Showing 171 - 180 of 456 annotations in the genre "Short Story"
When Ben Nowak reached the age of fifty, his primary care physician for the past fifteen years, Dr. Ellen Parrish, began performing annual digital rectal examinations on him. Ben is still embarrassed by the female physician checking his prostate gland. He finds the younger Dr. Parrish attractive and available. She divorced her husband because the man was abusive.
Dr. Parrish's office receptionist happens to be the wife of Ben's friend, Jerry, who works at a landfill and brings home cases of expired beer. Once, Jerry found a dead newborn baby in the landfill. Dr. Parrish informs Ben that his prostate has gotten larger. The tests she orders come back "inconclusive" so additional tests are done. Ben concedes that he might have prostate cancer, but rationalizes that things could be "a hundred times worse" (29).
When his second set of test results are normal, Ben grasps that it is likely a temporary reprieve; he is only fine "until the next time" (34). He drives to the site of an illegal dump. The trunk of his car contains ten cases of expired beer (courtesy of Jerry). At the dump, he proceeds to drink one bottle of beer from each case and smashes the other twenty-three.
When a cousin is scheduled for major surgery, Richard and Joan Maple volunteer to donate blood. They have been married for nine years. During their drive to the hospital, the Maples argue about Richard's behavior at a party. The intern who performs the phlebotomy is clumsy and rough. He needs three attempts to successfully insert the needle into Richard's vein.
Richard and Joan occupy beds at right angles during the procedure and their blood is taken simultaneously. While watching the blood flow from his wife's arm, Richard experiences deep tenderness for her. An elderly man arrives and chats with the intern. Because Richard has never donated blood before, the three others in the room (Joan, the doctor, and the old man) all expect him to faint, but Richard never does.
The Maples have lunch afterwards. When the check arrives, Richard discovers he has only one dollar in his wallet. He and Joan must both pay. That's how marriage usually works.
When a wealthy man falls victim to incapacitating attacks of vertigo, a young doctor decides that the problem and solution both reside in the patient's head. Gierke is an eccentric widower in his forties who remarries. While honeymooning in Italy with his 17-year-old bride, he collapses after looking down from the heights of a bell tower. Gierke becomes paralyzed by a fear of future attacks of vertigo and eventually stops walking.
Multiple physicians evaluate him without success. Finally a neurologist, Dr. Hugo Spitz, is consulted. He wants to try psychoanalysis but the patient has become extremely introverted. Spitz interviews all Gierke's relatives and even hires private investigators. The doctor devises a theory that Gierke murdered his first wife by pushing her off a mountain and then inherited her fortune.
Spitz reasons that Gierke's vertigo is the result of repressed feelings of fear and guilt. After confronting Gierke with the explanation, Spitz orders his patient to stand. Gierke walks without experiencing any dizziness. Immediately after the doctor exits the house, there is a loud sound and Gierke's dead body, fractured in multiple places from a fall, is found at the bottom of the staircase. Spitz deduces it was suicide.
Middle-aged Clyde Behn has been bothered by a twitching eyelid for two months. His doctor in Massachusetts diagnoses the disorder as minor and transient. While visiting his mother in the town in Pennsylvania where he grew up, Clyde seeks advice from his former eye, ear, nose, and throat specialist. Dr. Pennypacker examines Clyde but is less concerned with the twitch than a possible fungus problem of Clyde's eyelashes. The ENT specialist eventually decides the tic is the result of muscle fatigue.
While at Pennypacker's office, Clyde encounters a former girlfriend, Janet. Although both are now married, Clyde is still attracted to her and asks to see her again. Janet slips a handwritten note into Clyde's shirt pocket and then leaves. Because his eyes have been dilated by Pennypacker, Clyde is unable to read the note. Even so, he exits the doctor's office buoyed by the familiarity of his hometown and the promise of recapturing a bit of his youth.
Sid Elliott is an alcoholic Vietnam veteran who works as an Emergency Room janitor. His lover, Roxanne, is a drug addict. Their relationship deteriorates until Roxanne leaves. After trying to stop a patient from banging her head on the wall, Sid is transferred from the ER down to the morgue. When the body of Gloria Luby, a 326 pound woman, is brought in, Sid decides to try and move her himself, repectfully, rather than rolling her with the help of an orderly. She is too heavy: they fall, and Sid is trapped under her body, his knee smashed. The story ends with Sid in the hospital, after knee surgery, visited by the phantoms of Gloria Luby, his father, and Roxanne.
Margaret returns one afternoon from tennis to discover that Lewis, her husband, has committed suicide by taking an overdose of pain medication. Lewis had been bedridden from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). They had thoroughly discussed his plan to kill himself before he was unable to do so, but Margaret is surprised when it happens because she expected Lewis to leave her a message. There is none.
As Margaret prepares for her husband’s cremation, she recalls the circumstances under which he left his teaching job--not because of the ALS, but because he used to teach human evolution in his high school biology class, without giving "equal weight" to creationism.
Because this upset many of his students’ parents and local clergy, the principal several times suggested that Lewis might at least give a nod to creationism. However, Lewis, an outspoken opponent of religion, was insulted by this proposal and quit his job.
The undertaker encourages Margaret to hold a wake--to comfort her and their many friends--but she insists that Lewis wanted no wake and no service. The next day the undertaker brings her Lewis’ ashes; she goes out into the country at night and disperses them.
Nina Spiers comes home to find that her husband, Lewis, has committed suicide. Lewis, a former high-school biology teacher, had ALS, and they had discussed this possibility, but Lewis has not included Nina in his final decision and its enactment. She searches in vain for a last message from Lewis, but can find nothing. We learn that Lewis left his teaching job over the community's pressure on him to incorporate the possibility of divine creation in his teaching of evolution; profoundly rationalist and scornful of religion, he refuses and resigns.
Lewis's body is taken to the local funeral home where, inadvertently, it is embalmed, which he would not have wanted. Ed Shore, the undertaker, arranges to have the body cremated immediately and brings Nina a note found in Lewis's pajamas. Instead of a message for her, it is a piece of badly-written satirical verse about the school and the argument between creationism and science. There is nothing for Nina.
Later Ed brings Nina the ashes. Ed and Nina have a history: once, on an evening when Lewis and Kitty, Ed's saint-loving Anglican wife, were engaged in a fierce argument, Ed had kissed Nina. Now, they talk of the preservation of the body and the existence of the soul. Nina then takes Lewis's ashes and scatters them at a crossroads outside of town. At first she feels shock at what she is doing, and then pain, but we infer too that as she sheds the comfortable self-effacement of her role as Lewis's wife, Nina is perhaps coming back to life herself.
While driving away from a dangerous city in an area of north Afghanistan ravaged by war, three men must journey by foot when their car is damaged in an accident. Donk is an American combat photographer. Hassan is a young Afghan translator. Graves is a British journalist suffering from a severe case of malaria and in desperate need of medication.
They arrive at a remote village ruled by a warlord, General Ismail Mohammed. Medication is unavailable there and transportation to a larger city is not possible for at least another day. The local doctor recommends an herbal remedy for the treatment of malaria, and General Mohammed attests to its effectiveness. The medicinal grass grows only in a nearby mountain valley. Two soldiers escort Donk and Hassan to the vale. They encounter a convoy of transport vehicles that have been incinerated by a bomb blast.
When the grass is finally in sight, Donk and Hassan race towards it even as the two soldiers shout at them. Too late! Donk steps on a bomblet and the device detonates. Badly injured (and maybe even mortally wounded), Donk and Hassan lie on their backs and gaze at the sky. They are surrounded by the thick grass they hoped might save the life of their companion, Graves.
The surgeon-narrator and his team of assistants (the anesthesiologist, scrub nurse, circulating nurse, surgical resident, and medical student) perform a difficult operation during the night. The patient has an infiltrating cancer of the stomach (linitis plastica) that has eroded his aorta. Because of uncontrollable bleeding, the operation (an exploratory laparotomy with attempted repair of a malignant aorto-gastric fistula) is as doomed as the patient himself.
The surgeon soon comprehends the hopelessness of the procedure as well as the patient's terminal condition. He turns off the oxygen from the gas tank and stops the patient's blood transfusion. Minutes later, the man dies. Blood is all over everything. The doctor must now deliver the bad news to the man's family. He has the medical student tag along.
Members of the patient's family are upset and some are even out of control so he dispenses tranquilizers to them. The surgeon returns to the operating room (OR) and even now finds blood everywhere. The OR team is still working. The doctor showers and then goes back to the OR once more. The room is now dark and empty but clean. The surgeon imagines the dead man's body with a row of abdominal stitches that he likens to hieroglyphics. The unsuccessful operation and the surgeon's actions are thus both concealed and unforgettable.
Two men who are not very fond of one another and opposites in almost every way are brought together by their affection for the same woman. Isabel is the 30-year-old wife of Maurice Pervin and the longtime friend of Bertie Reid. While fighting in Flanders during World War I, Maurice is blinded and sustains a disfiguring facial scar. He also has episodes of major depression. Maurice and Isabel have become socially isolated since his injury. Although their first child died in infancy, Isabel is pregnant again and due to deliver soon.
Bertie, a bachelor and barrister, pays a visit. The three of them enjoy dinner together. Afterwards, Maurice becomes restless and leaves the house. When Bertie goes out to check on him, he finds Maurice in the barn. The blind man asks Bertie for permission to touch him. With one hand, Maurice examines Bertie's skull, face, and arm.
He then asks Bertie to touch his useless eyes and awful scar. Without warning, Maurice places his hand on top of Bertie's fingers, which still rest upon the maimed face. The experience is a revelation for both men. Maurice suddenly understands the splendor of friendship while Bertie realizes how much he fears intimacy.