Showing 151 - 160 of 457 annotations in the genre "Short Story"
Half-waking from surgical anesthesia, a woman named Mary realizes that she has had a breast removed. She immediately begins to imagine how this will affect her already troubled marriage. When she is fully awake, other women on the ward try to comfort her, each with a strategy for bearing up under suffering which Mary finds unacceptable because these strategies represent values about marriage, submissive gender roles, or religion which Mary cannot quite swallow.
Later, talking with her brusque surgeon and her family doctor, Mary learns that the mastectomy may not have been necessary, that the tumor was benign. At the end of the story, husband Matt hustles in to ask: "Well, baby, are you still going to divorce me?"
The Way We Live Now consists entirely of fragments of conversation among friends concerned about a friend with AIDS. They confer on the telephone, over coffee, in the halls of the hospital, about the patient and his illness. They speculate, prognosticate, share anxieties, trade innuendoes of guilt and blame, pool their medical knowledge, and criticize the medical establishment.
The patient never appears, and indeed, we never meet a fully-fledged character, but only hear the orchestra of voices that wryly and accurately reflect the mediated and fragmented character of modern community life. News travels among them like an electric current, carrying shock waves of fear and pain. Their pooling of medical lore results in an eclectic mix of remedies that reach from chicken soup to the patient's favorite jelly beans.
By the end, several of the characters, represented only by voices in the conversation, have had to come to terms not only with the impending loss of their friend, but with their own various and unsettling responses. The disease, clearly AIDS, is never mentioned by name.
This two-page story is a tour de force. A jaded book critic, known to us only as Anders, is standing on a long line at the bank. He engages in sarcastic, belittling repartee with the women on line ahead of him. Suddenly two ski-masked bank robbers--one with a sawed-off shotgun--appear and threaten everyone.
Anders can't keep his acid tongue quiet. He seems incapable of recognizing the real danger and instead keeps up a commentary, like a cynical uninvolved reviewer. He explodes with laughter--and is shot in the head. "Once in the brain . . . the bullet came under the mediation of brain time . . . ." "It is worth noting what Anders did not remember, given what he did remember."
The remainder of the story is a list of incidents that the victim does NOT remember, during the seconds while he is dying, followed by what he does recall. The bullet, "in the end . . . will do its work and leave the troubled skull behind, dragging its comet's tail of memory and hope and talent and love . . . . "
The middle-aged narrator is caught in the maelstrom of tending to her father, who is dying of cancer; coping with her demented mother; mediating between her parents, for whom "[S]ixty years of marriage had only heated the furious war between them"; and dealing with her own grief. This glimpse of an increasingly common family dilemma is superbly rendered.
Although it is narrated in the first-person, the narrator is never intrusive as she allows the situation to unfold through dialog and unadorned description. The mother's dementia lends the story its bizarrely humorous moments, as well as its poignancy. This little "memoir" of a complex family dynamic is written with skill, insight, and a light touch.
Gerald Wilcox is an otolaryngologist who lives with his wife and daughter in a small town in Montana in 1959. Dr. Wilcox has a weakness for women, alcohol, and, lately, morphine (with which he injects himself about once every six weeks). He enjoys writing in his journal almost every evening yet rarely reviews what he has previously written.
Although high on morphine, Dr. Wilcox repays a debt by making a house call late one night to treat a young boy with mastoiditis. On returning home, the doctor decides to bake a coffee cake for his wife at 5 o'clock in the morning while musing on what will happen to his journals after he dies.
A neurosurgeon looks forward to having a day off from work, but a promising Saturday brings only trouble. Henry Perowne is 48 years old and practices in London. Lately, he's concerned about the impending invasion of Iraq. Perowne's views on the situation have changed considerably after conversations with a patient who was tortured and imprisoned in Iraq for no apparent reason. A protest march against the looming war is held on Saturday.
On his way to play a game of squash that morning, Perowne is involved in a car accident on an otherwise deserted street. No one is injured and the two vehicles sustain only minor damage. The owner of the other car is a man in his twenties named Baxter. He is accompanied by two buddies. Perowne refuses Baxter's demand for cash to repair the car so Baxter punches the doctor. Perowne is moments away from a pummeling.
He notices that Baxter has a tremor and an inability to perform saccades. Perowne deduces that Baxter has Huntington's disease. The doctor capitalizes on the fortuitous diagnosis. He speculates that Baxter has kept the neurodegenerative disorder a secret from his sidekicks. When Perowne initiates a discussion about the illness, Baxter orders the cronies away so that he can speak privately to the doctor. The two men desert Baxter, and Perowne escapes in his car, hopeful he can still make the squash game.
This tale is a fantasy in which a mountain climber falls into a strange and isolated society of non-seeing persons--claimed to have been in existence for fifteen generations and cut off from the rest of the world by an earthquake. The interloper decides quickly that "In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."
However, incident after incident proves him wrong in a society that no longer knows the word "see" and operates perfectly effectively and happily with the other finely tuned senses. Virtually imprisoned, and relegated to serfdom, the visitor begins the acculturation process of learning to live with his own disability--vision. Eventually he falls in love and gains permission to marry if he will agree to have his eyes, which have been deemed the cause of his irrational outburst, removed. His decision and its outcome make up the climax of the story.
The Civil War antique, 104 year old "General" Sash, is the central figure. For him, "living has got to be such a habit . . . that he couldn't conceive of any other condition." This tale opens with a carefully crafted description of the absolute mutual inability of the principles--Sash and his 62 year old granddaughter, Sally Poker--to operate on the same wave length. Sally dotes on the fabricated fame of her ancient grandfather, and Sash, whose memory is essentially gone except for his recall of "beautiful guls" and his love of being on stage, lives for the moment while scarcely grasping it.
The story evolves around the later-in-life acquisition of a BS degree by Sally, and her need to have her "famous" grandfather behind her at the ceremony in his full Hollywood military attire. The anticipated day, a hot, muggy day in the south, arrives. The principles, with the addition of a 10 year old relative as wheelchair jockey, take their places for the ceremony. The final pages of the story enter--literally and figurative--into the head of the "General" as he perceives his personal "black procession."
The narrator suffers from depression and a pain in the right side beneath his ribs. Surgery will be performed at his home by Dr. Haddon and Dr. Mowbray, but the narrator worries that he might die during the operation. During an afternoon nap on the day before surgery, he dreams of death and resurrection. Chloroform is administered prior to the operation, but the narrator continues to be aware of everything taking place.
He can see into the minds of the surgeons and learns that Dr. Haddon is afraid of inadvertently cutting a vein. Almost on cue, the vein is slashed and hemorrhaging occurs. The narrator has a near-death experience associated with an extraordinary clarity of perception. He senses movement upward - beyond his body, beyond the town, and beyond the world. He believes his soul is streaming through space past the solar system and nearby constellations.
His impression of absolute serenity is eventually replaced by a sensation of loneliness. All matter becomes condensed into a single point of light, then a fuzzy glow, and finally the image of a colossal hand clenching a rod. A faint sound punctures the silence followed by a voice proclaiming, "There will be no more pain" (63). He awakens and sees the surgeon standing next to the rail of the bed. The narrator has not only survived the operation, but his pain and melancholy are vanquished.
The story begins as a young woman enters the hospital for cancer treatment. She struggles to maintain her identity despite the institutionalized depersonalization typical of the hospital environment. Later, loss of hair from her cancer treatment also threatens her identity, for her appearance is a large part of who she is. Although she is rather proud of the fact that she refuses to buy a wig, preferring scarves instead, she covers all the mirrors in her home. Finally, she learns that even her naked skull can be beautiful, and dares to walk outside bareheaded for the first time after her treatment.