It's sometime after 1947. Jean's stepfather Bobby has just died.
Jean remembers when his mother married Bobby in 1928, when he was eight years old.
In 1930, the family moves from New York City to Paris and lives there for nine years, until the death of Jean's mother.
Jean and Bobby move back to New York City in 1939 when Jean is nineteen.
Even though he goes to art school, reads a ton, and creates lots of art, Jean is lonely.
He perks up when he sees an ad seeking an art teacher at a Montreal correspondence school.
He makes up a fake name (Jean de Daumier-Smith), and a fake age (twenty-nine), submits an application, and gets the job.
He arrives in Montreal on a Sunday in June.
On Monday he is given three students, two of whom disappoint him, and one, Sister Irma, who thrills him.
He is excited about Sister Irma and writes her an enthusiastic letter.
On Thursday, he has a vision of extreme loneliness (a.k.a. epiphany) while looking in the window of the orthopedic appliance shop.
On Friday, he gets a letter withdrawing Sister Irma from classes. In turn he writes his other students telling them to give up art, and expelling them from school. He also writes a letter to Sister Irma begging her to stay with her art. (He never sends this second letter to Sister Irma, though.)
He goes out, intending to get drunk, but instead he has coffee and soup. He then plans to go home, touch up his letter to Sister Irma, and possibly by a ticket to visit her.
That night has another intense experience (a.k.a. epiphany) in front of the appliance shop. The attack is on his nose (in a nice way), and what once looked ugly to him now looks beautiful.
Stunned, he stumbles around for some time and finally makes it back to his room.
In his diary he writes the words, "I am giving Sister Irma her freedom to follow her own destiny. Everybody is a nun." (See "What's up With the Ending for a discussion of this curious last sentence.)
He then writes letters reinstating his expelled students.
The following week the school is closed down due to the fact that it doesn't have a license. Jean goes on vacation with Bobby before returning to art school in New York City.
He never encountered sister Irma again, but does keep in touch with Bambi Kramer, one of his former students.