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Popular Mechanics
by Raymond Carver


Early that day the weather turned and the snow was melting into dirty water. Streaks of it ran down from the little shoulder-high window that faced the backyard. Cars slushed by on the street outside, where it was getting dark. But it was getting dark on the inside too.

He was in the bedroom pushing clothes into a suitcase when she came to the door.

Iím glad youíre leaving! Iím glad youíre leaving! she said. Do you hear?

He kept on putting his things into the suitcase.

Son of a bitch! Iím so glad youíre leaving! She began to cry. You canít even look me in the face, can you?

Then she noticed the babyís picture on the bed and picked it up.

He looked at her and she wiped her eyes and stared at him before turning and going back to the living room.

Bring that back, he said.

Just get your things and get out, she said.

He did not answer. He fastened the suitcase, put on his coat, looked around the bedroom before turning off the light. Then he went out to the living room.

She stood in the doorway of the little kitchen, holding the baby.

I want the baby, he said.

Are you crazy?

No, but I want the baby. Iíll get someone to come for his things.

Youíre not touching this baby, she said. The baby had begun to cry and she uncovered the blanket from around his head.

Oh, oh, she said, looking at the baby.

He moved toward her.

For Godís sake! she said. She took a step back into the kitchen.

I want the baby.

Get out of here!

She turned and tried to hold the baby over in a corner behind the stove.

But he came up. He reached across the stove and tightened his hands on the baby.

Let go of him, he said.

Get away, get away! she cried.

The baby was red-faced and screaming. In the scuffle they knocked down a flowerpot that hung behind the stove. He crowded her into the wall then, trying to break her grip. He held onto the baby and pushed with all his weight.

Let go of him, he said.

Donít, she said. Youíre hurting the baby, she said.

Iím not hurting the baby, he said.

The kitchen window gave no light. In the near dark he worked on her fisted fingers with one hand and with the other hand he gripped the screaming baby up under an arm near the shoulder.

She felt her fingers being forced open. She felt the baby going from her.

No! she screamed just as her hands came loose.

She would have it, this baby. She grabbed for the babyís other arm. She caught the baby around the wrist and leaned back.

But he would not let go. He felt the baby slipping out of his hands and he pulled back very hard.

In this manner, the issue was decided.

[1981]

Questions:
Fact & Inference Questions:
  1. At what time of day does the story occur?
     :  How do you know?
  2. Where is the babyís picture?
  3. Is the baby a boy or a girl?
     :  How do you know?
  4. Are they hurting the baby?
     :  How do you know?
  5. What happens to the baby at the end of the story?
     :  Why do you think so?

Paraphrasing Exercise:
  1. Retell the main events of the story in your own words.

 

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