This first story in Carver’s controversial collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is characteristic of the qualities of his short fiction at the high point of his career. The story begins with an unidentified man who has, for some unexplained reason, put all of his furniture out on his front lawn. What makes this event more than merely a yard sale is the fact that the man has arranged the furniture exactly as it was when it was in the house and has even plugged in the television and other appliances so that they work as they did inside. The only mention of the homeowner’s wife is the fact that the bed has a nightstand and reading lamp on his side of the bed and a nightstand and reading lamp on “her” side of the bed; this is Carver’s typical unstated way of suggesting that the man’s marriage has collapsed and that his wife is no longer around.
The story begins its muted dramatic turn when a young couple furnishing their first apartment stop by and begin to inspect the furniture. As the young woman tries out the bed and the young man turns on the television, their dialogue is clipped and cryptic, reminiscent of the dialogue of characters in stories by Ernest Hemingway. When the homeowner returns from a trip to the store, the dialogue continues in its understated and laconic way as the couple makes offers for some of the furnishings, and the homeowner indifferently accepts whatever they offer. The homeowner plays a record...
(The entire section is 508 words.)