chapter  7
15 Pages

Waiting and Hoping: Raymond Carver’s “A Small, Good Thing”

In his brief meditation “Poseidon and Company” Raymond Carver ponders thought and felt time. A boy lies languidly at the ocean’s edge overhearing far off the voices of the other boys. The boy drifts into daydreaming:

Time and duration: the trickle of time in Naiad’s cave, the rhythm of time in the surf, but the difference of another time whose passage – if only for a few minutes – is felt, not known,

and during which time, as Carver implies, one is fundamentally separate from others. “ ‘There you are!’ ” The boy suddenly hears his sister’s voice, “ ‘I had to walk all this way for you! Why didn’t you come home?’ ”2

Some of the implications of this early piece reverberate in Carver’s later story “A Small, Good Thing,” where a little boy is hit by a car on his eighth birthday while walking home from school. Like Scotty, who lies in a deepening coma, the little boy in Carver’s early fragment drifts in his own time and cannot hear his sister calling.