The short story “We Can’t Be Good at Everything” by Emma Sloley takes place in the Wardens’ yard, at William’s birthday party. The children’s birthday serves as a backdrop to Miles’s conversation with his mother, which is about Miles’s feeling of being abandoned by her as a child. In that sense, the physical setting helps underline the theme of parenting vs. personal needs.
It is summer, as suggested by the line “shimmering summer air” (l. 54). The setting is described as joyful and festive: “the balloons have been blown up, the cakes frosted to within an inch of their lives. An inflatable bouncy castle has been erected in the corner of the yard” (l. 1-2). The vintage floral dress (l. 11) worn by Miles’s wife, Jill, also adds to the festive atmosphere.
However, there are hints that the bright, sunny atmosphere will not last. William’s balloon bursts on a tree branch with a “sound (…) like gunfire” (l. 51), and t...