I used to be a proud woman." "To Build a Fire," it was called. She shouted, "Okay, Burt! What the hell, I don't see anything wrong. It was a thick envelope, but not so thick it couldn't be pushed under the door. He put the cups into coasters. "Let me get the other crates," my father said, and he reached over as if to take the hammer from Dummy's coveralls. She says, I'm beginning to understand something now. The boy loved to hunt, you see, that's part of it. "Now I can't smell anything, either," he said. But I just went on eating like I hadn't heard a thing. There was a Bauhaus exhibit that fall, and Edgar said the heck with it, let's take a day off--he was doing his research, you see--the heck with it, let's take a day off. I've seen you someplace." Tell them to mind their own business. He looks at his hand. She had stepped inside the doorway anyway. After he graduated from high school, he packed his things, left his mother's house, and went to a college back East. He was to behave exactly as if he were engaged on a very important errand, nothing more. She could put it in her kitchen and have it out there to listen to while she was fixing something to eat in the evening. She listened and listened but there was no other sound. He looked into the creel and his mouth fell open. I was high off the ground, but I wasn't afraid. It was followed, a minute later, by a pickup truck pulling what looked like a horse trailer, though with the fog it was hard to tell. I'll be careful, like I said. "Sit down now, please." The boy turned into a driveway and got off the bicycle and leaned it against the house. A green, late-model car pulled up in front of the theater and the girl, who according to witnesses looked as if she'd been waiting, went over to the car and got in, leading the authorities to suspect that the driver of the car was a friend, or at least an acquaintance. Rae said, "Tell him, Mom. You said you were, and I said I was. I knew the floor creaked, so there was no chance of slipping into the other room and looking out that window. She opened the bathroom door. Laura said. No more calls since last night. Then he went over to his car and got in. To go to the hospital, you know? He just kept staring even after I'd come even with the house and moved on down the sidewalk. "Okay, then. The last time I was up here I caught two fish about ten inches long and turned one that looked twice as big--a summer steelhead, Dad said when I told him about it. You and I started arguing about who was going to sacrifice and sit all cooped up in the back. Now." I haven't been. I don't have a clue." she said. "What about you, Jack?" "Hey, Dummy!" "I'm not afraid of him," Maxine said. A boy of nine or ten, the boy whose bicycle was missing, Hamilton supposed, sat next to the woman. I folded my arms and went on standing there, not knowing what was going to happen next. I buttered him up two slices of bread. "He has a concussion and a little skull fracture, but he's going to be all right. I mean, the accident was one thing, but it wasn't everything. He smoothed out the dollar bills on the table and stacked the nickels, dimes, and quarters in piles of one dollar each. And don't you forget it. Myers heard the cupboard door bang and heard a muffled word that sounded like a curse. It was a fine afternoon. "Right this way, Ma'am," he said. But my heart was racing. I got out my old clothes. Woof!’ ‘Who’s making that bark?’ ‘It’s coming from the park.’ ‘It’s not the monkey.’ ‘It must be the dog. At this party. Carl carried a large bag of M&M's and a bottle of cream soda, Mary sucked on an orange Popsicle. This is a nuthouse. What did Dr. Francis say? Look at him! The lamp is still on and, because I don't know what else to think about, I think about that phone being off the hook. "Whatever you want," she said. "Well?" I don't want to talk to anybody. I put my hand against the horse's neck and felt a surge of power run up my arm to the shoulder. Bring that back, he said. "Well, then, why don't we meet at Voyles for a drink? Every so often he'd reach out and swat the fog with it. I can feel it. "I'm not sleepy," I say, avoiding his eyes. I thought you had your fill by now. mrs Webster said she'd see him in the morning then, bright and early as always. They drank a lot of whiskey and when the moon came up they talked about the girl. "I'll be right here," he said. I had some of my drink. He could have been home, in Morelia, making menudo for his family on New Year's day. They took down their tents, rolled their sleeping bags, gathered their pans, pots, fish, and fishing gear, and hiked out. He didn't say anything. Helen picked through the M&M's in her hand. He did die for it." "You can't talk like that," the guard said. "What's it matter which side?" Again she turned, onto her back this time, and tried to relax. She says, Are you satisfied now? She just had to line up the right kind of babysitter. I thought it was both ours. He was a much bigger man than the rancher, and he, too, was wearing a cowboy hat. I'm saying I'll have money in the bank in two months' time. This is a life-and-death thing we're talking about here. One evening two years after, when Dad was working late and I took him his food and a jar of iced tea, I found him standing talking with Syd Glover, the millwright. "Delicately. The sky was blue, with a few white clouds in it. So, before it could even begin, his career as a drug dealer was over. She started calling me by my name. There was nothing else to say. It was a guy I knew from work whose name was George. Now I have to think about me and my situation. the girl said to him. Or else maybe a gallstone, whatever the hell that is." Donna laid her hand next to my leg. He hears piano music, and his heart moves. I'd be dehydrated, sweating from head to toe when I woke, but I'd wander out to the kitchen and could count on finding that bottle of cold water in the fridge. But the girls who worked for her were always changing. "A neurologist," she said. You better be careful what you say!" She takes some of her hair between her fingers. He wiped his hands on his apron. ==Gazebo. "Night, everybody," Carl said. She closed her eyes as the elevator began its descent. Doreen said when she saw him sitting there. My head swims. I waited as long as I could. Lately, she'd gotten into the routine of making their dinner and keeping it in the oven, warming, until his arrival home from school. But it was as if she were saying the words from another room. Carlyle's hands were shaking. A word, even. "Sometimes," I said. "Night, Jack," Jack heard Carl say very, very slowly. "Haven't you done enough damage in this house already? Why didn't you tell me this was the North Pole? "I'm asking. We'd hurt each other, but we were mainly scared. In fact, he had very nearly failed to complete The Cherry Orchard the year before. Jack put his hands under Mary's shoulders and pulled her up. But I didn't want to act impulsively and possibly discredit myself. I don't care five cents for curtains. The paper says the body will be taken to Keith & Keith Funeral Home pending arrangements. His face was funny the way it was set. I started up my car and turned on the lights. "We'll know some more in a couple of hours, after the results of a few more tests are in. The young man (his name hasn't survived, and it's likely he perished in the Great War) said he would be happy to bring up a tray. But he couldn't handle the stuff, either." I know I won't see you for a long time." The kids are at his mother's. "I want you to promise me you'll pull the plug on me, if and when it's ever necessary. He pushes his chair away from the table, takes his cigarettes and goes out to the patio with a can of beer. She knew who it was. Out of the corner of his eye, he looks across the seat to where I sit with my knees drawn up under my chin. All this without his having ever seen what the goddamned woman looked like. People might stare at his beard if they met him pushing the grocery cart in Safeway, but that's about all. The sunburst clock over the television said half past eight. But in moments his hand dropped away to the bed, and he sighed. said. He inhaled, held the smoke, and then let it go. I turned slightly and then moved my legs. "That's what happened. "The man's going off the deep end," Dad said. It was Holly had hired her. After a time he shut off the machine, opened the lid, and silently brought me the filter, alive with dust, hair, small grainy things. What do you think?" He even went so far as T to stand and scrutinize Bill's barbering license, which was up on the wall in a frame. "Well, he's the jerk. With a fire, he can dry his socks and things and warm himself. But when I dream, I dream of vitamins. He listened with his head off the pillow. Paula said. "I can't explain," I say. He threw another look at the TV and moved off to the kitchen. Sometimes he'd walk in the door and for no good reason throw his lunch pail across the living room. But he was drunk, too. "I took it off one of them gooks," Nelson said. Blood? "Dear, where is my coffee cup?" He shook it out and hung it by the collar over the doorknob. Not bothering nobody. "Man, I ain't put my lips to a reed for a month now. Then these two guys helped J.P. upstairs. he said. You know he was an excellent student, you know that about him if you know anything. One Sunday afternoon Wes went out to get a sprinkler and came back with something for me. "That kind of talk can ruin a good man's prospects." "You'd clean up," Carl said. According to this story, the woman was his wife, but none of the kids belonged to him. "We will," said Harriet. Gilbert leaned back in his chair and shook his head at Hamilton's son. "I can't help it. You can smell salt in the air. The cake would be ready on Monday morning, just out of the oven, in plenty of time for the child's party that afternoon. It was better to be feeding people. "Well, I wish it was us," Bill said. He slammed the front door. Then he went out to the living room. Like this? You can grant me that, can't you?" She tried to imagine her legs suspended, bathed in something gauze-like. "What do I smell?" They let her do it. She nodded again. He looked like a rat or something. Is it Roger?" But I have the feeling we're not going to weather this business. He hasn't had anything for some time. Listen, I know your heart, mister. Then I walked my girlfriend to the front door and said goodbye. There was a baby in the house, right, but this cry was too loud for a baby. "I don't know what else we can do tonight. Jesus, I'm not hungry, either. Fine, he says, and he puffs. With my folks. Hello! She seemed to think things over for a bit. After Eileen had left for California, Carlyle had spent every waking minute for the first month with his children. They smoked and used the ashtray. He took the suitcase from my wife and went over to his pickup and put the suitcase into the cab. The bakery windows were dark, but when they looked through the glass they could see a light in the back room and, now and then, a big man in an apron moving in and out of the white, even light. You have a wrong number. I had said all that was on my mind. "When I get settled--and this is my last move, so help me--I hope you'll come and visit," my mother says. I unslung the creel so I could raise the lid and get set to march into the house, grinning. "My God," Ann said. "That's right," Carl said. I move to straighten his tie, then drop my hand. "I have to go pretty soon anyway," Carol said. "He just back from Nam today. He watched her lower a flower into the vase, doing it ever so carefully. Do you hear me?" It's going to be a big day today, and I'd like to be ready for it. Myers." "Hey, Dummy, where's your pole, Dummy?" Now and then a car slowed and people stared. Now it's the end of June. I've seen babies. He entered the downtown area of Moscow, where he stayed for a month waiting for Kutuzov, who never showed his face again. J.P. clears his throat. But I'm deeply sorry. Thanks for talking to that woman." I think I could put my finger on the exact time, the real turning point, when it came undone for Molly. "Did you see in the paper where that guy took a shotgun into an intensive care unit and made the nurses take his father off the life-support machine? You won't fall. When she leaves the motel, she'll leave at sunrise and should, if God is looking out for her, be in California that afternoon. The children fell asleep on the carpet. And it wasn't. He turned over and began rubbing her legs, then fell asleep again with his hand on her hip. "Why don't you dance?" "Make sure. I pull them under the covers, raise myself up on my elbow, and use the ashtray. It was only a matter of time now. I said, I have to do it for Wes's sake. It let go of Fran's hair and stood up on her lap. Jack ran the water and took off his shoes and clothes. But if that is true, then what? In their absence, the Millers would look after the Stones' apartment, feed Kitty, and water the plants. He opened the closet and selected a Hawaiian shirt. Nevertheless, the young man was not to become excited and run, or otherwise break his stride. "Right here." He let it swing back and forth on the chain. Then he climbed some stairs that passed through the house to a landing. "He was sixty-two last week. They drove around behind the bakery and parked. "The right ear," he said. Look! I told her the money that was supposed to come from me on the first of March and on the first of April would instead come from Billy, who owed the money to me. She shook his shoulder gently, but there was no response. He looked at the boy. She says, Right. she said. I got a weed we could smoke, if it didn't get wet on me." "I don't know what's wrong with me," she said. Anyway," she says, "something's going to happen to me someday, right? Well, as it turns out--" "Gary was choking me, Dad," Roger said. "Come on inside." There wasn't much else. He took out some tobacco and began to fill a pipe. And every few days they went to the park, or else to the library, or the zoo. Wouldn't hurt to be prepared." I've never met, or personally known, anyone who was blind. But I've never written anything to her, either. He held his glass and turned to Laura and me. Icing knuckle-deep. And the thing was, I was serious when I'd say that about Australia, even though I didn't know the first thing about Australia. It didn't take long to see that my wife wasn't in the house. Here's your hat, don't forget your hat. She kept on. I took it away from you. It's sadder for it to live that way, I think, alone but with all the others, than just to live off by itself somewhere. "You take it easy from now on. He tightened his grip on the children. If they had a phone, they'd take it off the hook. But he didn't use a cane and he didn't wear dark glasses. He had to bend over, almost get down on his knees, to get anything out of the refrigerator. You know all about Jack. She was at the stove trying to get the gas going under the pan of water. "What about Alaska, you guys?" she said to the fat thing, ignoring us. It originally appeared in the prestigious The New Yorker, was reprinted in the collection titled Cathedral, and appears once again as the title story in the best and most comprehensive collection of Carver’s stories, Where I’m Calling From. "The first lot, then I'll just go down the line." Don't worry about them. It was too hot for her when she arrived, in August, and in September it started to rain. We just sat still. We'll wait until you come back before we begin the story." But say my life depended on it. He'd changed a lot, Dummy had. I know this is hard. Even Dr. Schwohrer knew his name: he'd read some of Chekhov's stories in a German magazine. "Where are you?" "I just said so. Richard had said, "Hey, Carlyle," as if he were still Carlyle's friend. "Sure," he said. He took a dish cloth and began to wipe up stuff" from the pan. But it takes time. She wanted to. I don't think so. He arranges the napkin. "And thanks again, you guys." It's like it goes crazy." 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