I read this story three times and I still don't understand it any more than I did after the first time. The guest editor for this volume, Raymond Carver, admits in his introduction to the volume that this is perhaps the most experimental story in the whole book. He got that right.
The entire story is a conversation between two unnamed people. We know nothing about these people except what they reveal through their dialogue. One person is labeled "Q" because he or she seems to be asking most of the questions, which are being answered by the other person (labeled "A," not surprisingly). The "story," if one can call it that, begins with A relating an odd dream he had. Then Q asks him what he likes to do in the evenings or on weekends, and A replies with a somewhat mundane list which he finishes with "adultery." Huh?
Yes, A is a pretty much unapologetic adulterer, going so far as to say he doesn't really care for the Seventh Commandment (surprise, the one forbidding adultery) and that he thinks maybe it was mistranslated or something. Q asks if his wife knows about the adultery:
Q - Have you told your wife?
A - Yes, Grete knows.
Q - How'd she take it?
A - Well, she liked the Seventh Commandment.
The title of the story comes from A's answer to a question about who he commits adultery with. Maybe his neighbor's wife Rachel? No, A says, not her -- they have a strictly neighborly relationship. He jumps off her car when the battery's dead, she gives him basil from her garden, etc. There's another name that weaves in and out of the narrative -- Althea -- and it's clear that this is probably A's main squeeze, but we never hear from her or learn much about her or her relationship with A.
I really didn't know what to make of this story. Once I got past the weird conversational format, I still couldn't make head or tail of what was going on in the story. I have not read any other Barthelme that I know of, and I am reluctant to make any decisions about his stuff from one unfortunate story. But this one sure did stink. It makes me pretty apprehensive about what else may stink in the 1986 volume. We'll see!