Authors: Alice Munro
Alice Munro grew up in Wingham, Ontario, and attended the University of Western Ontario. She has published ten collections of stories as well as a novel,
Lives of Girls and Women
. During her distinguished career she has been the recipient of many awards and prizes, including three of Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Awards and its Giller Prize; the Rea Award for the Short Story; the Lannan Literary Award; the W. H. Smith Award; and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her stories have appeared in
The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review
, and other publications, and her collections have been translated into thirteen languages. Alice Munro and her husband divide their time between Clinton, Ontario, near Lake Huron, and Comox, British Columbia.
Dance of the Happy Shades
Lives of Girls and Women
Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You
The Beggar Maid
The Moons of Jupiter
The Progress of Love
Friend of My Youth
The Love of a Good Woman
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage
A VINTAGE ORIGINAL, JANUARY 2004
Copyright © 2004 by Alice Munro
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Vintage and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
The stories in this collection were originally published as follows:
“The Moons of Jupiter” from
The Moons of Jupiter,
copyright © 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982 by Alice Munro (originally published in
The New Yorker
“The Progress of Love” from
The Progress of Love,
copyright © 1985, 1986 by Alice Munro (originally published in
The New Yorker
“Differently” originally published in
copyright © 1996, 1997 by Alice Munro.
“Carried Away” from
copyright © 1994 by Alice Munro (originally published in
The New Yorker
“Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage” originally published in
Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage,
copyright © 2001 by Alice Munro.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
[Short stories. Selections]
Vintage Munro / Alice Munro.—1st Vintage Books ed.
Contents: Moons of Jupiter—The progress of love—Differently—Carried away—Hateship, friendship, courtship, loveship, marriage.
1. Canada—Social life and customs—Fiction. I. Title.
found my father in the heart wing, on the eighth floor of Toronto General Hospital. He was in a semi-private room. The other bed was empty. He said that his hospital insurance covered only a bed in the ward, and he was worried that he might be charged extra.
“I never asked for a semi-private,” he said.
I said the wards were probably full.
“No. I saw some empty beds when they were wheeling me by.”
“Then it was because you had to be hooked up to that thing,” I said. “Don’t worry. If they’re going to charge you extra, they tell you about it.”
“That’s likely it,” he said. “They wouldn’t want those doohickeys set up in the wards. I guess I’m covered for that kind of thing.”
I said I was sure he was.
He had wires taped to his chest. A small screen hung over his head. On the screen a bright jagged line was continually being written. The writing was accompanied by a nervous electronic beeping. The behavior of his heart was on display. I tried to
ignore it. It seemed to me that paying such close attention—in fact, dramatizing what ought to be a most secret activity—was asking for trouble. Anything exposed that way was apt to flare up and go crazy.
My father did not seem to mind. He said they had him on tranquillizers. You know, he said, the happy pills. He did seem calm and optimistic.
It had been a different story the night before. When I brought him into the hospital, to the emergency room, he had been pale and closemouthed. He had opened the car door and stood up and said quietly, “Maybe you better get me one of those wheelchairs.” He used the voice he always used in a crisis. Once, our chimney caught on fire; it was on a Sunday afternoon and I was in the dining room pinning together a dress I was making. He came in and said in that same matter-of-fact, warning voice, “Janet. Do you know where there’s some baking powder?” He wanted it to throw on the fire. Afterwards he said, “I guess it was your fault—sewing on Sunday.”
I had to wait for over an hour in the emergency waiting room. They summoned a heart specialist who was in the hospital, a young man. He called me out into the hall and explained to me that one of the valves of my father’s heart had deteriorated so badly that there ought to be an immediate operation.
I asked him what would happen otherwise.
“He’d have to stay in bed,” the doctor said.
“Maybe three months.”
“I meant, how long would he live?”
“That’s what I meant, too,” the doctor said.
I went to see my father. He was sitting up in bed in a curtained-off corner. “It’s bad, isn’t it?” he said. “Did he tell you above the valve?”
“It’s not as bad as it could be,” I said. Then I repeated, even exaggerated, anything hopeful the doctor had said. “You’re not in any immediate danger. Your physical condition is good, otherwise.”
“Otherwise,” said my father, gloomily.
I was tired from the drive—all the way up to Dalgleish, to get him, and back to Toronto since noon—and worried about getting the rented car back on time, and irritated by an article I had been reading in a magazine in the waiting room. It was about another writer, a woman younger, better-looking, probably more talented than I am. I had been in England for two months and so I had not seen this article before, but it crossed my mind while I was reading that my father would have. I could hear him saying, Well, I didn’t see anything about you in
. And if he had read something about me he would say, Well, I didn’t think too much of that write-up. His tone would be humorous and indulgent but would produce in me a familiar dreariness of spirit. The message I got from him was simple: Fame must be striven for, then apologized for. Getting or not getting it, you will be to blame.
I was not surprised by the doctor’s news. I was prepared to hear something of the sort and was pleased with myself for taking it calmly, just as I would be pleased with myself for dressing a wound or looking down from the frail balcony of a high building. I thought, Yes, it’s time; there has to be something, here it is. I did not feel any of the protest I would have felt twenty, even ten, years before. When I saw from my father’s face that he felt it—that refusal leapt up in him as readily as if he had been thirty or forty years younger—my heart hardened, and I spoke with a kind of badgering cheerfulness. “Otherwise is plenty,” I said.
The next day he was himself again.
That was how I would have put it. He said it appeared to him now that the young fellow, the doctor, might have been a bit too eager to operate. “A bit knife-happy,” he said. He was both mocking and showing off the hospital slang. He said that another doctor had examined him, an older man, and had given it as his opinion that rest and medication might do the trick.
I didn’t ask what trick.
“He says I’ve got a defective valve, all right. There’s certainly some damage. They wanted to know if I had rheumatic fever when I was a kid. I said I didn’t think so. But half the time then you weren’t diagnosed what you had. My father was not one for getting the doctor.”
The thought of my father’s childhood, which I always pictured as bleak and dangerous—the poor farm, the scared sisters, the harsh father—made me less resigned to his dying. I thought of him running away to work on the lake boats, running along the railway tracks, toward Goderich, in the evening light. He used to tell about that trip. Somewhere along the track he found a quince tree. Quince trees are rare in our part of the country; in fact, I have never seen one. Not even the one my father found, though he once took us on an expedition to look for it. He thought he knew the crossroad it was near, but we could not find it. He had not been able to eat the fruit, of course, but he had been impressed by its existence. It made him think he had got into a new part of the world.
The escaped child, the survivor, an old man trapped here by his leaky heart. I didn’t pursue these thoughts. I didn’t care to think of his younger selves. Even his bare torso, thick and white—he had the body of a workingman of his generation, seldom exposed to the sun—was a danger to me; it looked so strong and young. The wrinkled neck, the age-freckled hands
and arms, the narrow, courteous head, with its thin gray hair and mustache, were more what I was used to.
“Now, why would I want to get myself operated on?” said my father reasonably. “Think of the risk at my age, and what for? A few years at the outside. I think the best thing for me to do is go home and take it easy. Give in gracefully. That’s all you can do, at my age. Your attitude changes, you know. You go through some mental changes. It seems more natural.”
“What does?” I said.
“Well, death does. You can’t get more natural than that. No, what I mean, specifically, is not having the operation.”
“That seems more natural?”
“It’s up to you,” I said, but I did approve. This was what I would have expected of him. Whenever I told people about my father I stressed his independence, his self-sufficiency, his forbearance. He worked in a factory, he worked in his garden, he read history books. He could tell you about the Roman emperors or the Balkan wars. He never made a fuss.
Judith, my younger daughter, had come to meet me at Toronto Airport two days before. She had brought the boy she was living with, whose name was Don. They were driving to Mexico in the morning, and while I was in Toronto I was to stay in their apartment. For the time being, I live in Vancouver. I sometimes say I have my headquarters in Vancouver.