Showing 1 - 10 of 16 annotations associated with Carver, Raymond
The narrator is an alcoholic who has signed himself into a "drying-out facility." He has been there before and tries to reassure his companion, J.P., that their unpleasant withdrawal symptoms will improve. J.P. likes to talk and the narrator encourages him to do so because he would rather listen to J.P.'s stories than think about his own predicament. After hearing about J.P.'s marriage--infatuation, love, children, drinking, fighting ("who knows why we do what we do?")--the narrator is able to tell his own story.
His story includes a wife with whom he was once happy but from whom he is now estranged, and a girlfriend who has received a cancer diagnosis. Each woman had brought him to the drying-out facility, at each separate occasion. "Part of me wanted help. But there was another part." The narrator's ambivalence extends to his relationship with these two women. He can't face his girlfriend's illness or her son, and he knows that if he calls his wife she will ask him "where I'm calling from" and he will have to explain.
Summary:The narrator describes his experiences as an after-hours cleaning person in the autopsy room. The macabre nature of the work carried out there during the day by the medical professionals (who appear to take it for granted) is vividly impressed on the narrator when he comes upon "a pale and shapely leg." This evokes his own memories and feelings of sexuality. He is disturbed, no longer "has the strength of ten," and can’t involve himself with his wife when he goes home.
Gravy is an unvarnished statement of gratitude. The poet is grateful to be alive "these last ten years . . . / sober, working, loving and / being loved by a good woman." Eleven years earlier, he had been told that he would die soon, if he didn’t quit drinking. He quit, met a woman, fell in love. "After that it was all gravy." When he was told that cancer was "building up inside his head," he told his friends not to weep for him. "I’m a lucky man."
A waitress is assigned a particularly obese customer. She is mesmerized by him: by his physical appearance, what he orders, how he eats, and especially by his gracious manner toward her. The consideration he shows contrasts greatly with how she is treated by her demanding, insensitive boyfriend. The encounter is of major significance to the waitress: the story is framed by the first person narrative of the story within a story, and the final comment, "My life is going to change. I feel it."
Summary:This first person short story is narrated by a waitress who is describing to her friend, Rita, her experiences with a very obese and ugly man--and its effects on her relationship with her husband. She gives a detailed description of the fat man’s appearance, of his eating, and of his particularly kind nature. Then she describes her unfulfilling relationship with Rudy which now (after the fat man) seems wrong for her.
Vitamin sales are so low that Patti is presently her own best customer. She peddles multivitamins door-to-door along with co-workers Sheila and Donna. All three women are despondent. The man who lives with Patti is the narrator of the story. He has a menial job at the hospital. Patti accuses him of not caring about anything. The narrator frequents the Off-Broadway, a club where he can drink and listen to music. He is physically attracted to Donna and takes her there on a date.
Two drunken men, Benny and Nelson, invite themselves to join the couple in their booth at the club. Nelson is an intimidating figure who has just returned from Vietnam. He is vulgar and propositions Donna. Nelson carries a "keepsake"--a human ear attached to a keychain. He removed the ear from a Vietnamese man.
After leaving the club, Donna admits she could've used the few hundred dollars that Nelson offered her in return for sexual favors. She plans on quitting her job and moving. When the narrator returns home, Patti is having a nightmare. While he searches for some aspirin, objects keep falling out of the medicine cabinet but the narrator realizes that he doesn't really care.
Two couples drink gin and discuss the meaning of love. Mel McGinnis, a 45-year-old cardiac surgeon, does most of the talking. As an example of bona fide love, Mel describes an elderly couple he treated in the hospital. They were severely injured in a motor vehicle accident and, despite great odds, managed to survive. What bothered the old man the most during his lengthy recovery was his inability to simply look at his spouse.
Mel’s wife, Terri, provides her own case of real love. She previously lived with a man named Ed who professed his affection for Terri the entire time he was beating her. After she left him for Mel, Ed attempted suicide--first by ingesting rat poison and later by shooting himself in the mouth. Terri insisted on being in the room when Ed died.
The other couple at the table, Nick (the narrator) and his wife, Laura, also think they know what true love is, but they have difficulty articulating its essence. After the gin has finally run out and the room gets dark, Nick is acutely aware of the sound of his heart and everyone else’s too.
Lloyd moves out of the house after a serious discussion with his wife, Inez. He rents a small place for himself and tries to limit his consumption of alcohol. Unfortunately, Lloyd continues to drink three or four bottles of champagne a day. About two weeks later, Inez pays him a visit. She needs to speak to him about money and other things.
That same morning, Lloyd wakes up and realizes his right ear is plugged with wax. He experiences difficulty hearing and trouble with balance. To no avail, Inez attempts to remove the ear wax with a nail file wrapped with tissue. She next instills warm baby oil in Lloyd's ear, and after awhile his hearing returns.
While Inez is still there, she comes across an open bottle of champagne that Lloyd has hidden in the bathroom. Inez decides she will return some time to have a talk with him. After she leaves, Lloyd sits on the sofa and watches television. Although it is the middle of the afternoon, he is wearing pajamas and drinking champagne straight from the bottle.
Summary:Words rushing forth in a punctuationless stream, a patient describes how his doctor gives him the bad news of advanced lung cancer, and his reaction to it. There is an almost comical aspect as the doctor struggles to be both factual and sympathetic, and the patient struggles to absorb what he is being told. The doctor asks if the patient is able to find comfort and "understanding" from religion (since, apparently, he is unable to provide them). This triggers a brief poetic flight of fancy in the patient, but then he departs in a state of dazed politeness.
The narrator recounts the interview with his physician during which he learned the bad news about his lung cancer--although the word "cancer" is never mentioned. But the interview is marked throughout by signs of imperfect communication. At several points, the physician's grave remarks are matched by diffident, sometimes humorous responses.
For example, when asked if he is a religious man or a communer with nature, the narrator responds "I said not yet but I intend to start today." The culminating account of miscommunication is near the end: "he said something else / I didn't catch and not knowing what else to do / and not wanting him to have to repeat it / and me to have to fully digest it / I just looked at him." The final line clinches the oddly blurred nature of the whole exchange: "I may even have thanked him habit being so strong."