Carver has the ability to take a commonplace event and imbue it with considerable meaning. His style is characterized by tight control and calculated understatement. He allows details to move in on the reader, who, for example, is told little about Lloyd’s economic situation but who comes immediately to understand that the man is faced with economic problems. Carver achieves this end in small, subtle ways.
First the reader is told that Lloyd is buying Andre champagne, which is one of the cheaper brands. Lloyd does not have a telephone. He does not have to pay for the electricity in this small, furnished apartment on the top floor, so he leaves the television on all day and all night. The implication is that if he had to pay the electric bill, he would be more conserving. Inez tells Lloyd that she has come to talk with him about necessary things including money, but she utters the word only once and apparently does not feel pressed to pursue the matter immediately.
In contrast to Lloyd’s obvious poverty, Inez is carrying a new canvas handbag with bright flowers stitched on it, and she is dressed well. Inez is looking ahead; Lloyd is retreating from life. Carver shows that because of the separation, Lloyd does not even have a doctor to go to now. Also he has lost the car, as is evident when “he heard her start their car and drive away.”
By placing the story in Lloyd’s dank quarters, Carver heightens the contrast between Lloyd and Inez. Lloyd is still in his robe and is disheveled when Inez gets there. She is a well-groomed spot of brightness on an otherwise drab foreground. Lloyd is in the process of falling apart. Inez appears to be on the brink of finding a new life for herself.