The baker went batty! You just might be thinking this as you first read Raymond Carver s A Small, Good Thing. Carver s baker undergoes a dynamic change in his life. He is indifferent to other people leading to a lack of empathy and communication skills. He makes numerous strange phone calls not realizing the terrible effect it has on a couple experiencing the lost of a child or himself. They confront him which forces him to open up. After learning of their loss, he immediately connects with them. He knows what loneliness and childlessness is like. His sympathy towards their loss is heartfelt. He reconciles with them and helps start the healing process by sharing in communion. The baker s life went from an indifference to others to a fellowship with others. His story is a profound voyage of change.
The baker is indifferent to other people. As a self-owner of his own bakery, you would think that the baker would be an amiable, open, happy person or at least, pretend to care when dealing with his customers. This is not the case. One customer, Ann, tries to connect with him while ordering a cake for her son Scotty s eighth birthday. He shows no interest in the pictures of her son. She notices that he is not jolly (262). His lack of pleasantries between them (262) unnerves her. She thinks because of his age he must have children (262). Maybe this is the connection they might have in common. But he was abrupt with her—not rude just abrupt (262). The baker simply didn t care. Ann had done all she could to develop a friendship with him. She wanted some type of connection with him but, his indifference would not allow it.
The baker s indifference through the years demonstrates how harmful it can be. It made him into someone who doesn t know how to act anymore (278). He demonstrates this by repeatedly calling Ann and her husband,Howard. He wants his payment for the time and money (277) to make that cake. He turns it into a game, calling day and night. While Scotty lies on a hospital bed fighting and ultimately losing the fight for his life, the baker calls and says, Have you forgotten about Scotty? (271). Howard thinks it might be the driver of the car (271) who hit Scotty or a psychopath (271). Ann who had forgotten all about the cake she ordered after Scotty was injured is scared to death (272). Later after Scotty has died, the baker calls again. Ann answers the phone and the baker says, Your Scotty, I got him ready for you (275). She calls him an evil bastard and wants to kill him (275). The baker was unaware of the life and death struggled Howard, Ann and Scotty had been through but, this by know means made his actions to recover the cake money right. His unusual actions turn Ann from a loving, suffering mother into someone who s anger made her feel larger (276) than a man and wanted to kill the caller. The baker s indifference has led to dysfunctional behaviors dehumanizing him in the process. Ultimately, both parties have been hurt by the baker s indifference.
Ann and Howard are devastated by Scotty s death. They return home to face a childless emptiness. The baker calls them again. Ann figures out that the ominous caller is the baker. They both go over to the bakery and confront the baker. Initially, he tries to brush them off by saying, I m busy now. I have work to do (276). For the baker who never has communicated effectively with others, the less said the better. Ann persists though, finally telling the baker of her son s death and then breaking down and crying. Once he hears this, the baker feels deep remorse for losing his humanity through his long solitary life. He says:
God alone knows how sorry I am….I m sorry for your son,
and sorry for my part in this….years ago, I was a different
kind of human being. I ve forgotten….I don t have any
children myself….Please…forgive me?
The baker sits them down and offers them nice warm sweet rolls.They all eat silently together. The baker grows more comfortable with them and begins to tell them of all the loneliness, doubt and childless years. Both parties feel a connection. Each has their own heartbreaking and crippling losses. A sense of communion is achieved as Ann and Howard forgive the baker s inhumanity. They recover trust in each other and talk on and on not wanting to leave. The baker s outlook on life has changed. He has reached a starting point with which to regain his humanity.
The baker s life of indifference was destructive to himself. He could not see that through the cloud of loneliness that obscured his insight. His phone calls hurt Ann and Howard deeply. They confronted him stimulating his long forgotten interest in humanity. He understood their pain intimately. His heartfelt sympathy was genuine. They forgave him for his indiscretions. He gave them a feeling that they were not alone in their pain. His connection with them was completed as they broke bread together forming a sense of communion. The baker had changed from a uncaring, indifferent man to a man with a deep sense of fellowship with Ann and Howard. His new outlook on life is one we could all learn from. One hopes one doesn t have to go batty to accomplish it!