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The Short Form

“The Bus To St. James's”

John Cheever

Excerpt

During the brief speech in defense of conservative education that followed, Mr. Bruce noticed that Mrs. Sheridan was seated a few pews in front of him. With her was a tall man—her husband, presumably—with a straight back and black hair. When the talk ended, the meeting was opened for questions. The first question was from a mother who wanted advice on how to restrict her children’s use of television. While the rector was answering this question, Mr. Bruce noticed that the Sheridans were having an argument. They were whispering, and their disagreement seemed intense. Suddenly, Mrs. Sheridan separated herself from the argument. She had nothing further to say. Mr. Sheridan’s neck got red. He continued, in a whisper, to press his case, bending toward his wife, and shaking his head. Mrs. Sheridan raised her hand.

“Yes, Mrs. Sheridan,” the rector said.

Mr. Sheridan picked up his coat and his derby, and, saying, “Excuse me, please,” “Thank you,” “Excuse me,” passed in front of the other people in the pew, and left the chapel.

“Yes, Mrs. Sheridan?” the rector repeated.

“I wonder, Dr. Frisbee,” Mrs. Sheridan said, “if you and the board of trustees have ever thought of enrolling Negro children in St. James’s?”

We read it in New Yorker: Jan 14, 1956.