I Like Raymond Carver

I’m doing a decent job with my short-story-a-day goal. And of course I have a list of short story collections that I plan on reading soon, but I’ve really been into my Art of the Short Story book. It features a number of authors that I’m familiar with, but that I haven’t necessarily read anything by. Raymond Carver, for example, heard of him, but couldn’t name a story he’d written. Thanks to the Art of the Short Story book, I’ve read a brief biography, two stories, and his perspective on writing. I know I’ve only read two stories, but I feel like I’ve found a new author that I adore. As a matter of fact, I’m actually headed to Amazon after this post to purchase one of his collections. I love his simplistic style, voice, and narration. That said, if you haven’t read “Cathedral” before, you gotta add it to your list.

Unfortunately, a couple of other authors received the pageturner award—meaning, I read a few paragraphs and decided to skip to the next story. Specifically Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths” and Sherwood Anderson’s “Hands.” You can’t expect me to like everything, right? Then again, maybe I didn’t give these stories a complete chance. Who knows.

Back to Raymond Carver though.

Read the short story that I will finish tonight:

“A Small, Good Thing”

Saturday afternoon she drove to the bakery in the shopping center. After looking through a loose-leaf binder with photographs of cakes taped onto the pages, she ordered chocolate, the child’s favorite. The cake she chose was decorated with a spaceship and launching pad under a sprinkling of white stars, and a planet made of red frosting at the other end. His name, SCOTTY, would be in green letters beneath the planet. The baker, who was an older man with a thick neck, listened without saying anything when she told him the child would be eight years old next Monday. The baker wore a white apron that looked like a smock. Straps cut under his arms, went around in back and then to the front again, where they were secured under his heavy waist. He wiped his hands on his apron as he listened to her. He kept his eyes down on the photographs and let her talk. He let her take her time. He’d just come to work and he’d be there all night, baking, and he was in no real hurry.

She gave the baker her name, Ann Weiss, and her telephone number. The cake would be ready on Monday morning, just out of the oven, in plenty of time for the child’s party that afternoon. The baker was not jolly. There were no pleasantries between them, just the minimum exchange of words, the necessary information. He made her feel uncomfortable, and she didn’t like that. While he was bent over the counter with the pencil in his hand, she studied his coarse features and wondered if he’d ever done anything else with his life besides be a baker. She was a mother and thirty-three years old, and it seemed to her that everyone, especially someone the baker’s age-a man old enough to be her father-must have children who’d gone through this special time of cakes and birthday parties. There must be that between them, she thought. But he was abrupt with her-not rude, just abrupt. She gave up trying to make friends with him. She looked into the back of the bakery and could see a long, heavy wooden table with aluminum pie pans stacked at one end; and beside the table a metal container filled with empty racks. There was an enormous oven. A radio was playing country-western music.

The baker finished printing the information on the special order card and closed up the binder. He looked at her and said, “Monday morning.” She thanked him and drove home.

*

On Monday morning, the birthday boy was walking to school with another boy. They were passing a bag of potato chips back and forth and the birthday boy was trying to find out what his friend intended to give him for his birthday that afternoon. Without looking, the birthday boy stepped off the curb at an intersection and was immediately knocked down by a car. He fell on his side with his head in the gutter and his legs out in the road. His eyes were closed, but his legs moved back and forth as if he were trying to climb over something. His friend dropped the potato chips and started to cry. The car had gone a hundred feet or so and stopped in the middle of the road. The man in the driver’s seat looked back over his shoulder. He waited until the boy got unsteadily to his feet. The boy wobbled a little. He looked dazed, but okay. The driver put the car into gear and drove away.

The birthday boy didn’t cry, but he didn’t have anything to say about anything either. He wouldn’t answer when his friend asked him what it felt like to be hit by a car. He walked home, and his friend went on to school. But after the birthday boy was inside his house and was telling his mother about it-she sitting beside him on the sofa, holding his hands in her lap, saying, “Scotty, honey, are you sure you feel all right, baby?” thinking she would call the doctor anyway-he suddenly lay back on the sofa, closed his eyes, and went limp When she couldn’t wake him up, she hurried to the telephone and called her husband at work. Howard told her to remain calm, remain calm, and then he called an ambulance for the child and left for the hospital himself.

Of course, the birthday party was canceled. The child was in the hospital with a mild concussion and suffering from shock. There’d been vomiting, and his lungs had taken in fluid which needed pumping out that afternoon. Now he simply seemed to be in a very deep sleep-but no coma, Dr. Francis had emphasized, no coma, when he saw the alarm in the parents’ eyes. At eleven o’clock that night, when the boy seemed to be resting comfortably enough after the many X-rays and the lab work, and it was just a matter of his waking up and coming around, Howard left the hospital. He and Ann had been at the hospital with the child since that afternoon, and he was going home for a short while to bathe and change clothes. “I’ll be back in an hour,” he said. She nodded. “It’s fine,” she said. “I’ll be right here.” He kissed her on the forehead, and they touched hands. She sat in the chair beside the bed and looked at the child. She was waiting for him to wake up and be all right. Then she could begin to relax. (Read more . . . )

Can’t wait to read whoever or whatever story is next. Happy reading, y’all.

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4 thoughts on “I Like Raymond Carver

  1. A short story a day? How awesome are you?!

    I’m still wading through Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, which is — and I’m only exaggerating slightly here — 48 million pages long.

    Like

  2. you inspire me to set a reading goal for myself. In fact, your blog inspires me and reminds me to read. Maybe I could shott for 10 pages a day. It’s so hard with two toddlers and an 11 year old I homeschool now. Sigh. I also didn’t know about the B&N podcasts. Man, I love the internet.

    Like

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