“Just One More Time” Summary: John Cheever Short Story

“Just One More Time” is a short story by John Cheever about an upper-class family trying to maintain their position despite a downturn in their financial fortunes. Here’s a summary of “Just One More Time”.

“Just One More Time” Summary

Alfreda and Bob Beers are what the narrator refers to as “shoestring aristocrats of the upper East Side”, relics of a former time who’ve lost their money but still manage to live fairly well. They live in an apartment house Bob’s father used to own, though they can’t really afford it. Both their fathers lost several million and their memories are of upper-class life.

Alfreda is good-looking and works when they need it. She’s been at the Steuben glass store, Jensen’s, Bonwit’s, Bendel’s, Schwarz’s and Saks. She had some children who are left in the care of an old family retainer from better days.

The Beers are the type of people you continually meet at railroad stations or obligatory cocktail parties where the bonds that hold the guests together seem to be dissolving. They’re always looking for someone noteworthy or anyone they recognize who links them to their desired life.

Just One More Time John Cheever Summary
“Just One More Time” Summary

During the thirties and forties when the Beers children were old enough to go to expensive schools, they got by with some unsavory dealings, their charm and the expectation of inheritances from Aunt Margaret and Aunt Laura. Their associates like seeing them, being a reminder of good times.

In the spring, the narrator visits his boss and wife on a ship before they set out for New England. After giving them presents, he mingles on board a while and sees Alfreda. Aunt Margaret has died and they are rich again.

He wonders how long the money will last against their debts and foolish spending habits. In the fall, he thinks he sees Bob working at Yankee Stadium but it’s not him. Still, this seems like where the Beers are headed.

The last time the narrator sees the Beers is in a small town in Maine. He rents a dilapidated catboat and sails to an island where the family has a picnic. On the way back, the port stay snaps, followed ten minutes later by the starboard stay. They’re being pulled out to sea by an ebb tide. They paddle with the floorboards but can’t make any headway.

Over the horizon in a bulky cabin cruiser comes the Beers. Bob throws them a line and brings them aboard. The narrator and his family are overjoyed to be rescued. They drink martinis and are invited to spend the night at the Beers’ place. After inheriting Aunt Margaret’s money, they also got Aunt Laura’s and something from Uncle Ralph. They invested it in the market and it’s tripled in value. Bob’s bought back much of what his father lost.

The ocean seems tranquil aboard this fine vessel and the narrator’s family enjoys the company of the Beers. They’re charming and always were. They also seem smart now for knowing that summertime would come again.

I hope this summary of “Just One More Time” by John Cheever was helpful.