Showing 191 - 200 of 457 annotations in the genre "Short Story"
In the beginning of Ann Darby's lovely and enigmatic short story, "Pity My Simplicity," Dr. Peary, whose medical degree came from "The Franklin School of Eclectic Medicine and Surgery" (3), is trying to deliver Orla Hay's sixth baby, a breech presentation. The doctor is weary and perhaps under-trained, but he is vigilant. Orla's sister asks if she might take over trying to tug out the baby. When the doctor glances at the sister's hands--"Fever-breeders, he's sure, and he won't be blamed for fever"--he says no, he'll manage (4). He does manage, and when the child is "wailing a syncopated, newborn wail" the doctor is undone (5). He weeps, hoping his tears will be mistaken for sweat.
In prose that is atmospheric and evocative, Darby brings us into scene after scene as Dr. Peary's evening unfolds: the delivery, then home to his child and his wife, who tells him, only after he eats his dinner, that Alma Pine down the road "isn't 'faring' well" (8). Just as Orla and her sister expected the doctor to save the baby, both Alma Pine's husband John and Dr. Peary's wife expect him to figure out what's wrong with Alma. "And you waited to tell me?" Peary asks his wife (9).
In the final and longest scene in the story, Peary hurries to attend to Alma, a woman dying of tetanus. About to enter her room, Peary laments that he's never grown "callous to this moment," the second when he enters the lives of his patients (12). He walks in to find Alma writhing in her bed and her husband glowering nearby. "Quiet! Look what you've done," the husband accuses (12). The doctor nods, accepting guilt.
Later, he thinks, he will write in her chart words that describe her state but cannot cure. At the story's end, he gives Alma "the morphia, the one centigramme dose he always carries with him" (14). As he gives Alma this dose, he never looks at her husband, "which is fine because John Pine cannot bear to look at him" (14).
I like sound. This declaration by the peculiar protagonist, Klausner, speaks volumes about his character. He builds a device intended to transform inaudible high frequency tones into sounds that can be discerned by the human ear. His invention is a three-foot long black box resembling a small coffin that contains a complex electronic mechanism.
Klausner takes his machine outdoors to test it. At first, all he hears through the earphones connected to the contraption is a humming noise, but soon he perceives a shriek each time his neighbor cuts the stem of a rose in her garden. He decides to experiment further. Klausner strikes a large beech tree with an axe and immediately hears an unsettling noise similar to a scream. He apologizes to the tree.
Klausner telephones his personal physician and implores him to come immediately. When Dr. Scott arrives, Klausner asks him to don the earphones. The inventor smacks the tree once more with the axe. Only this time, a large branch comes crashing down smashing the sound machine to pieces and barely missing Klausner. He asks Dr. Scott what he heard, but the physician is not sure. Klausner insists that the gash in the tree trunk be sutured, but the doctor explains he cannot suture through wood. Still holding his axe, Klausner commands the physician to paint the cut with iodine and check on the tree tomorrow.
The unnamed narrator, a physician, notices a surgeon in a "seedy cafe on the edge of town." (73) He learns from the waiter that the shabby man with the "aristocratic demeanor" is "a doctor: Surgeon once" (73). The surgeon hears the narrator call for medical papers and makes his acquaintance. One night soon thereafter the narrator notices that the surgeon, sitting and drinking alone, drains the green syrup of his absinthe "so slowly and pleasurably" (74) that he must be, in fact is, an alcoholic.
The latter approaches the narrator and begins elaborating a complicated theory of time and how it is an internalized, organically controlled, locus in the brain, no different "from an ordinary brain cell" (77). As such, he, the surgeon, proposes to cut it out, imagining, grandiloquently, vast seas of gratitude washing up on his shore as he frees humanity of the "silent madness of mortality" (78). The surgeon ends with a toast to absinthe, "a drug to be taken orally, and which is useful against time, temporarily. . . . We won’t be needing it much longer, since the surgical method’s both radical and excellent. Cheers, my dear colleague!" (78-79)
It is 1905, and a young doctor just out of internship in Chicago has decided to head for the southwest to seek his fortune. He finds himself on a slow train in southern New Mexico, sitting across from a Sister of Mercy "in her black robes, skirts and sleeves, and heavy starch." When the train stops, the doctor inquires about a group of men huddled on the platform. They surround a severely ill Mexican worker, who turns out to have appendicitis. The doctor insists that only an immediate operation will save his life, but the Mexicans are violently opposed to surgery. Eventually, the doctor enlists the nun’s help to persuade them.
In the blistering heat, they carry the man to a shed where the doctor performs an appendectomy with instruments in his black bag, including morphine and chloroform. For the next 24 hours, he and the nun watch over the man, and then carry him to the nearest town on the next train. He survives, which is good because otherwise the Mexicans have threatened to kill the doctor. The nun, who throughout has been cool toward the doctor because of his use of "rough" language, proceeds on her way to Texas.
Dr. Audlin is a highly successful psychoanalyst. His patient, Lord Mountdrago, is a leading member of the House of Lords and Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the British government. Mountdrago consults Audlin because of nightly vivid and threatening dreams, all of which concern Owen Griffiths, a member of the opposition in the House of Commons. Griffiths is a small, unimpressive commoner from a constituency in Wales. As Griffiths becomes progressively more the focus of his dreams, Mountdrago cannot imagine why, since to him the man is insignificant vermin.
Audlin presses his patient if there is any reason why Griffiths might actually be hostile toward the Lord, or that he (Mountdrago) might feel guilt regarding Griffiths. Eventually Mountdrago is forced to admit that on one occasion when Griffiths made a speech proposing a change in foreign policy, Mountdrago crushed him. Using his very considerable oratorical skill, Mountdrago tore Griffiths apart and held him up to ridicule. This, in turn, ruined Griffiths' career. Mountdrago hadn't initially thought of the affair since Griffiths was beneath contempt and deserved to be crushed; as such, he had no reason to hold a grudge against Mountdrago.
The psychoanalyst suggests that the only way Mountdrago can free himself from the dreams is to apologize to Griffiths. Mountdrago angrily rejects this, but then goes out and commits suicide. In the end we learn that Owen Griffiths dies the same night, presumably by suicide.
The unnamed narrator of the story is a "dreadfully nervous" character who disputes the allegation that he might be crazy. He contends that his disposition arises from a heightening of the senses: "Above all was the sense of hearing acute" (74). The narrator provides care for a wealthy elderly man. For some inexplicable reason, the narrator becomes obsessed with the diseased eye of the old man. The narrator likens it to a vulture’s eye and is so haunted by the Evil Eye that he decides to murder the old man.
He meticulously plans the murder. After one week of preparation, the narrator charges into the old man’s bedroom after midnight and kills him using the heavy bed the victim had been sleeping in to either crush or suffocate him. Even after the murder, the victim’s heart continues beating for many minutes. The narrator carefully dismembers the body in a tub. He conceals all the pieces under the floor boards.
At four o’clock in the morning, three policemen arrive. A neighbor heard a scream and notified the police. They are here to investigate. The narrator maintains his composure and even entertains the police. After all, he has committed the perfect crime. Suddenly, he hears a repetitive noise like the ticking of a watch. At first soft, the sound grows louder and louder. No one else hears it. What is the cause of the noise--paranoia, his conscience, auditory hallucinations, a supernatural clue, or (most likely) the sound of his own pounding heart? The narrator can no longer tolerate the thumping and confesses to the murder: "I admit the deed!--tear up the planks!--here, here!--it is the beating of his hideous heart!" (78)
Boyle drives out to the cottage to visit Joady, who is dying of cancer. Dinny and Joady are two elderly brothers who live together. "In all his years Joady had never slept away from the cottage," until recently when he went to the hospital and had an operation. Boyle and Dinny speak about how, a week earlier, they had been stopped by police in a helicopter as they were driving to the hospital to visit Joady--this was the day after an IRA bombing in which five people lost their lives. When they reached the hospital, they spoke to the surgeon who told them that Joady was terminal. By this time (back at the cottage), Joady knows that he is dying. However, he follows his normal routine, apparently unchanged, while Dinny is sullen, distracted, and complaining.
The narrator, a schoolteacher substituting in a "stagnant, godforsaken little place" in the west of Ireland, meets an old woman that everyone in town calls "The Creature." She decides to visit The Creature and listens to her story, eventually becoming a regular weekly visitor at her hut.
The Creature is a widow who has two children: a daughter who lives in Canada and a married son who lives a few miles away on a farm The Creature used to own. Her husband had been killed, a victim of The Troubles two years after they were married. Thus, she had to raise the children alone.
Originally her farm was relatively prosperous, but the animals had all developed hoof-and-mouth disease and died. Nonetheless, she managed to keep body and soul together and to send the children away to school. Her son returned from the city after marrying a woman who despised The Creature. He and his wife had moved into the farm, but the young couple argued every night about money and the mother's presence, so The Creature signed the farm over to her son and moved away. That was 17 years ago; he had never visited her since.
The narrator goes to the farm, meets the son (by this time a passive and depressed middle aged man), and arranges for him to visit his mother. He does this, but the visit goes poorly. The narrator finally realizes that she has actually removed the last little glimmer of hope the old woman had; before seeing her son again, she could always hope that someday the two would be reunited, but after he visits, she realizes that he doesn't care about her and will probably never come back.
Old Chuan and his wife, the proprietors of a small tea shop, save their money to buy a folk medicine cure for their son, Young Chuan, who is dying of tuberculosis. The story opens with Old Chuan leaving their shop and going to the home of the person selling the cure, a "roll of steamed bread, from which crimson drops were dripping to the ground." The crimson drops, we soon learn, are blood from a young man recently executed, apparently for revolutionary activities.
The cure does not work and the mother of Young Chuan meets the mother of the executed revolutionary in the cemetery. Here they both behold a mysterious wreath on the revolutionary's grave, a wreath that Lu Hsun, in his introduction to this collection (which he entitled A Call to Arms), describes as one of his "innuendoes" to "those fighters who are galloping on in loneliness, so that they do not lose heart." (p. 5)
Before and after an appendectomy (done for what seem possibly questionable indications) an adolescent boy just feeling the surges of pubescence receives the appropriate attentions of a nurse. During a follow-up visit, for no clear medical reason that I can fathom, he also experiences the exhilarating good luck, for him, of a sperm test, performed by the physician's "young, good-looking nurse."