack had now started getting tired of this daily routine because he had run out of ideas for the stories. Also, Jo didn’t sleep listening to the story anymore. He had started feeling that the practise was just a waste of time and there was no point doing it. He also noticed that Jo had started growing big and that her legs now stretched halfway down the bed when she snuggled in for her story. With all the light coming in from the window over her face that was deep in the pillow, Jack knew that she won’t be sleeping soon. Bobby, her baby brother who was two years old was already sleeping with his bottle in his mouth. When Jack asked Jo that who should the story be about that day, she thought for a while and replied that she wanted it to be of a skunk. Jack then thought that she must have heard about this animal in nursery school and also got enthusiastic as he had a new hero for his story.
“All right,” he said. “Once upon a time, in the deep dark woods, there was a tiny little creature by the name of Roger Skunk. And he smelled very bad.”
“Yes,” Jo said. “He smelled so bad that none of the other little woodland creatures would play with him.” Jo looked at him solemnly; she hadn’t foreseen this. “Whenever he would go out to play,” Jack continued with zest, remembering certain humiliations of his own childhood, “all of the other tiny animals would cry, “Uh-oh, here comes Roger Stinky Skunk,” and they would run away, and Roger Skunk would stand there all alone, and two little round tears would fall from his eyes.” The corners of Jo’s mouth drooped down and her lower lip bent forward as he traced with a forefinger along the side of her nose the course of one of Roger Skunk’s tears. “Won’t he see the owl?” she asked in a high and faintly roughened voice. Sitting on the bed beside her, Jack felt the covers tug as her legs switched tensely. He was pleased with this moment — he was telling her something true, something she must know — and had no wish to hurry on.
Woodland- land covered with trees.
Solemnly- with deep sincerity.
Foreseen- be aware of beforehand
Zest- great enthusiasm and energy.
Humiliation- make (someone) feel ashamed and foolish by injuring their dignity and pride.
Stinky- having a strong or unpleasant smell.
Tensely- unable to relax because of nervousness, anxiety, or stimulation.
Then Jack started the story. The story started with the Roger skunk living in the forest. Jack said that Roger smelled bad. None of the other animals in the forest liked to play with him. All the other animals would start running away whenever he would go out to play. At this moment Jack was recollecting about certain humiliations that he had faced during his childhood, for being foul smelling. Then Jo asked whether Roger would see the wise owl. Jack was sitting beside her and noticed that Jo was getting anxious with the story and felt pleased with it. He did not want to hurry and wanted to make the story more intense as he wanted to convey a message through it.
But downstairs a chair scraped, and he realised he must get down to help Clare paint the living-room woodwork. “Well, he walked along very sadly and came to a very big tree, and in the tiptop of the tree was an enormous wise old owl.” “Good.” “Mr Owl,” Roger Skunk said, “all the other little animals run away from me because I smell so bad.” “So you do,” the owl said. “Very, very bad.” “What can I do?” Roger Skunk said, and he cried very hard. “The wizard, the wizard,” Jo shouted, and sat right up, and a Little Golden Book spilled from the bed. “Now, Jo. Daddy’s telling the story. Do you want to tell Daddy the story?” “No. You me.” “Then lie down and be sleepy.” Her head relapsed onto the pillow and she said, “Out of your head.” “Well. The owl thought and thought. At last he said, “Why don’t you go see the wizard?” “Daddy?” “What?” “Are magic spells real?” This was a new phase, just this last month, a reality phase. When he told her spiders eat bugs, she turned to her mother and asked, “Do they really?” and when Clare told her God was in the sky and all around them, she turned to her father and insisted, with a sly yet eager smile, “Is He really?” “They’re real in stories,” Jack answered curtly. She had made him miss a beat in the narrative. “The owl said, “Go through the dark woods, under the apple trees, into the swamp, over the crick —” “What’s a crick?” A little river. “Over the crick, and there will be the wizard’s house.” And that’s the way Roger Skunk went, and pretty soon he came to a little white house, and he rapped on the door.”
Scraped- drag or pull a hard or sharp implement
Enormous- very large in size
Eager- keenly expectant or interested..
Narrative- a story.
Swamp- an area of low-lying, uncultivated ground where water collects; a bog or marsh.
Crick- A small river.
Rapped- strike (a hard surface) with a series of rapid audible blows, especially in order to attract attention.
Relapsed- return to a less active or a worse state.
Curtly- rudely brief in speech or abrupt in manner
Suddenly Jack heard a voice downstairs – of a chair being pulled and realized that he must go down to help his wife paint the living room but had to continue with the story as Jo had not slept yet. So Jack continued that Roger Skunk was sad and as he walked, he came across a tree where he saw the wise owl. The skunk then shared his problem with the wise owl and the owl started thinking of how he could help the little skunk. Then Jo shouted enthusiastically that the wise owl would ask him to go to the wizard as she had known about the basic plot of the stories her dad used to tell her. Jack got a bit irritated and scolded her and asked her if she wanted to tell the story by herself. Jo denied and Jack asked her to lie down peacefully and continue listening to the story. Jo told Jack to tell the story out of his head. Then Jack continued with the the story that the owl told Roger to go see the wizard for his problem. Then Jo interrupted him and asked if the magic spells that the wizards used were real. When Jo asked this question, Jack realized that Jo was coming into the reality phase and had started asking questions about the things her parents used to tell her. He noticed that she no longer believed her parents blindly and was curious about everything that was told to her. Jo repeated her question to which Jack replied that the spells were real in stories. He continued with his story that the skunk went through the way the wise owl had asked him to go and reached a white house and knocked on the door.
Jack rapped on the window sill, and under the covers Jo’s tall figure clenched in an infantile thrill. “And then a tiny little old man came out, with a long white beard and a pointed blue hat, and said, “Eh? Whatzis? Whatcher want? You smell awful.” The wizard’s voice was one of Jack’s own favourite effects; he did it by scrunching up his face and somehow whining through his eyes, which felt for the interval rheumy. He felt being an old man suited him. “I know it,” Roger Skunk said, “and all the little animals run away from me. The enormous wise owl said you could help me.” “Eh? Well, maybe. Come on in. Don’t get too close.” Now, inside, Jo, there were all these magic things, all jumbled together in a big dusty heap, because the wizard did not have any cleaning lady.” “Why?” “Why? Because he was a wizard, and a very old man.” “Will he die?” “No. Wizards don’t die. Well, he rummaged around and found an old stick called a magic wand and asked Roger Skunk what he wanted to smell like. Roger thought and thought and said, “Roses.” “Yes. Good,” Jo said smugly. Jack fixed her with a trance like gaze and chanted in the wizard’s elderly irritable voice: “Abracadabry, hocus-poo, Roger Skunk, how do you do, Roses, boses, pull an ear, Roger Skunk, you never fear: Bingo!”
Sill- a shelf or slab of stone, wood, or metal at the foot of a window opening or doorway.
Clenched- closed into a tight ball.
Scrunching- make a loud crunching noise.
Whining- the making of a long, high-pitched cry or sound.
Jumbled- mix up in a confused or untidy way
Heap- objects placed haphazardly on top of each other
Rummaged- search unsystematically and untidily through something.
Smugly- in a way that shows excessive satisfaction or pride in oneself.
Trance- a half-conscious state
Gaze- look steadily and intently
Chanted- say or shout repeatedly in a sing-song tone.
To make the sound effect of how the skunk knocked the door, Jack knocked on the window sill and Jo was thrilled. Jack continued that the old man with a long white beard and a blue pointed hat came out. Then Jack made his favourite sound effect and continued that the wizard asked Roger what he wanted and that he had a very bad body odour. Then to this Roger replied that he knew that he smelled bad and told him that all the other animals ran away from him. He also told the wizard that the wise owl had told him that he could help him. Then the old man replied that maybe he could and asked Roger skunk to follow him inside and not to get too close. Then Jack describes how the house of the wizard was really dirty from inside because he did not have a cleaning lady to which Jo asked tha why was it so. He then replied that because he was a very old man and also a wizard, he did not require any cleaning lady. Then Jo again interrupted and asked that would the wizard die to which again Jack replied that wizards never die. Then the wizard started looking out for something and took out an old stick called the magic wand. He asked Roger what he wanted to smell like and he replied that he wished to smell like roses. Jo was happy about the fact that he wanted to smell like a rose. Then Jack said the magical words in the voice of a wizard.
He paused as a rapt expression widened out from his daughter’s nostrils, forcing her eyebrows up and her lower lip down in a wide noiseless grin, an
expression inwhich Jack was startled to recognise his wife feigning pleasure at cocktail parties. “And all of a sudden,” he whispered, “the whole inside of the wizard’s house was full of the smell of — roses! ‘Roses!’ Roger Fish cried. And the wizard said, very cranky, “That’ll be seven pennies.” “Daddy.” “What?” “Roger Skunk. You said Roger Fish.” “Yes. Skunk.” “You said Roger Fish. Wasn’t that silly?” “Very silly of your stupid old daddy. Where was I? Well, you know about the pennies.” “Say it.” “O.K. Roger Skunk said, ‘But all I have is four pennies,’ and he began to cry.” Jo made the crying face again, but this time without a trace of sincerity. This annoyed Jack. Downstairs some more furniture rumbled. Clare shouldn’t move heavy things; she was six months pregnant. It would be their third. “So the wizard said, ‘Oh, very well. Go to the end of the lane and turn around three times and look down the magic well and there you will find three pennies. Hurry up.’ So Roger Skunk went to the end of the lane and turned around three times and there in the magic well were three pennies! So he took them back to the wizard and was very happy and ran out into the woods and all the other little animals gathered around him because he smelled so good. And they played tag, baseball, football, basketball, lacrosse, hockey, soccer, and pick-up-sticks.” “What’s pick-up-sticks?” “It’s a game you play with sticks.” “Like the wizard’s magic wand?” “Kind of. And they played games and laughed all afternoon and then it began to get dark and they all ran home to their mommies.”
Rapt- completely fascinated or absorbed by what one is seeing or hearing.
Nostrils- either of two external openings of the nose.
Grin- smile broadly.
Cranky- bad-tempered; irritable.
Rumbled- make a continuous deep sound.
Then he relates the face that his daughter made to that of his wife. She made such a face when she pretended to be enjoying a cocktail party. Then he continues that the whole house of the wizard was filled with the fragrance of roses. By mistake, he changed the animal to fish. Jo corrected him and he said that it was really silly on his part to call him a fish in place of skunk. Just then Jack got a bit annoyed with Jo’s expression and suddenly he heard some furniture rumbling downstairs. He realized that Clare shouldn’t be moving heavy things as she was 6 months’ pregnant and they were going to have their third baby. Then the wizard tells Roger to go to end of the lane and turn around 3 times and when he would look in the magic well, he would find 3 more pennies. Then Roger did exactly how he was told and got the extra pennies. He then gave the pennies to the wizard and ran back to the woods where everybody gathered around him because he smelt so good. Then they all played a lot of games and enjoyed themselves. As it was getting dark, all the animals ran back to their mommies.
Jo was starting to fuss with her hands and look out of the window, at the crack of day that showed under the shade. She thought the story was all over. Jack didn’t like women when they took anything for granted; he liked them apprehensive, hanging on his words. “Now, Jo, are you listening?” “Yes.” “Because this is very interesting. Roger Skunk’s mommy said, ‘What’s that awful smell?’ “Wha-at?” “And, Roger Skunk said, ‘It’s me, Mommy. I smell like roses.’ And she said, ‘Who made you smell like that?’ And he said, ‘The wizard,’ and she said, ‘Well, of all the nerve. You come with me and we’re going right back to that very awful wizard.” Jo sat up, her hands dabbling in the air with genuine fright. “But Daddy, then he said about the other little animals run away!” Her hands skittered off, into the underbrush. “All right. He said, ‘But Mommy, all the other little animals run away,’ and she said, ‘I don’t care. You smelled the way a little skunk should have and I’m going to take you right back to that wizard,’ and she took an umbrella and went back with Roger Skunk and hit that wizard right over the head.” “No,” Jo said, and put her hand out to touch his lips, yet even in her agitation did not quite dare to stop the source of truth. Inspiration came to her. “Then the wizard hit her on the head and did not change that little skunk back.” “No,” he said. “The wizard said ‘O.K.’ and Roger Skunk did not smell of roses any more. He smelled very bad again.” “But the other little amum — oh! — amum — ” “Joanne. It’s Daddy’s story. Shall Daddy not tell you any more stories?” Her broad face looked at him through sifted light, astounded.
Fuss- to show excessive excitement
Apprehensive- fearful that something bad or unpleasant will happen.
Awful- very bad or unpleasant.
Fright- a sudden intense feeling of fear.
Skittered- move lightly and quickly
Underbrush- shrubs and small trees
Agitation- anxiety or nervous excitement.
Astounded- shock or greatly surprise.
Jo had started getting bored with the story and was more interested in looking out of the window. She thought that the story was over. On the other hand, Jack did not like women who would take things for granted. He liked women who remained engrossed in his talks. Then he again continued the story asking Jo to be a little attentive to what he said. The mommie skunk asked that from where was that awful smell coming from to which Roger replied that it was him. He added that he smelt like roses. Mommie skunk asked Roger that who had made him smell like that to which he replied that the wizard had done so. The mommie skunk got angry and ordered Roger to accompany her to the wizard. Roger told his mom that all his friends ran away from him if he smelled bad to which his mom replied that she didn’t care and that he smelled just the way a baby skunk should smell. His mom took out her umbrella and they went to the wizard’s house where when the wizard opened the door and the mommie skunk hit him on his head. Then Jo started imagining her own story about how the wizard would have hit the mommie skunk back and never changed Roger Skunk back. Her father told her that nothing of that sort happened and the wizard changed Roger Skunk back to normal and he did not smell of roses anymore. Another question was about to pop up in little Jo’s mind but Jack stopped her and told her that it was his story and if she wanted him to tell her anymore stories, then she should keep quiet. Jo kept on looking at her father with great surprise as she waited for the story to be continued.
“This is what happened, then. Roger .Skunk and his mommy went home and they heard Woo-oo, woooo-oo and it was the choo-choo train bringing Daddy Skunk home from Boston. And they had lima beans, celery, liver, mashed potatoes, and Pie-Oh-My for dessert. And when Roger Skunk was in bed Mommy Skunk came up and hugged him and said he smelled like her little baby skunk again and she loved him very much. And that’s the end of the story.” “But Daddy.” “What?” “Then did the other little animals run away?” “No, because eventually they got used to the way he was and did not mind it at all.”
Lima Beans- an edible flat whitish bean.
Celery- a cultivated plant of the parsley family
Eventually- in the end, finally
After some time when Roger skunk and his mum were going back home, they heard a Woo-ooo, Woo-oo sound as his father arrived back from Boston. Then all of them had lima beans,celery, liver and mashed potatoes for dinner and Pie-Oh-My for desert. Later that night when Roger Skunk was sleeping, Mom skunk came back. She hugged him and told him that he smelled again like her baby skunk and that she loved him a lot. With this Jack ended the story to which Jo again asked that did the other animals run away from Roger skunk again and Jack replied ‘no’ because they slowly got accustomed to the smell so they did not feel like running away anymore.
“What’s evenshiladee?” “In a little while.” “That was a stupid mommy.” “It was not,” he said with rare emphasis, and believed, from her expression, that she realised he was defending his own mother to her, or something as odd. “Now I want you to put your big heavy head in the pillow and have a good long nap.” He adjusted the shade so not even a crack of day showed, and tiptoed to the door, in the pretense that she was already asleep. But when he turned, she was crouching on top of the covers and staring at him. “Hey. Get under the covers and fall faaast asleep. Bobby’s asleep.” She stood up and bounced gingerly on the springs. “Daddy.” “What?” “Tomorrow, I want you to tell me the story that that wizard took that magic wand and hit that mommy” — her plump arms chopped forcefully — “right over the head.” “No. That’s not the story. The point is that the little skunk loved his mommy more than he loved all the other little animals and she knew what was right.” “No. Tomorrow you say he hit that mommy.
Rare- not occurring very often.
Emphasis- special value given to something.
Tiptoed- walk quietly
Pretense- an attempt to make something that is false, to appear true.
Gingerly- in a careful or cautious manner.
When Jack said that eventually everybody started liking Roger skunk, Jo did not understand the word eventually as she had heard it for the first time. So she asked what’s ‘Evenshiladee’ to which Jack told her the meaning. But Jo thought that what Mommie skunk did was not right and said that what the mother skunk did was stupid but Jack took it personally and said ‘no’ because somewhere he was relating it to himself and defending his own mother. Then Jack told Jo that he wanted her to take a long day nap and adjusted the shades so that no light came in. He then went very softly to the door and acted as if Jo had slept but when he turned and looked, she was staring at him and sitting on top of the covers. Then he told her to go to sleep as she was also disturbing her brother who was sleeping.Then she stood up and started bouncing softly on the springs. While Jumping on the springs of the bed she asked her father to tell her a story the next day – that the wizard took her magic stick and hit the mommy and chopped her plump arms. Then Jack explained to her that this was not what the story said. He told her that the story gave us a message that the skunk loved his mother more than any of the other animals in the woods and that his mother knew what was right for him and what was not. Then as he was explaining Jo about the story, she started insisting that the next day he would have to tell her a story like the one she wanted.
Do it.” She kicked her legs up and sat down on the bed with a great heave and complaint of springs, as she had done hundreds of times before, except that this time she did not laugh. “Say it, Daddy.” “Well, we’ll see. Now at least have a rest. Stay on the bed. You’re a good girl.” He closed the door and went downstairs. Clare had spread the newspapers and opened the paint can and, wearing an old shirt of his on top of her maternity smock, was stroking the chair rail with a dipped brush. Above him footsteps vibrated and he called, “Joanne! Shall I come up there and spank you?” The footsteps hesitated. “That was a long story,” Clare said. “The poor kid,” he answered, and with utter weariness watched his wife labour. The woodwork, a cage of moldings and rails and baseboards all around them, was half old tan and half new ivory and he felt caught in an ugly middle position, and though he as well felt his wife’s presence in the cage with him, he did not want to speak with her, work with her, touch her, anything.
Heave- produce a sigh.
Stroking- move one’s hand with gentle pressure
Spank- slap with one’s open hand
Weariness- extreme tiredness
Then she started throwing tantrums as she had done many times earlier but this time she was not laughing or joking. She was being a bit stubborn. Then Jack told her to be patient and sleep and that he would see to it the next day. He then asked her to stay on the bed and closed the door. He then went downstairs and saw his wife painting the walls. She had opened the paint can, spread the newspapers and was wearing an old shirt of his over her maternity dress. She was painting the chair rail. Suddenly, he again heard footsteps above and shouted that did Joanne want a beating. The sound of the footsteps started vanishing. Then Jack’s wife told him that it was a long story that he was telling Jo and to that he replied “The poor kid” and as he was feeling very tired, he just sat and watched his wife do all the work. Then he started looking at the woodwork around him and started relating it to his life. He was looking at it and thinking that although both of them (Jack and Clare) were caught in a cage like situation in their marriage, there was no solution to it. Neither did he want to talk to her nor speak or touch her.