Showing 1131 - 1140 of 1228 Fiction annotations

A Small, Good Thing

Carver, Raymond

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story concerns the death of a child and failures of communication. Scotty, an eight year old, is hit by a car on his birthday. His mother had ordered a birthday cake but "there were no pleasantries between" her and the baker. Scotty is hospitalized, unconscious, and the cake is forgotten. Dr. Francis reassures the anxious parents that all will be well when the boy wakes up.

The baker phones the parents’ home in the dead of night (when he does his baking) because the cake hasn’t been picked up, but they can’t figure out who he is or what he wants. At the same time the doctors and staff can’t and won’t answer their questions about why Scotty isn’t waking up. Dr. Francis comes to the hospital to check the child, looking tanned, meticulously dressed, as if he has just been out for the evening- he has a life outside of the hospital, but the parents have none. When they do run home, separately, to take a break, the baker torments them with his mysterious late-night calls. Their confusion and isolation deepen. The child dies-"a one-in-a-million circumstance."

The mother finally realizes that it is the baker who has been calling and tracks him down, enraged. She unleashes all of the anger which she had been unable to express to the doctors. The baker is stunned to learn about the child’s death; he begs forgiveness and offers them warm delicious cinnamon rolls. "Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this" and they are comforted.

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Out of Mind

Bernlef, J.

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This is the first person narrative of Maarten, a seventy-one year old man who is experiencing a rapidly progressive loss of intellectual function. It is a harrowing yet poetic account of mental deterioration, revealed in an on-going chronicle of daily life and disjointed memories. The reader experiences what Maarten experiences, not only through descriptions of what life is like, but through the sequencing of thoughts and actions.

At first Maarten is just aware of being uneasy and anxious, "this feeling of being absent while being fully conscious" and he knows, from the comments of his wife, that he must be behaving absent-mindedly. His hold on familiar certainties becomes shaky--he’s not sure of how the rooms in his house are arranged. His wife, Vera, is his anchor and he realizes that his behavior has become deeply disturbing to her, as well as incomprehensible to himself. As Maarten becomes increasingly forgetful and unable to function, Vera is alternately worried, exasperated, and profoundly understanding.

Finally, Maarten is institutionalized--his thoughts disintegrate--yet we know from his observations of "the utterly moronic community" that he still has some awareness of what is happening. Although he no longer recognizes his wife, he listens to "a woman" whisper that "the spring is almost beginning . . . ."

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Cathedral

Carver, Raymond

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This short story opens with an irritated and sometimes hostile narrator whose wife has invited a blind friend to spend the night. The narrator tells us immediately that his visitor's blindness bothers him and that he is not looking forward to having a blind man in his house. The vehemence of his prejudice is surprising. His initial anger and anxiety seem way out of proportion to the situation, as if this blind man were threatening him somehow.

Gradually, as the evening wears on, the narrator begins to relax with the blind man, though he still challenges him in all sorts of ways, such as drinking, smoking cigarettes and dope, and turning on the TV (which, of course, the blind man cannot see). A documentary about cathedrals is showing. The narrator tries to describe a cathedral in words. When that doesn't succeed, the blind man holds the narrator's hand as he draws a cathedral on a paper bag. The experience of this successful communication transforms the narrator.

As the blind man says, "Terrific. You're doing fine. Never thought anything like this could happen in your lifetime?" The narrator closes his eyes and draws blind, saying, "So we kept on with it. His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper. It was like nothing in my life up to now." The ending leaves us pondering about how much more the narrator is learning about himself and about human communication than the blind man is learning about cathedrals.

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The President

Barthelme, Donald

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The new U.S. President is tiny, strange, and apparently brilliant. Somehow the people believe that he will identify problems and find solutions. People are fainting. No one seems to know what is going on. No one thought such a tiny man could be elected President, but he won in a landslide. The society seems to believe the President can do great things; but no one seems to have any idea what those might be. Meanwhile, people keep fainting.

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Dwarf House

Beattie, Ann

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

James, a dwarf, lives in a dwarf house and has a dwarf girl-friend. His brother, MacDonald, thinks of James as a dwarf first and a person second. MacDonald is really bothered by James wanting to marry--as if marriage and sexual relations were something dwarfs shouldn't do. When MacDonald tells his mother James has other people to talk to in the dwarf house, she says, "Dwarfs, not people. He's hiding from the real world." She too does not see dwarfs as real people, and sees herself as punished by giving birth to a dwarf. Yet at the wedding itself, the bride is genuinely happy, as MacDonald recognizes to his surprise.

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The Dwarf

Bradbury, Ray

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Aimee and Ralph work at a carnival, Ralph collecting tickets at the Mirror Maze where uneven mirrors reflect distorted images. A dwarf named Mr. Bigelow comes to the maze; Ralph takes Aimee in to spy on the dwarf as he goes into a mirror room which reflects him as tall and slender. Ralph enjoys sneering at the dwarf, but Aimee feels sad and also feels very attracted to him. She investigates, learns he's a writer, wants to help him.

She decides to buy a mirror like one in the maze that reflects him as normal. Ralph, out of spite and perhaps some jealousy, replaces the enlarging mirror with one that makes people seem tiny. The dwarf "shrieking hysterically and sobbing" runs out of the maze. Aimee feels desperately sad and guilty, because Ralph would not have played that trick if he weren't irritated by her interest in Mr. Bigelow.

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The Traveler

Gilchrist, Ellen

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

An overweight, young teenager whose mother is having a nervous breakdown, and whose father doesn't know what to do, is invited to spend the summer with her cousin in Mississippi. Through telling lies about her background, she works her way into popularity on her cousin's coattails. Then a boyfriend tells her she should lose weight, and she pretends there is something wrong with her thyroid. Still, she jumps at the challenge of swimming across the lake (five miles) with him, which she accomplishes to great applause, but when she gets back, her parents are there to take her home. Back in Indiana, she tries to keep the glow of the summer dream.

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The Good Doctor

Mates, Susan Onthank

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Helen van Horne, the good doctor, has left her solitary practice as a physician in rural East Africa to become chief of the Department of Medicine at City Hospital. She is a tough, hard-as-nails woman who has given up the comforts of marriage, family, and human indiscretion for her profession. While the folks in South Bronx initially "hate" her because of her skin color, they soon learn that van Horne is a model of rectitude, dedication, and compassion. The Hispanic chief resident becomes her disciple.

Van Horne's yearning for human comfort and sexual gratification brings her into intimate contact with a lazy, irresponsible, but charming male student. Out of weakness, she tells the failing student that he will pass the rotation, but is later challenged by the chief resident, who has left her own lazy husband and dedicated herself to be "just like you." Van Horne realizes her own weakness, allows the failing grade to be recorded, then contemplates (but rejects) suicide.

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Laundry

Mates, Susan Onthank

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A physician stands in the laundry, folding her baby’s diapers, and thinks about Mr. Dantio, who died of wildly metastatic cancer. She reflects on the development of her relationship with Mr. Dantio during the time that she was pregnant. Toward the end, he developed a lung infiltrate, maybe a type of pneumonia. There was a chance that a biopsy might have helped--perhaps he had a treatable infection--but she recommended against it. Now she wonders about this decision. She wonders also about what the other physicians think of her: "you don’t really want to be a doctor anyway, you must be conflicted to have a child . . . . " She remembers seeing Mrs. Dantio in the supermarket shortly after her husband died, and crying with her. She asks herself: Will I ever be a REAL doctor, "because in moments of great stress I revert to my native tongue."

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Ambulance

Mates, Susan Onthank

Last Updated: Jan-31-1997
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A medical student at Lincoln Hospital in the south Bronx is called to the Emergency Room, where a gang war is going on. She plunges through fighting bodies in the waiting room to reach the treatment area, where she is enlisted to ride an ambulance with a critically injured and intubated patient. During the trip, the ambulance jerks, the tube comes out, and the student tries but fails to ventilate him with mouth-to-mouth respiration. At the other hospital, she is turned away from the cafeteria because her clothes are blood-soaked. The patient dies. Although she feels terrible, her friend Marie, a practical nurse, comforts her with a touch of ordinary love, a photo of her new grandchild.

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