This first-person, limited, point of view short story tells of a short trip to the Quick-Pik store to buy a purple ball for Tallie, the niece of Mary and Ray with Biznezz, the Jack Russell dog, in the back seat of the car. Well, this is a trip, after which, nothing is the same for Ray.
Mary and Ray have been married for ten years and it has been rocky. They'd tried to have kids and when that didn't happen, Ray bought Mary a dog that she often called 'baby'. "Now they argue quite a lot." King, the author, has some great descriptions in the first paragraph comparing their arguments to a dog race. In fact, for me, the theme is captured in this, "You go past the same scenery time after time, but you don't see it." Just as too often happens, we see, think, believe, etc. the same thing again and again, missing out on the bigger or better reality. In the car, before Mary goes inside to buy the ball, they have some mean spirited back and forth exchanges. She gets onto him about his smoking and he makes fun of her weight. They obviously have house and money problems. The momentary relief from Mary's bickering is going to be hard on Ray tomorrow. I believe he'll even miss it and finally realize that he'd been taking his wife for granted.
"Everybody said she was good-looking, even his mother, who didn't like her otherwise."
"He knows she thinks he parked close to the building on purpose, to make her sidle, and maybe he did."
"Ray smokes all the way to the hospital with the windows shut and the air-conditioning on."
"Premium Harmony" was published in The New Yorker in November 2009.
Link to full text of story, "Premium Harmony," at The New Yorker.