Study Guide

A Small, Good Thing

by Raymond Carver

A Small, Good Thing Summary

Summary (Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Ann Weiss is not pleased with the baker from whom she orders her son Scotty’s eighth birthday cake. Though the baker is of an age to have children, and even grandchildren, he takes no interest in her son’s birthday and seems to have no time for small talk. The transaction is direct and impersonal, and Ann leaves the bakery vaguely disgruntled by the man’s coldness.

Two days later, on his birthday, Scotty and a friend are walking to school when Scotty is hit by a car and knocked to the pavement. The driver of the car stops, but drives on when Scotty gets up, shaken but apparently unharmed. Scotty returns home, lies down on the sofa, and loses consciousness. Alarmed because she cannot rouse him, Ann telephones her husband, Howard, who telephones an ambulance.

At the hospital, Howard and Ann are assured by their physician, Dr. Francis, that nothing serious seems to be wrong with Scotty. He is only in a deep sleep, not in a coma, and will soon awaken. That evening, while they await tests results, Howard goes home to bathe and change clothes. After he has reached the house, the phone rings, and the caller tells Howard that he has an unclaimed birthday cake. Impatient and confused, Howard denies any knowledge of a cake and hangs up, only to be disturbed by a second call a few minutes later. This time, the caller says nothing, then hangs up.

Back at the hospital, Howard discovers that Scotty, still unconscious, is being fed intravenously. Ann is anxious about his not waking up. Howard suggests that Ann go home for a while and tells her about the phone calls, but she refuses to leave Scotty. When Dr. Francis comes in on late-night rounds, Howard and Ann demand to know why Scotty has not yet awakened. The doctor assures them that Scotty is suffering from a hairline...

(The entire section is 736 words.)

A Small, Good Thing Summary

"A Small, Good Thing" begins on a Saturday afternoon in an unnamed American city. Ann Weiss, a young mother, drives to the shopping center...

(The entire section is 1128 words.)