“The Buggy”
by Roddy Doyle
from the June 27, 2024 issue of The New Yorker

Over the years we have had a handful of Roddy Doyle stories in The New Yorker, and while I recall never disliking one I also recall feeling most of them were just fine. Here is how this week’s “The Buggy” begins:

There were people at the far end of the beach. Some adults, a lot of children. An extended family, maybe—he didn’t know. He tried to see if one of the adults was carrying a baby or if there was a toddler—a padded lump—plonked on the sand.

He didn’t want to walk over, down from the path, across the sand and stones, to the buggy. It was facing the sea. If the people up the beach had been nearer to it, he’d have known that it was theirs. He’d have known that they’d parked the buggy there at the edge of the sea so the baby would drink in the air—the ozone, whatever it was—and sleep, and stay asleep for a while. But it stood out, alone. There wasn’t an adult or a sibling, a towel or a bucket, anywhere near it. It made no sense.

Because this is quite a short story, I figured I’d read it first thing this morning. I again felt it was just fine, but nothing really resonated with me in any way I expect to last through the day. This is the story of a man — I’d say he’s likely in his sixties or so since he has grandchildren and thinks at one point that he’d like to help the person he’s talking to realize he is not a fragile old man — stops at the beach and sees a buggy facing the sea, and the sea is on its way up, threatening to take it. Through the first bit of the story, he goes back into his past and thinks of other times a buggy played a central role in one of life’s episodes: his own children, his brother, etc. But the prevailing feeling, for me, was one of a man who feels his life passed away without him ever really living. The story takes an interesting turn in the last few paragraphs that underlined that theme for me, in a rather sad way.

I didn’t love this story, but neither did I feel any moment of dislike or distaste. I am curious how others will respond, and I look forward to seeing any comments below!

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