Showing 211 - 220 of 457 annotations in the genre "Short Story"
Francis (aka "Jed") tells how he went off into the Sierra mountains for a few weeks of peace in order to write a novel and accidentally left his world behind. Fragmented radio reports hint that a catastrophe is brewing; appeals to avoid panic splutter to a silent stop. A trip to the nearest gas station confirms his impression that an Ebola-like epidemic must have wiped out most of the people of America. He worries about friends and family, but he worries too about himself and decides to stay put with his large cache of food.
Soon, wiry Sarai storms out of the wilderness demanding help. She has lost her hiking companion and refuses to believe in the full extent of the horror. They return to a city trying to build a life, but they dislike each other too much. They and other scattered survivors dwell in whatever house and drive whatever vehicle they choose; they avoid rotting corpses and each other, furtively taking what they need from shops and leaving the aisles undisturbed. Francis finds a compatible companion in Felicia and they engage in a polite, easy courtship. Their peace is disturbed by the rantings of Sarai, until they are saved by a survivor ex machina.
A surgeon attending a medical meeting becomes bored and hires a prostitute. When he awakens next to her in bed the following morning, he first observes, then palpates a suspicious lump in the right breast of the sleeping woman. Although he informs her of the abnormality and the need for further evaluation and treatment, the surgeon cannot bring himself to divulge the possibility (or even likelihood) that the breast lump is malignant.
It is the prostitute who acknowledges (and eventually proclaims) that the lump might be cancer. She realizes that breast cancer might prove fatal to her livelihood as well as her life. The surgeon appears less upset by the diagnosis and potential suffering associated with it than the realization that both he and the tumor were rivals, "each feeding on her flesh" in a competition to consume the woman.
He pays the prostitute one hundred dollars for her services and cannot wait to exit the room. She offers him ten dollars for his consultation, but the surgeon refuses the fee with the excuse that he doesn't make house calls.
Harry is a writer on safari in Africa with his wife, Helen. They are temporarily stranded when their truck breaks down from a burned-out bearing. While photographing a herd of waterbuck, Harry's knee is scratched by a thorn. Gangrene develops in his right leg. Harry attributes the problem to his failure to apply iodine to the wound.
The rotting leg has an awful stench but Harry denies any pain or horror. He is just angry and extremely fatigued. He resents his wife (and maybe even her wealth) and is verbally cruel to her. While he rests, she shoots a ram. Harry reminisces about the people and places in his past. He has multiple flashbacks and contemplates all the writing he had one day hoped to do about the many experiences he has accumulated in his life but realizes nothing more will be accomplished. He senses the heavy presence of death.
When a rescue plane finally arrives, Harry is transported over the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa. But wait. It seems Harry was only dreaming. There is no rescue plane yet. Helen discovers that her husband has died in his sleep. Outside their tent, a hyena makes a strange noise that resembles the sound of a human being crying.
The narrator of this story, a wounded American soldier, is recuperating from his injury in Milan, Italy. He receives treatments delivered by machines each afternoon at the hospital. His doctor seems overly optimistic. "You are a fortunate young man," he tells the narrator, promising the soldier that his injured knee and leg will recover well enough for him to play football again.
The physician's prognosis for another patient, an Italian major receiving treatment for a shriveled hand, is also dubious. The officer was once a renowned fencer and is now angry and bitter. His invalid condition and the recent death of his young wife from pneumonia have sapped his will. He professes no faith in the machines treating his hand injury and does not believe in bravery.
Injury fosters camaraderie and the narrator socializes with four other young men undergoing treatment at the hospital. The narrator admits his injury was not the result of heroic action but merely an accident. The medals he received were undeserved. Life may be a series of random events but some people have it worse than others. The only certainty in the lives of these characters is the fact that "the war was always there."
The diagnosis is delivered in the opening sentence: "a bad heart." Anton Rosicky is an immigrant to the United States from Czechoslovakia. The 65 year old man and his wife, Mary, own a farm in Nebraska. They have five sons and a daughter. Rosicky is an ordinary fellow with one remarkable quality--a genuine love for people. He is attached to his family, the land, and hard work. His physician, Doctor Ed Burleigh, writes a prescription for Rosicky and instructs him to avoid strenuous activities.
The young doctor is quite fond of Mr. and Mrs. Rosicky and speculates that tender and generous people like this couple are more interested in relishing life than getting ahead in it. Although he knows better, one day Rosicky overexerts himself raking thistles and bringing some horses into the barn. He experiences chest pain accompanied by shortness of breath. His daughter-in-law, Polly, helps him into bed and applies moist hot towels to his chest.
Unfortunately, Dr. Ed is out of town--his first vacation in seven years. Rosicky appears to recover from the episode but the following day after enjoying breakfast with his family, the chest pain recurs and he dies at home. When Dr. Ed returns from his trip, he stops at the graveyard near the farm. He realizes that the natural beauty and serenity of the landscape make a fitting final resting place for a farmer like Rosicky and a man whose life was not only rich with love but deeply fulfilling.
While on an airplane, Carson experiences abdominal pain. He is a divorced man in his fifties and a sales representative for a computer and information technology firm. He spends much of his time traveling and fancies himself "a connoisseur of cities." The increasingly severe stomach pain forces Carson to reschedule his business meeting and retreat to his hotel room.
His suffering mounts and he decides to visit the emergency department of the city hospital. Carson is evaluated by two young male doctors and later a middle-aged female physician. Despite blood tests and X-rays, his diagnosis remains murky and a surgical consultation is obtained. The surgeon suspects appendicitis. He postulates that Carson may have a retrocecal appendix and explains that in such cases the anatomical location of the organ often confounds the diagnosis.
Carson undergoes surgery. His appendix is indeed retrocecal and rupturing. He spends five days convalescing from the operation. During that time he acquires an intimate knowledge of the city from his stay at the hospital. The experience revitalizes him. Carson reasons that the world is miraculous in part because it is so simple yet still spectacular.
For three weeks the narrator has been working as a clerk in the emergency department. His good friend, Georgie, is a hospital orderly. Both men abuse drugs, and Georgie steals them from the hospital. The ER staff includes Nurse (an overweight woman who shakes) and the Family Service doctor (a physician with limited competence who is not well-liked).
At 3:30 A.M., a man named Terrence Weber arrives at the ER. He has a hunting knife stuck deep in his eye. Ironically, his other eye is artificial. Weber's wife apparently tried to blind him because he ogled the woman next door. The doctor immediately decides the situation is beyond his expertise and calls for an ophthalmologist, neurosurgeon, and anesthesiologist.
Meanwhile Georgie is prepping Weber for surgery. The drugged-up orderly, who cannot even tie his shoe at this point, somehow removes the knife by himself. Weber's vision is fine. Later on, the narrator and Georgie get lost while driving around in a pick-up truck without headlights. The truck runs over a jackrabbit on the road. Intent on making rabbit stew, Georgie cuts the animal open with the hunting knife he had earlier removed from Weber's eye. The rabbit is pregnant with eight miniature bunnies inside her.
Georgie decides to save the babies. Unfortunately the narrator forgets about the rabbits and accidentally squashes them to death. At the end of the story the two men encounter a hitchhiker who has gone AWOL from military service. Georgie promises to take him to Canada.
The narrator, Rick, is let out of rehab to live with his older brother, Philip, who is a doctor in Detroit. He will work at a mundane job in Philip's lab. The awkwardness of their encounter slowly evaporates and Rick begins to enjoy life with his family, especially his two young nephews. But he is concerned about Philip's weary appearance, so reminiscent of their father.
It emerges, quickly and to Rick's surprise, that Philip runs an abortion clinic. The clinic is subject to constant harassment by a persistent group of religious, "right-to-lifers," who taunt the doctors, the workers, the patients, and their families at home. Rick struggles to control--even avoid--his feelings; and he tries (unsuccessfully) to suppress the desire to befriend patients.
Eventually, he is reconciled to his new task through an unwelcome fixation on one patient. But angry urges to protect her and his brother well up. After weeks of pent-up rage and fear, he hides a gun, loses control, and begins shooting aggressive protestors. The murder is "nothing"; it's "just like killing babies."
At a flower sale on Count N.'s estate, the head gardener tells the story of Thomson, a doctor who lived in a certain village and who was such a good man that no one could conceive of wishing him harm. Even the bandits held him in such high esteem that they wouldn't rob him.
One day Thomson was found dead in a ravine. Even though it looked like murder--he was stabbed--the people thought he must have died in a strange accident because no one would be evil enough to kill the doctor. Later, a vagrant was caught trying to sell Thomson's snuffbox. The police found the doctor's bloody shirt under his bed.
Thus, the vagrant was put on trial for the doctor's murder. At the last minute, however, the judge acquitted him because, "I cannot admit the thought that there exists a man who would dare to murder our friend the doctor."
Dr. Andrey Yefimych Ragin has for many years been the superintendent of a town hospital. A solitary man who pursued a medical career to please his father, he feels superior to the people who live in the provincial town, none of whom engage in intellectual or aesthetic pursuits. Initially, Ragin was conscientious about his duties at the hospital, but after a while he withdrew his interest and energy. Now he sees only a minimal number of patients and leaves the rest to his assistant, Sergey Sergeyich.
Ragin has developed the philosophy that, since "dying is the normal and legitimate end of us all," there is no point in trying to cure patients or alleviate suffering. The endeavor is futile. While Ragin accurately observes deficiencies in the hospital and in the surrounding society, he does nothing to try to remedy them. Instead, he withdraws to his apartment and spends his time reading.
At one point, Ragin accidentally finds himself in Ward 6, where the lunatics are kept. One of them, Ivan Dmitrich Gromov is a well-educated paranoid man who engages Ragin in conversation. Ragin is so taken with this stimulating interchange that he begins to visit Ward 6 daily to debate with Gromov. Since the doctors never visit Ward 6, this is considered very peculiar behavior. Based on this new evidence of incompetence, the town council decides to fire Ragin from his position.
Ragin then goes on an extended tour with his one friend, Mikhail Averyanych, the postmaster. But when he returns, he behaves more strangely than ever. Finally, the new superintendent, Dr. Khobotov, tricks Ragin into visiting Ward 6, whereupon they incarcerate him as a lunatic. Shortly thereafter, Ragin has a stroke and dies.