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This story is very interesting. It’s set at a yard sale by what I picked up on as an elderly man, who seems to be hiding something. He distracts what I perceived as a young couple from the quality of what he’s advertising in his yard sale by persuading them to drink, dance and converse. I believe the bed is a bigger metaphor to the older man as baggage that he wants to get rid of. In the beginning, there is a descriptive section of the room, in which suggests a woman once lived with him due to Carver saying “his side. her side.” I believe that the older man was married and wife died, and he grieves by drinking. When he sees the young couple furniture shopping, he sees himself and his wife in them which prompts him to ask them to dance, to bring back memories of his wife. He only agrees to every offer they give for every item in the yard sale that they want to make sure they make memories that they can have forever, like the ones he has about his wife and her side of the bed. Consequently, I would categorize this short story as romance/fantasy fiction.
Word Count: 205
Raymond Carver’s style is especially literal and concrete in this story. There is no psychological depth, only the bare pretense of the actions and words alone. Maybe I would find a single metaphor if I combed through the story again, but I’d rather not. The bare reality of the situation is presented with all of the minutiae of such an unextraordinary series of events and conversations as might be recorded in a diary or told to a friend or acquaintance as occurs in the closing paragraph.
The setting initially seems strange and the truth of the situation eventually unravels. What initially seemed to me like two lovers lying in bed in a hotel where, strange enough, everything in the room seems to be for sale, eventually unfolds through the prose to be revealed as something like a yard sale or an outdoor market. The older man running the sale seems a bit lonely; he uncaps a previously unopened bottle of whiskey, plays some records and invites the young couple to dance, then dances with the girl himself. Of course, weeks later, the girl recounts the story to who we might assume are her group of friends, and talks about the incident in a joking/mocking manner, making fun of the man with all of his possession strewn about his yard and his crappy records.
This sort of literal style, exempting psychological exploration its characters by its nature, requires the reader to consider what little clues are given as to the explanation for the setting. What I inferred was that perhaps the man’s wife had either died or divorced him, and so he was ridding himself of everything that reminded him of her, and was enjoying himself with and maybe even feeling a sort of vicarious happiness through this younger couple. Or, he was selling everything off to start anew; in the case of divorce, he might be hurting for every dollar he can get, but I’m leaning more to the side of his wife having died.


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