Writing Prompt: Raymond Carver’s “So Much Water Close to Home”


The town called to me in an array of voices, and yet as I drove, both hands gripped on the wheel, I felt the cold, wispy strings slipping around my wrists and ankles, trying to pull me back, away, to home.

Joanne had willed me not to go. Her voice had poured down the phone, a fury behind it that I knew she was trying to tether. I imagined her pouting and frowning, her eyes squishing into a squint, the same way they had always done when we were kids. She’d practically bellowed at me, cussing and begging – using a lot of swear words for an angelic little sister – and in the end she’d simply said,

“Don’t do it, Dean. The bastard’s finally being done away with. He doesn’t deserve reconciliation, from any of us.” Then she’d slammed down the phone.

ID-100112037 mapleleaf

Jo was born when I was eight, and she came screaming into the world, lungs heaving, filling our otherwise deadened house with shrieks and wails and hungry, midnight cries.

Our parents loved her both, doted on her, even found some connection over her for the first couple of years. But it hadn’t lasted. Jo, thankfully, had never changed. She was all guts and brains, never afraid to pick apart an argument or create her own little storms whenever she felt they were warranted.

She’d left when she was fifteen, devastating our mother in the most silent of ways, and even though she’d fallen in with a bad crowd for a while – boozing and sex, tattoos and brawls – she’d managed to pick herself up by the time she was twenty.

She’d secured a job answering phones and then worked her way up, jumping and hopping from company to company, until she’d finally landed as a HR manager in a fancy engineering firm (I could never remember exactly which one).

We were fairly close, as close as siblings can be living miles and cities apart, emailing regularly and talking on the phone and catching up for lunches if one of us was in town. We managed a weekend getaway somewhere by the water about once a year – her and Pete and me and Daniel – which she always orchestrated and organised in her own, shambolic way.

The road before me morphed and changed, growing wider and somehow browner, dustier. The huge farms that had once spread over the world here had shrunk from year to year, dividing and multiplying into smaller blocks, sporting small vineyards and orchards, holding tiny clusters of sheep and goats and the occasional horse.

Hobby farming, as Daniel called it. It’s what bored couples do when they reach sixty and realise their lives have gone fucking nowhere. Daniel and his big city New York bravado. He could never understand the comfort of the outer limits, the thrill of being able to see a horizon un-cluttered with skyscrapers or hear, as you walked home at night, the soothing call of a surging river.

Not that I’d ever gone swimming in it.

The story of what our father had done had emerged in pieces and shards over my teenage years – a random comment from Mom, an arbitrary reference about “Susan” on the news, seething “remarks” from Grandma during the divorce, before she’d finally keeled over and kicked the bucket like the old crow she was.

And yet, looking back, as I often said to Jo, how could we have not put it all together sooner?

The Prompt:

Write a piece from the point of view of any character, except Claire, in Raymond Carver’s “So Much Water Close to Home” that reflects your thoughts and attitudes about the story. 

(Image courtesy of nirots / FreeDigitalPhotos.net) 

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