So Much Water So Close to Home

by Raymond Carver

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

"So Much Water So Close to Home" is a suspenseful short story written by Raymond Carver. Married couple Stuart and Claire and sitting down to dinner, where Claire is suspicious of Stuart for several reasons. The least important of her fears, she feels he doesn't actually care for the dinner set before him but is instead only eating out of politeness. She thinks he is lying about his enjoyment of it. He appears to be chewing halfheartedly, avoiding her gaze. Stuart gets frustrated by Claire looking at him and tells her to stop staring. 

The phone rings and it is revealed that, more importantly, she fears he is lying about his recent fishing trip. During this trip, Stuart and his friends came across a dead woman's body after hiking into the woods to reach a river. They found the body before they set up their camp. Even still, they stayed in the spot where the body was. After two nights, they returned to their car and called the authorities. Since the men did not immediately alert someone or turn back, Claire fears that Stuart may have had something to do with the girl’s death.

As they discuss it, Stuart becomes defensive but gives no sufficient explanation for his actions. He simply claims he was innocent and she was dead. He keeps reiterating that “she wasn’t going anywhere,” or that the body would still be there when they left to alert the police. Claire is deeply unsettled by Stuart’s involvement. The two leave to go purchase beer from a nearby store, and Claire notices the river flowing through town, which only increases her suspicion. She asks Stuart why he and his friends needed to go fishing so far out of town, when there is "so much water, so close to him" for them to fish in. Claire recalls a girl who was murdered in her town when she was growing up. This girl—Arlene Hubly—was also thrown into a river. 

Claire becomes repulsed by her husband: she stays on her side of the bed, away from his “hairy legs.” She even sleeps on the couch the following day. Claire learns that the woman's funeral will be held nearby the following day, so she plans to attend. She leaves her son and Stuart at home early in the morning with only a note telling where she has gone. On the way there, a man follows her and tries to speak to her through her locked car. Understandably, Claire is frightened by his behavior and rattled by the events of the week. At the funeral, she learns that the woman's suspected murderer, a local boy, has been captured and is in custody. She tells the people, however, to be cautious about their judgment of the boy, because he may not be guilty or he may have had accomplices. At this point, it is clear that Claire is still very suspicious of her husband's involvement in the incident.

When she returns home, however, Stuart propositions her for sex, and she surprisingly acquiesces. This is likely because she is tired of feeling distant and separated from the man she loves, in spite of her fears. The story ends abruptly, without explaining anyone's involvement, nor resolving what will become of Stuart and Claire's marriage.

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