It’s time to look at the next story in the anthology, The Art of the Short Story. This week’s story is another by Raymond Carver. I had read A Good Small Thing in the past, but somehow this time, it got me even more. The story is a tale that begins with a humble birthday cake and the brusque baker who works nights to produce it. The cake is ordered, decorations set (Happy Birthday, Scotty!) and a pick up time is decided. All is well, right?
The story is told from Scotty’s mother’s point of view, with a few peeks from Scotty’s father. It’s the baker, who’s actions are seen, but not his view, that has a huge impact on the emotional side of the story. The baker, whose cake was not picked up on time, is calling the family to remind them about their order. With each call, received by a parent, the baker seems to get more and more upset, as if he cannot understand how the family could forget to pick up Scotty’s birthday cake. What kind of mother, what kind of father, would do that? Just forget the cake? The baker seems to be an advocate for poor Scotty, the neglected son whose birthday cakes sits at the bakery getting stale for three days.
But in three days, the mother remembers the birthday cake, and the father decides to visit the baker and lay into him for haranguing his wife about the cake.
Alas, Scotty was struck by a car on his birthday.
I am trying to study emotions in short stories as I read lately (more on that in April) with the goal of learning how to do it. How did Carver make me feel the frustration of the baker, the grief of the mother? He showed the baker with dialog over a telephone, and the mother’s reaction of fear as she took the calls. The father’s anger as he took the baker’s calls. Both parents projecting what they were feeling about their son on the hapless baker, who only wanted his sixteen dollars.