A plot summary does little justice to this novella, which essentially concerns time itself. The tale fast-forwards through more than two decades in the life together of a husband and wife (neither even named) who drift rather aimlessly into marriage in their thirties. The man, a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company, absorbs himself in work and a mistress; after five years he decides to seek a divorce, but is thwarted by his wife's revelation that she is pregnant. A daughter is born, and when she is two they take her to an amusement park, the morning after which the wife suddenly starts refusing to communicate; the next time she speaks to her husband is a full 11 years later. In the meantime the man works his way up the career ladder while also keeping at his affairs. One day he proclaims to his wife and daughter that he is going to build a house, which he does. Two years later, now in his fifties, he departs from this new home for the United States to negotiate a corporate buyout. Upon his return a few years hence, he is stunned to learn from his wife that his daughter took off for the U.S. herself a year earlier. At that moment he sees that "from now until the day he died he was going to spend his life in this room of this house, alone with his wife"?a realization that crowns the work's brilliant portrayal of the relentless and cruelly unforgiving march of human time.
The same volume includes Penanto (Pennant), a fanciful short story about a boy's transformation into a grown man and back into a young boy.