I have always thought I read a lot of John O'Hara as a kid until I looked at his list of publications. I may have only read FROM THE TERRACE, or was reading it when my father pitched it out the door. This action necessitated a late night retrieval because it was a library book. And I really can't believe my father had any idea about who O'Hara was or what the book was about. Maybe the cover scared him.
At any rate, I think I mostly read O'Hara short stories He published hundreds of them. But I did read a lot of novels by three other Johns as a teen: Steinbeck, Marquand and Dos Passos. As well as Sinclair Lewis, Thomas Wolfe, Willa Cather, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen and Theodore Dreiser. No mysteries at all. I don't think I knew they existed then. My mother had a few in our one tiny bookcase, but I was more attracted to the romances there.
Anyway this story is collected in the Library of America collection of a few years ago. It is a nine-page story. O'Hara wrote both very short and very long stories. It begins with a young man (Jamie) noticing a young woman crying in the street. He recognizes her and has a immediate desire to cover her up because her deep distress is like nakedness to him. People didn't often cry in the streets.
He looks for her at a swimming party that night (this is probably set in Gibbsville- a stand in for O'Hara's own hometown in PA) Nancy has begged off coming; she was supposed to bring 12 ears of corn, someone complains. A discussion takes place over how girls mature earlier than boys. How he shouldn't fall for her since although the same age, he was too immature for Nancy. "She needs someone who can take care of her," someone says.
But he looks for her again the next day at the club swimming pool and finds her. He is very attracted to her and watches as she climbs out of the pool to see where the swimsuit sticks to her body. (I had never thought of this as a "thing" before). The dialog between them is snappy.
She has been crying because her father has been charged with misappropriation of funds and she asks him if he assumed she was crying because she was pregnant.
Again there are references as to how he is not mature enough for her. He offers to marry her and she says he isn't even finished with college. The story ends with the lines.
"I don't want to have to wait that long," he said.
"We don't have to wait, for everything," she said.
Although only nine pages, you come away from the story feeling you know a lot about these two twenty-one year olds. They come from the privileged class and I think that was the typical group O'Hara wrote about. He came from that class (father was a doctor) although he always felt like an outsider apparently because he was Irish and Catholic. There are lots of phrases in the story that date it, but the story isn't dated at all. Something very like it is in The New Yorker most weeks.