3. His face was dark gray and his back stiff, as if he’d just had an injection of iron, and my stomach kind of fell as I felt how hard the world was going to be to me hereafter.

In this, the last sentence of the story, Sammy looks back through the window of the store at Lengel taking his place behind the register. Through the window, Lengel appears as cold and hard as metal, as inflexible physically as he was in his actions. Sammy connects the “hardness” of Lengel’s appearance with the hardness that awaits him in his future dealings with the world—there are a lot of Lengels out there, and they tend to do the hiring. In another sense, Sammy has discovered that the world can be “hard” in same way that a math problem can be hard. Sammy’s self-satisfaction has been deflated, and he has learned that he is not able to negotiate every difficulty successfully. Sammy has learned a little bit about the kind of person he is and the specific way in which the world will always be “hard” for and to him.