Showing 101 - 110 of 457 annotations in the genre "Short Story"
This troubling narrative opens with, "They say you see your whole life pass in review the instant before you die. How would they know? If you die after the instant replay, you aren’t around to tell anyone anything" (120). The narrator, a newborn girl on her way down the garbage chute from the 10th floor of an apartment building, reflects on what might have been had she lived long enough to have experienced life.
The structure of the piece moves the reader from floors ten, nine, into the game of chance played with dice, to "The Floor of Facts." At this juncture, the newspaper account of the newborn dead in the trash is iterated in its cold truths. The narrator laments, "As grateful as I am to have my story made public you should be able to understand why I feel cheated, why the newspaper account is not enough, why I want my voice to be part of the record" (123). The narrator shifts gears and begins to explore what her life might have been had she lived beyond these few hours.
She enters a "Floor of Opinions," where her own beliefs must be voiced and for which there must be room on the "Floor of Facts." She speculates, based on the experiences of her socioeconomic--and possibly racial--situation, whether her death will serve any purpose. On the "Floor Of Wishes" she imagines things she would have likely loved, such as Christmas. From this point, the narrative, in quick and painful anecdotes, draws the reality of the powerlessness, the limitations of love, and the brutality suffered by those in the clutches of urban poverty. Then the narrator enters the garbage compactor at the bottom of the chute, inviting us all to join her "where the heart stops."
Sitting around the dinner table one evening, the Toumeville family receives news that the Marquis de Fumerol, Mrs. Toumeville’s brother, is dying. The Marquis squandered his money and reputation on a series of loose women; as a consequence, he has not seen his sister in years. Nevertheless, the Toumevilles leave immediately for his bedside in fear that the Marquis will die without having reunited with God. The Toumevilles are not so much concerned with the Marquis’ eternal life as with the possibility that the "freethinkers" and socialists will make the Marquis a hero for turning his back on the morality of the aristocracy.
The Marquis receives his nephew kindly, but when the priest enters he flies into a rage. The priest is forced to retreat. While the family is considering another plan of attack, they hear screams from the sick man’s room. A Protestant clergyman had entered and the Marquis grew so angry that he collapsed. His nephew thinks he is dead. His mother and the priest, however, act as though he is still alive. The priest administers extreme unction and Mrs. Toumeville cries out that her brother has squeezed her hand, recognizing her and accepting religion.
A doctor is riding through the desolate steppe at twilight and loses his way. He comes to a hut along the new railroad where two men, an engineer and his young assistant, are spending the night. After they all have a few drinks, the engineer marvels over the beauty of lights in the distance, while the young man says the lights remind him "of something long dead, that lived thousands of years ago." (p. 607) He sees no point in human love or accomplishment because, after all, we all have the same fate--death. This encourages the old engineer to tell a tale of his youth.
Once, when visiting his hometown on business, he had come across a childhood friend, a woman who was unhappily married. He looked forward to having a brief affair with her, but she considered him her savior. She desperately wanted him to take her away. The engineer agreed, but then callously abandoned her.
Later, he realized that "I had committed a crime as bad as murder." (p. 635) He went back and "besought Kisotchka’s forgiveness like a naughty boy and wept with her . . . " (p. 639) At the end of "Lights," the doctor rides off at sunrise toward home. All around him nature seems to be saying, "Yes, there’s no understanding anything in the world!"
Dr. Panteleon has practiced medicine for more than forty years in a town where his patients rarely became ill. One day, a girl arrives at his office requesting a gynecological examination. The doctor performs a silent and mechanical pelvic exam. The girl’s stepfather wants the physician to certify that the young woman is a virgin and able to have children. The stepfather has given her an ultimatum. She must marry either the town butcher or Dr. Panteleon. She hates the butcher and the doctor will not marry her.
The girl asks for help. The stepfather suffers from chronic constipation and hemorrhoids. Although critical of Dr. Panteleon’s treatment of his problem, the stepfather nevertheless requests additional medicated suppositories. Before embarking on a house call to meet with the lazy man and discuss the young woman’s plight, Dr. Panteleon prepares six special suppositories laced with a poison that will make constipation the least of the stepfather’s problems.
Summary:Villagers gather together in the central square for the annual lottery. There is much excitement and interest as the rituals of the event proceed. The familiar discussion of current and everyday happenings in village life is intermingled with commentary on the traditional and modern ways of holding the lottery, as well as observation of the particularities of this year’s proceedings. Finally a winning family is chosen by ballot, and from that family a winning member--Mrs. Hutchinson. Mrs. Hutchinson is then stoned by the villagers, including her family members.
Summary:In "Life Support," a mother must make a difficult decision: whether or not to consent to heart surgery without anesthesia for her critically ill newborn who is on a ventilator. Her instincts and reason contradict each other, and she isn’t sure which to believe. She wants to let the child die naturally in her arms, but this will not be allowed in this particular institution. She feels distant from her husband and from the doctors, and believes that her sudden transformation into the guardian of this child presumes far more knowledge and ability than she possesses.
A one-armed tramp, appropriately named "Mr. Shiftlet," walks up to a run-down farm where an old woman and her retarded daughter, Lucynell, are sitting on the front porch. Lucynell cannot talk. Mr. Shiftlet persuades the old woman to hire him for work around the farm and for repairing a car. She says she can feed him but not pay him. Over a period of a few weeks he repairs the car (which is what he really wants) and offers to marry Lucynell if her mother will give him some money.
After the wedding Mr. Shiftlet takes Lucynell on a honeymoon, but abandons her in a country diner the first day, claiming she’s a hitchhiker. As he drives towards Mobile, he picks up a boy and begins to lecture him about being good to his mother. The angry boy jumps out of the car, and Mr. Shiftlet prays that God will "break forth and wash the slime from this earth."
Summary:This is a story of parental love and sacrifice and of survival in a hostile world. Mendel, a poor widower who has raised a retarded son, has fought life for years. Now he is fighting death (personified as a burley bearded man named Ginzburg). Mendel’s last task is to assure safe train passage for his son, Isaac, to the boy’s eighty-three-year-old uncle in California. This Mendel accomplishes after scraping enough money together and after winning a final heroic battle with Ginzburg.
The narrator needs a break from her unnamed troubles, so, on the recommendation of a friend, travels to a Texas farm to live with a German-American family for the month of March. The Muller extended family members are hard-working folk, at times gruff and laconic, but who clearly care for and love one another. The narrator is intrigued by the servant girl, Ottilie, who although disabled, disfigured and mute, cooks and serves meals for the twenty members of the household.
Ottilie later shows the narrator a photograph from her childhood, and the narrator (and reader) is startled to find out that not only was Ottilie a normal child, but she is also the eldest daughter of the matriarch and patriarch. Many of life’s milestones are encapsulated in the month, including a wedding, a birth, a natural disaster, and finally the death of Mother Muller. The family continues to ignore Ottilie and her suffering; in the end, only the narrator reaches out to aid Ottilie in her grief.
The setting is the California coast (presumably in the Los Angeles area). The narrator recalls her one and only hospital visit to her best friend, who was dying. Why has it taken her so long to make this visit? Because she is afraid.
When she arrives, her friend is wearing a surgical mask, and so must she. They talk about inconsequential things, bantering, but then her friend says that there "is a real and present need here . . . like for someone to do it for you when you can’t do it yourself." The narrator tells her sick friend the story of a dog who "knows when to disobey."
The narrator remembers how she and her friend played a word-game to ward off earthquakes. Now, however, it is not a question of "if" but only of "when." When the narrator returns to her friend’s hospital room after taking a walk on the beach, there is a second bed there. The narrator knows it is meant for her, so that she can keep vigil. Both women take a nap, but on awakening, the narrator says, "I have to go home."