Read the story here in The New Yorker.
First line: "It was 1972 and Sid Baumwell was hungry."
Last line: "The word for this was luck."
Growing up is neither neat nor tidy. The teen years are full of juxtapositions between truth and reality. Sid Baumwell questions and judges what he experiences in his life, but admits he is too passive to move, to respond to his hunger, to become his own.
I was concerned about stereotypical character-types when I first read the story. But it became clear that Sid sees his world in a limited way. He sees those around him as if they are as immobile and unchanging as he.
What emerges from this "flaw" is beautiful and honest imagery. The details take this story far above cliches. Sid's mother's fingernails on his neck. The name of the grocery store. His father having two rolls at dinner. Bill's grooming. The grocery list. Marley, disembodied. The largesse of the lasagne. The delivery man's movements. Sid's feelings of pity and gratitude in the same moment. Bill's car and cuff links and candy cane. Kids on swings. Adam's apple. Loony Lou. What Sid owns - a trophy "for participation", a sea shell, a box of unopened Topps cards. The garbage. Aluminum foil. The cat. The hobby horse.
The details are accurate and give this story truth. It could be any boy's story, but the details make it wholly Sid's. They anchor him while he explores the reality of luck. Luck, in the form of Bill Baxter, encourages him to consider a new world.
And for the passive, like Sid, luck can bring about change.