Showing 141 - 150 of 457 annotations in the genre "Short Story"
Monsieur Daron, an eighty-six-year-old-man, comes to live at the new spa in Rondelis. He believes himself to be in excellent health, as a result of "careful living." He has always had "an obsessive fear of death," and he avoids all pleasure because it may be dangerous.
In order to measure and monitor his own condition, M. Daron arranges for the doctor in charge of the springs to visit him once a week with information on the health of everyone else in the surrounding area who is over the age of eighty. When he hears that someone has died, he quickly identifies a cause that might have been avoided; the man who died of pleurisy should not have gone out in the cold, and the one who died of dysentery must have eaten the wrong food.
Eventually, though, one old man dies for no apparent reason. The doctor can report no lesion, no disease: "He died because he died, that's all." M. Daron is horrified and asks the man's age. Eighty-nine. He laughs in relief, saying, "whatever it was, it wasn't old age . . . ."
When an elderly woman dies, her husband telegraphs their six sons to come home. They are successful men between the ages of 20 and 40 who reside in different regions of Russia. The third son, a physicist, brings his 6-year-old daughter along. First, the brothers weep--slowly and silently. They experience a combination of apprehension and loneliness. Next, the siblings participate in a brief religious ceremony. As they surround their mother's coffin listening to the priest, the six men are uncomfortable and perhaps even ashamed. Finally, the brothers act cheerful--singing, telling stories, and roughhousing while preparing to go to sleep.
The third brother calms the others and then exits the bedroom. He stands over his mother's casket and passes out. His head hits the floor. His five brothers revive him and console him. Now all six men are able to fully mourn their deceased mother. They easily recall their childhood. The six brothers carry their mother's coffin and are followed by the father and granddaughter in the funeral procession. The old man is content that one day these same six sons will properly bury him too.
This tale covers several decades in the life of the protagonist, Emily Grierson. In a typically Faulknerian style, the reader is led back and forth over time by an unidentified narrator, known only as we. The viewpoint is that of generations of observers in Miss Emily's southern town who have watched and speculated about her since she was a young woman living under the thumb of a father characterized as controlling.
After father's death, Emily lives in the aging family mansion with a manservant as cook, gardener, and general handyman. A few years pass and a handsome laborer from the North arrives as part of a project crew. Emily and this man are seen to be keeping company. One day Emily appears in the apothecary and buys arsenic. The man in question is not seen again by the townspeople.
Thirty years pass and Emily does not leave her home; she ages, grows fat with long, iron-gray hair, and becomes increasingly reclusive, and eventually dies. The now elderly houseman admits the city fathers to the home and disappears, never to be seen again. As the townspeople go through the house they discover a locked door, which when broken down leads into a dusty, musty and faded room. In the bed lie the skeletal remains of a man whose clothes and toiletries (recognized by those who recall Emily purchasing them and having them inscribed with the laborer's initials) occupy the room. On the indented pillow next to the remains is a single, long, iron-gray hair.
Filomena is the wife of the miller, Malaquias. She is miserable with labor pains and has been bedridden for three days. Her childbirth is failing to progress, and death seems likely for both mother and baby. A tiny hand protrudes from Filomena's vagina signifying the stalled process of birth and the urgent need for medical assistance. The midwife in this Portuguese village is not capable of performing such a difficult delivery. The local doctor is ill. He advises Malaquias to fetch a physician from another town but the cost is too great.
The Catholic priest, Father Gusmao, makes a nocturnal procession carrying the Holy Eucharist to the miller's home. He intends to administer Communion and Last Rights to Filomena. The priest examines her and discovers that Filomena's baby is in the breech position. He has little choice but to attempt delivering the baby by himself. Although Father Gusmao read a medical manual long ago, it is primarily intuition that steers his daring act. First a foot, then the body, and finally the head of a baby boy emerge from the birth canal. Mother and child survive. All the while, the Holy Eucharist in a pyx sits on top of a chest of clothes near Filomena's bed witnessing (or perhaps guiding) the entire sequence of events.
When their young son dies from kidney failure, Stewart and Sharon Mackaney funnel their grief into a business--transporting donated organs for transplant patients. Sharon has put on weight and not cut her long hair since the death of her child, Matthew. The fortyish woman likes to read about vertebrate organs in a worn copy of Gray's Anatomy. She totes a red cooler on her trips crisscrossing the country. Inside of it is a precious organ--a kidney, liver, or pancreas.
Sharon spends lots of time in airplanes, hotels, and bars. Although they continue to share a house, she and her husband have been estranged since Matthew's death three years earlier. Stew suffers from irritable bowel syndrome and chronic flatulence that began at his son's funeral and has not improved a bit despite psychiatric treatment.
Stew and Sharon receive an award for their work as organ transporters. During a speech at the fundraising event, Sharon criticizes the audience for hoarding their kidneys. On returning home, she spends time in Matthew's bedroom and later has a variation of the recurrent nightmare that has plagued her since her son's death. Sharon dreams that her hair is gone, and she rises, unencumbered, until reaching the ozone layer where she is incinerated.
Thirteen-year-old Charles has been sick with a fever for days. The family doctor makes house calls and diagnoses the problem as scarlet fever and a cold. The boy is unconvinced and questions the physician's certainty since no diagnostic tests have been done. Charles is terrified when first his hands and then his legs change. He senses that his extremities become swollen, warm, throbbing, and twitching. Although the limbs appear normal, Charles is sure that he no longer has control of them. Recalling how the wood of petrified trees transforms into stone, he now fears that his entire body has been irrevocably replaced by a propagating mass of microbes.
The doctor dismisses the boy's fright as the result of fever and imagination. He placates Charles by giving him pills. When Charles begins choking himself, his parents restrain him in bed. Fortunately, the teenager improves dramatically. His fever disappears, and he is suddenly robust. Yet there is something odd (and a bit creepy) about Charles following his recovery.
Adolph Myers (aka Wing Biddlebaum) is an aging former schoolmaster who is noted in his Ohio town for the incessant activity of his nervous hands. For twenty years Wing has isolated himself from nearly everyone except for young George, whom he wishes to educate about life much as Socrates had shared his experience with the young men at his feet. In a moment of inspiration, the old man laid his hands upon the boy's shoulders. Suddenly he turned and hurried away, saying that he could no longer talk with his friend.
The story then moves into Wing's past to explain the events of his young days as Adolph, the school master in Pennsylvania. Myers was driven from his school and home by a bevy of men who accused him of perverted behavior towards the pupils whose shoulders he stroked and hair he touched in his effort to carry a dream into the boys' young minds. Thus ended the teacher's career and developed his lifelong attempt to still his nervous hands.
The Bacteriologist has a visitor to his laboratory, a pale stranger who arrives with a letter of introduction from a good friend of the scientist. The scientist shows his visitor the cholera bacillus under a microscope and they talk about the disease. The visitor is particularly interested in a vial containing living bacteria, and the scientist describes the power of cholera, saying what a terrible epidemic could be caused if a tube such as the one he holds were to be opened into the water supply.
The scientist's wife calls him away for a moment; when the scientist returns, the visitor is ready to leave. As soon as the visitor has gone, however, the scientist realizes the vial of bacteria is missing, that the visitor must have stolen it. He runs out in a panic, sees the visitor's cab leaving, and hails another cab to give chase. The scientist's wife, horrified by his inappropriate dress and hurry, follows in a third cab, with her husband's shoes and coat and hat.
We shift to the point of view of the visitor in his cab. He has indeed stolen the vial. He is an Anarchist who plans to release the bacteria into London's water supply. His motivation is fame: he feels he has been neglected by the world, and now he will reveal his power and importance. In the speeding cab, however, he accidentally breaks the glass vial.
He decides to become a human vector. He swallows what is left in the vial, and stops the cab, realizing that he no longer needs to flee. When the scientist catches up and confronts him, the Anarchist gleefully announces what he has done. The scientist allows him to walk away, and tells his wife that the man has ingested the stolen bacteria.
There is a twist: the vial, it turns out, did not contain cholera, but a strange new microbe the Bacteriologist had been studying, the only known effect of which is to make the skin of the animals exposed to it turn bright blue. The Bacteriologist reluctantly puts on his coat and returns home with his wife, complaining that he will now have to culture the bacillus all over again.
A screening chest X-ray reveals the presence of a cardiac myxoma in a 72-year-old dictator. His personal physician (fearing for his own life) timidly informs Mr. President about the tumor and the likelihood that it will claim the dictator's life in a matter of months. The physician lacks the training and ability to remove the tumor but recommends Dr. Gala Sampras as the surgeon most qualified to perform the procedure.
Slight problem: Sampras was one of 14 surgeons who "disappeared" in 1992 after criticizing the dictator and his regime. She was imprisoned and abused in a labor camp. Her husband and three children were also removed from society. A bargain is struck. Sampras will do the operation. After the surgery is done, she will be reunited with her family.
The dictator shows Sampras pictures of her family. Although the photos of her children appear to be recent, the picture of her husband seems to have been taken years ago. On the day of surgery, the dictator directs the doctor's attention to the courtyard where soldiers surround her daughter. Sampras realizes the dictator might not survive the operation given the complexity of the procedure and the patient's age. Before succumbing to his anesthesia-induced sleep, the dictator is told by Sampras not to worry, but her every move is closely monitored by his soldiers. The night is likely to be long and hard for the doctor and the dictator.
While riding his bicycle, Paul Rayment, a 60-year-old Australian photographer, is struck by a car. He winds up in the hospital, has a leg amputated, and returns to his quarters to contemplate his future and deal with a series of nurses sent by the hospital social worker. Paul is divorced and has no living family.
His future looks bleak, and none of the nurses is satisfactory until the appearance of Marijana, a middle-aged Croatian woman with a young daughter, a teenage son, and a husband. The narrator gradually falls in love with Marijana, but by degrees his lust sublimates into an intense devotion to helping her son Drago survive his motorcycle phase and achieve his educational and professional objectives.