Showing 201 - 210 of 457 annotations in the genre "Short Story"
A classic heterosexual triangle between an inordinately selfish young rake, O'Byrne (who helps his equally disgusting brother run a pornography book shop in London--thus the title of the short story) and two women: Lucy, a nurse, and Pauline, a nursing trainee. (The "Sister" used to refer to Lucy is a British term for nurse and does not mean she is a religious. See my review of John Patrick's The Hasty Heart, in this database).
O'Bryne has "the clap" (gonorrhea), yet cavalierly, even maliciously, continues his sexual relationships with both women, who do not (at the beginning of the story) know of each other's existence. When they learn of his affliction, his infidelity and his uncaring infliction of "the clap" on them, they begin to wreak a horrid revenge on him in a perversion of their surgical and nursing skills.
There are two parts to this six-page story. In the first part, an illiterate peasant woman hires a local man to write a letter to her daughter, who had married and moved to Petersburg four years earlier. The peasant woman had heard nothing from her daughter since then. She pours all her love into a few words of Christmas greeting, although the scribe adds a bunch of meaningless nonsense to fatten the letter up.
In the second part, the letter has arrived at the hydropathic medical establishment where the son-in-law works as a porter. He brings the letter to his wife, who is in their apartment caring for their three small children. Upon reading the letter, she bursts into tears and cries out, "Queen of Heaven, Holy Mother and Defender, take us away from here!"
Her husband recalls that several times she had given him letters to send to her parents, but he never bothered to do it. In the end the wife stops crying, obviously "very much frightened of him--oh, how frightened of him!"
The narrator is still grieving over the recent death of her father, D.M. He suffered from emphysema and died from a sarcoma of the intestine that metastasized to other organs. While visiting Sweden, the narrator explores the Royal Library. There she discovers the celebrated Encyclopedia of the Dead--a massive collection of thousands of volumes chronicling in detail the lives of ordinary people who have died.
She finds the biography of her father and takes notes while reading it throughout the night. Fifty years of his life in Belgrade are summarized in only 5 or 6 pages yet amazingly nothing seems to be left out. No detail is too small--the first day he ever smoked a cigarette, an episode of food poisoning, a love letter.
The text is illustrated with a picture of her father and an odd flower. Late in life, he began painting floral patterns like the one depicted in the book. According to the Encyclopedia, his interest in painting paralleled the onset and progression of his cancer. In fact, the narrator learns that the flower in the book closely resembles the appearance of the sarcoma that claimed his life.
The practice of medicine in equatorial Africa is both a challenge and an escape for Dr. Koestler. The physician from New Zealand works at a Global Aid mission in Zaire. He has toiled there a long time but is still a loner. His best friend appears to be a pet baboon named George Babbitt. The monkey drinks whiskey and smokes cigarettes. It is a clever creature with a mean streak and is generally despised by everyone except Koestler.
Two young American doctors arrive at the mission to assist Koestler. While the three physicians and the bush pilot drink whiskey and smoke marijuana, Koestler instructs the new doctors on some of the laws of jungle medicine: Use only disposable needles and then destroy them. Never transfuse a patient unless they require at least 3 units of blood (since all blood will likely be contaminated by Hepatitis B or HIV). Safe sex means no sex. Speed matters. Avoid getting involved because feelings will inevitably obstruct your work.
Although a leopard is roaming outside the confines of the mission, Koestler ventures into the darkness of the jungle to search for George Babbitt who has run off with a bottle of whiskey. In a locale teeming with life, the physician remains essentially alone--by choice.
Four soldiers with a similar wound--laryngeal damage after being shot in the throat--share a room in a German military hospital during World War I. Each of them has a tracheostomy tube, and they can only speak by covering the opening of the tube with a finger. Because every breath or laugh generates the sound of a little whistle, these men are dubbed "whistlers" and their hospital room is named after them. The injured soldiers are Pointner, Kollin, Benjamin, and an 18-year-old English prisoner of war, Harry Flint. They undergo a series of painful surgeries (without anesthesia) to dilate the narrowed and scarred air passage.
The surgeon, Dr. Quint, is a compassionate man with incredible physical strength. He holds the "whistlers" in high regard. They in turn venerate the devoted surgeon. Pointner and Kollin die. Surgery on Benjamin and Harry is successful and their tracheostomy tubes are removed. They can now breathe normally and soon discover their new voices.
While eating lunch in the hospital atrium, the retired doctor who narrates this story notices a boy in a wheelchair looking at him. The elderly physician and the youngster begin a conversation. The fourteen-year-old boy is terminally ill with cancer. The doctor quickly determines that the lad only has time left for honesty. The boy lies, however, about his name. He calls himself Thomas Fogarty but his real name is Tony. "What will you do on your last day on earth?" the moribund boy asks the narrator.
The doctor shares with Tony his own fantasy about dying. He envisions a former student who is now a great surgeon transporting him to an ancient forest. There he becomes part of the woods and keenly aware of the mystery of life. Soon his mind breaks with his body. Death is just "a painless transition."
Tony dies the next morning. He had dictated an unfinished letter to the doctor, and Tony's nurse delivers it to him. As a retired physician, the narrator has performed a valuable service by helping prepare the boy for death. As a writer, the narrator still hopes to save him. He has immortalized Tony by converting him into an enduring story.
A young art student falls off a ladder and literally lands into the arms of a middle-aged doctor. Daisy Whimple is a poor, homeless woman with multiple body piercings. She has volunteered to decorate the Gynae Ward of the hospital where she had once been a patient undergoing surgery for a complicated abortion.
Dr. Damian Becket is an obstetrician and gynecologist. He is a lapsed Catholic who is separated from his wife. Becket is interested in modern art and attracted to an art historian, Martha Sharpin. The hospital has a collection of medical antiquities in need of cataloging. Some of the pieces are treasures but others are horrible relics. Martha is in charge of organizing the collection, and Daisy is paid to assist her.
Because she has nowhere to live, Becket invites Daisy to stay at his apartment. They make love every night for one week until she leaves. While attending an art exhibit, Becket and Martha spot a sculpture of the goddess Kali. The figure is comprised of artifacts "borrowed" from the hospital's collection including prosthetic arms, antiquated instruments, and body parts. It is designed by Daisy.
The sculpture is not the only unexpected thing created by Daisy. She is pregnant by Becket. Daisy requests an abortion but he insists that she have the baby. The pregnancy is almost miraculous given the damage done to Daisy's fallopian tubes from her previous abortion. It turns out to be a difficult delivery and Becket must perform it since he is the most qualified obstetrician at the hospital. The baby is a healthy girl. The newborn child radically changes the lives of Daisy, Becket, and Martha, yet the three of them have no clue what to do next.
A medical school graduate, E. A. Talbot, fails twice his qualifying examination for a position as British Army surgeon. He leaves England and vows never to return to Europe. He lands a job working for the Dutch government as the administrator of Halak-Proot, a psychiatric hospital that houses about 100 mentally ill officers and some colonists. It is located in the jungle of Java. The institution is a magnet for madness. Patients never improve and sometimes get worse there. The soldiers are more inclined to feign psychosis than return to battle.
When his father dies, Talbot inherits property. He sells it and uses the money to transform the psychiatric hospital into a luxurious estate. Cases of dementia soon plummet. The facility no longer accepts any patients except those who are indisputably insane. Soldiers somehow discover their sanity and are refused entry. Talbot grows old in his exclusive paradise that now has room for only him, a guard, and a custodian.
Winterbourne, an American who has been living in the decorous city of Geneva, visits his aristocratic aunt in Vevey (Switzerland) and there meets a lovely American "girl," Daisy Miller, traveling with her ineffective mother and undisciplined younger brother. Daisy puzzles Winterbourne by her apparently artless combination of "audacity" and "innocence," as when she arranges that he should take her, alone, to see a castle. Later, in Rome, Daisy befriends what Winterbourne's aunt calls "third-rate Italians," in particular Mr. Giovanelli. She refuses the anxious advice of her friends in the American "colony" there, and her adventures escalate: walking alone with Giovanelli, unsupervised tête-à-têtes with him.
When Winterbourne finds Daisy lingering with Giovanelli, near midnight, in the Coliseum, he is relieved that the enormity of her behavior here allows him to place her at last, but he warns her of the "villainous miasma" of the arena nonetheless. Sure enough, Daisy sickens and dies of malaria--but a word from Giovanelli at her graveside convinces Winterbourne that he and the others wrongly condemned her all along. Daisy Miller was, after all, not "bad," but simply a "pretty American flirt."
Summary:An older woman is diagnosed as having cancer. The story is of the progression of her symptoms and the effects of her illness and eventual death on her husband and grown children. The years of silent compliance with the expectations of children and spouse begin to erode as the woman becomes sicker. The relationship between the aging couple, and the place of the ill mother in the priorities of her children clarify. The tale ends with the death, and a tiny glimpse of resolution of decades of strife and unexpressed rage between man and wife.