“I saw Maggie about a year ago. She says she’s leaving everything to an arts foundation,” says Maggie’s half-brother, Larry.
He’s talking to his father. Who was married, at one time, to Maggie’s mother. Larry’s father remains nameless, the Elder Pugh.
Just as he “has no real age” and seems to occupy a sort of limbo, certainly in Larry’s understanding and, possibly also in a broader reality, something post-war (and when he speaks of war, he speaks of the first one, having left France behind for America) as though perhaps he hasn’t recovered from that conflict.
The father is simultaneously a vague and formless character and a bold and presumptuous figure.
Critical of the neighbourhood in which Larry is house-sitting (it was once a good neighbourhood, before the war, the war which began in 1914), he isn’t above drinking the owner’s liquor. He simultaneously has little contact with his grown child and grown step-child (other than to receive sums of money from Maggie).
And, yet, Father Pugh has all the answers for the questions that Larry and Maggie have about how to live their lives.
Except that they do not ask questions like that.
And, if they did, they wouldn’t ask him for answers.
It seems even more likely that the conflict from which the Elder Pugh has not recovered – and the conflict that has left Maggie and Larry scarred as well – is the divorce between Father Pugh and Mother Pugh.
But, by now, it’s a hot and quiet summer in 1954, when Larry tells his father that Maggie has engaged a lawyer to arrange for her estate to benefit an arts foundation. Maggie, then, is Mary Margaret Pugh. The benefactor whom readers met in “A Painful Affair” (the previous story).