The ending has even less action than the rest of the story. The sun sets. The conversation stops. Terri says she'll get Laura some cheese and crackers, but she stays put in her chair. The bottle of gin runs dry. Nick becomes a human stethoscope.
Seriously, that's what happens. Let's take a closer look:
"I'll put out some cheese and crackers," Terri said.
But Terri just sat there. She did not get up to get anything. (141)
Maybe it's because we've been talking about dark things, like suicide, violence, and horrible accidents. Maybe it's because Mel and Terri's bickering has made us a little tense. Maybe it's because it's getting dark. Nothing really scary happens, but we still feel a little scared, scared for Mel and Terri.
We just get this feeling that Terri is sad, that this conversation has either shown or created a problem in their relationship. Sure, Terri is drunk, and her behavior isn't all that odd considering this fact. Still, something about the way Nick delivers the information leaves us with a nagging, bad feeling.
We've seen the darker side of love, and it seems that that darker side is all too present in Mel and Terri's marriage. What's next for these two, do you think?
If Carver has anything to say about it, nothing good:
The world is a menacing place for many of the people in my stories, yes. The people I've chosen to write about do feel menace, and I think that many, if not most people, feel the world is a menacing place. (Source, p. 102.)
We've been sensing this menace all along, in Terri and Mel's bickering. Plus, we've got that rather alarming story of the elderly couple, who had their whole lives turned upside down, all thanks to a careless drunk driver.
As Terri sits there, not getting the cheese and crackers, we get the sense that all this has taken some kind of toll on her. She can't even bring herself to get up and go to the kitchen.
I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone's heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark. (145)
Oh Nick. You didn't tell us you were a human stethoscope! Well, now that we have that handy bit of information, we can use these lines to help us understand the conversation that preceded them. Maybe it was just a conversation, but it was a powerful one, and intimate, too. The two couples are all sitting in a room together, sharing a deep sense of connection in their heartbeats, no matter how much they might disagree about love on the surface of things.
And no matter what we talk about when we talk about love, at the end of the day, it's all about heartbeats, isn't it?