Showing 271 - 280 of 457 annotations in the genre "Short Story"
The 58 year old plastic surgeon who narrates this story has plenty of problems. He drinks too much and his surgical skills are deteriorating. His wife Maya, a neurosurgeon young enough to be his daughter, has a miscarriage not long after her father dies from a brain tumor. The narrator is plagued by an obsession with butterflies.
He seems to have inherited his unnatural interest in these insects from both his father and grandfather. Strangely, the pursuit of butterflies has brought only tragedy to these men. Maya believes her husband's butterfly collection is a curse so she destroys it. Her action seems insufficient to liberate the narrator from the burden of his ancestors. He is convinced that his destiny was dictated by his family years ago.
Max Vigne, the most junior member of a survey group mapping the Himalayas in the 1860s, writes letters to his young wife Clara in England. She has prepared in advance of his journey a series of postdated letters which he keeps in his trunk. When these have been read, Clara sends numbered letter packets which arrive sporadically, out of sequence, if at all, over the months of the expedition. Max struggles to describe and to edit his daily experiences on the mountains which are extraordinary, often terrifying, and disorienting for him.
Separated by time, distance, and experiences, they are slowly and irrevocably estranged. Max discovers that his real scientific passion is alpine botany, and he must decide how to tell Clara that he will not be returning to England after the Survey ends. The exchange of letters ingeniously maps out the complexities between Max's love for his wife and his passion for scientific knowledge, and the wide expanse between them.
The narrator's father is in the hospital awaiting surgery that might be his last. She and her sister have been coming to the hospital regularly during his prolonged stay, and have become familiar with the cast of characters there, including an old man in a state of dementia who wanders the halls asking directions. The narrator reflects on her family, what can be spoken of and what can't, the different reactions they have to hospital regulations, crisis, impending loss.
She longs to tell her father she loves him, but is constrained by family reserve. As the family gathers at his bed before the surgery, she comes to realize some things will never be fully expressed, but must remain implicit. The unspoken is part of the loss she recognizes as she faces her father's death.
A lonely neurosurgical resident becomes involved with a comatose patient. Susan, a dying woman with an inoperable brain tumor, is the subject of a research study. Scientists are attempting to discern her thoughts with the aid of computers. The resident serendipitously stumbles onto a program that successfully translates the electrical activity of Susan's brain into speech. He labels the computer program a failure (but saves a copy for himself) so that others are unable to eavesdrop on her dreams.
He spends nights listening to her thoughts and soon begins communicating with Susan, sharing his own secrets with her. When the resident learns that the research project is about to be terminated, he decides that Susan is in desperate need of human contact. He kisses her and presumably has sexual intercourse with the comatose woman. The next morning he is found asleep beside her and is dismissed from the hospital.
In a mountainous village in Spain, a man in the prime of his life has labored fifteen years constructing a museum of miniatures that no one has yet seen. Just before completing his project, the artist Gregorio has an accident and both his hands are terribly crushed by a piece of marble. There is little hope that he will ever regain complete use of his hands.
Gregorio is treated by the town's elderly physician, Dr. Xavia. The doctor narrates the story and also dreams about the contents of the mysterious museum. One day Dr. Xavia finds that the door to the museum is unlocked and has been open all along for anyone wanting to enter it. The doctor discovers that the three story building housing the museum contains a complete and perfect recreation of the village that he finds both familiar and strange.
Carlos and Geronimo make their living as beggars, traveling from one tourist stop to the next throughout northern Italy and the Austrian Alps. When Geronimo was a boy, his older brother Carlos accidentally hit him with a pea from a peashooter, causing him to lose his sight. The conscience-stricken Carlos vowed to devote his life to caring for his brother, and so for twenty years they have traveled together; Geronimo sings and plays the guitar, while Carlos handles the visual arrangements.
One day a tourist sows a seed of dissension. He drops one franc into Carlos's hat, then maliciously warns Geronimo to be careful because Carlos might cheat him out of the 20-franc coin he has just donated. Unexpectedly, this seed of suspicion thrives, with Geronimo becoming convinced of his brother's deception and greed. The heartbroken Carlos decides to go out and steal a 20-franc coin so that he can produce the money and satisfy his brother. He does so, and even though the theft is subsequently discovered, the story ends happily, since Geronimo now realizes how much Carlos loves him.
A woman lies in her bed, dying of cancer. Several family members have gathered in the room around her, including her son Bruno. From the age of 11 Bruno had wanted to be an artist, but had become a doctor instead because it was easier to make a living. "And medicine at one point--when he was nineteen or twenty--had seemed more humane than the humanities, more artful than art." Yet four years earlier, Bruno gave up his medical practice in Rome to devote his life to painting. But now he is back to medicine, helping to coordinate the efforts of his mother's physicians.
The dying woman sips an opium solution to ease her pain. She teases Bruno about the many times she had embarrassed him as a child, by acting funny or assertive or eccentric, behaving very differently from the other children's mothers. She would always make people laugh. Likewise, she was never confused about what she wanted. Even now, tipsy with opium, she remains in charge, a rock among the gathered family members, deflecting their sadness with her good humor.
The narrator's mother, having received "all the benefits of modern medicine," was still alive after 14 months. The son, himself a doctor, finally told her that she had cancer, after which she requested that she receive no treatment, other than pain control. Thus, her son provided her with a bottle of opium solution to use as needed. However, the other doctors continued their pretense that, if only she would take the "cure," she would get better.
She died six days later, "not slowly, like a train arriving at a station, but swiftly and convulsively, like a train derailing." She was buried without the priest's blessing because she hadn't been a practicing Catholic. However, the "ceremonies" of the craftsmen creating a masonry border around her grave, and of the stonecutter carving her headstone, were "last rites" more to her liking than the priest's prayers anyway, because she had never been fond of religion.
A traveler falls ill and is treated by the local physician, Doctor Trifon Ivanitch, who unexpectedly shares a personal and potentially embarrassing story with the stranger. Once the doctor was asked to make a house call by a woman who believed her daughter might be dying. On his arrival, the physician finds a beautiful 20 year old woman named Alexandra who is feverish and initially unconscious. Although fully aware how ill she is, he nonetheless promises everyone that she will survive.
He is immediately infatuated with the woman and spends days and nights at her home caring for this single patient. As Alexandra's condition worsens and she becomes convinced her death is imminent, she professes love for the doctor satisfying a basic need to experience love before she dies. Just before her death, the doctor lies about their relationship to Alexandra's mother. Later the doctor marries an "ill-tempered woman" who sleeps all day. Did he marry for love, convenience, money, or penance?
Grandma's life was fully spent. Sensing her time was ending, she climbed up three flights of stairs, took to her bed, and began to die. The other inhabitants of the great house, her children and grandchildren, cried out for her. How could her great vibrancy end? What would become of them--of the house--without her? Grandma reassures those surrounding her that "no person ever died that had a family . . . other parts of me called Uncle Bert and Leo and Tom and Douglas, and all the other names, will have to take over, each to his own" (427-428).