The Projectile

Raymond Carver

for Haruki Murakami



We sipped tea. Politely musing

on possible reasons for the success

of my books in your country. Slipped

into talk of pain and humiliation

you find occurring, and recurring,

in my stories. And that element

of sheer chance. How all this translates

in terms of sales.

I looked into a corner of the room.

And for a minute I was 16 again,

careening around in the snow

in a '50 Dodge sedan with five or six

bozos. Giving the finger

to some other bozos, who yelled and pelted

our car with snowballs, gravel, old

tree branches. We spun away, shouting.

And we were gonna leave it at that.

But my window was down three inches.

Three inches. I hollered out

one last obscenity. And saw this guy

wind up to throw. From this vantage,

now, I imagine I see it coming. See it

speeding through the air while I watch,

like those soldiers in the first part

of the last century watched cannisters

of shot fly in their direction

while they stood, unable to move

for the dread fascination of it.

But I didn't see it. I'd already turned

my head to laugh with my pals.

When something slammed into the side

of my head so hard it broke my eardrum and fell

into my lap, intact. A ball of packed ice

and snow. The pain was stupendous.

And the humiliation.

It was awful when I began to weep

in front of those tough guys while they

cried, Dumb luck. Freak accident.

A chance in a million!

The guy who threw it, he had to be amazed,

and proud of himself, while he took

the shouts and back-slaps of the others.

He must have wiped his hands on his pants.

And messed around a little more

before going home to supper. He grew up

to have his share of setbacks and get lost

in his life, same as I got lost in mine.

He never gave that afternoon

another thought. And why should he?

So much else to think about always.

Why remember that stupid car sliding

down the stupid road, then turning the stupid corner

and disappearing?

We politely raise our tea cups in the room.

A room that for a minute something else entered.





from The Ohio Review (Volume 37)