Just Before the War with the Eskimos (Salinger)

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Just Before the War with the Eskimos
Summary of the Short Story
from the Collection «Nine Stories»
Microsummary: Two high school classmates played tennis together, but one grew frustrated with always paying for their cab rides home. After confronting her friend and meeting her eccentric brother, she gained empathy and understanding.

Ginnie Mannox and Selena Graff were high school classmates who played tennis together on Saturday mornings. Despite Ginnie considering Selena a drip, she appreciated that Selena always brought fresh cans of tennis balls, as her father was a tennis ball manufacturer.

Virginia Mannox (Ginnie) — narrator; 15-year-old high school student; tall, athletic, wears 9-B tennis shoes; straightforward, assertive, empathetic.
Selena Graff — Ginnie's classmate and tennis partner; daughter of a tennis ball manufacturer; perceived as a drip by Ginnie; somewhat selfish and oblivious.

However, Ginnie was growing increasingly frustrated with always having to pay for their cab rides home from the courts, which had been Selena's idea.

"I don't feel like getting stuck for the whole cab fare again today," Ginnie said. "I'm no millionaire, ya know."

One day, Ginnie confronted Selena about the cab fare issue, and Selena agreed to pay her back but needed to get the money from her mother. They went to Selena's apartment, where Ginnie waited in the living room while Selena went to get the money. During this time, Ginnie met Selena's brother, Franklin, who had an eccentric and unkempt appearance.

Franklin Graff — Selena's 24-year-old brother; has a heart condition; unkempt appearance, glasses, blond beard; quirky, honest, vulnerable.

He had cut his finger and was seeking advice on how to treat it. Ginnie and Franklin engaged in a conversation about their lives, with Franklin revealing that he had a heart condition and had worked in an airplane factory during the war.

As they talked, Ginnie learned that Franklin had a strained relationship with her older sister, Joan, whom he considered a snob. Ginnie defended her sister, but also found herself intrigued by Franklin's honesty and vulnerability. When Selena returned, Ginnie decided that she no longer wanted the money, as she realized that Selena's contribution of tennis balls was valuable in its own way.

"Your father makes them or something," Ginnie said. "They don't cost you anything. I have to pay for every single little--"

"I never in my life would've thought you could be so small about anything," said Selena, who was just angry enough to use the word "small" but not quite brave enough to emphasize it.

Before leaving the apartment, Ginnie and Selena made plans to talk later that evening. Ginnie left with a newfound understanding of the complexities of human relationships and the importance of empathy and understanding.