They've been married for thirty-three years and they don't talk much. What's important to Barbara is words. On the long drive, she thinks about words, definitions, names, titles, narrations, conversations, signage.
This was an interesting story for me to read right now because I'm working on a short story about words found on the roadways. Some of the first words Barbara thinks about are gulch and gully. As if to say that their marriage is in a rut.
"Milk Bread Beer Ice" was first published in Saturday Night, then included in Shields's collection, The Orange Fish, in 1989, and finally in her Collected Stories, 2004.