Showing 311 - 320 of 456 annotations in the genre "Short Story"
Young Prince Yegorushka has managed to squander his family's limited resources and now lies in a drunken stupor. His mother (Princess Priklonsky) and sister (Marusya) reluctantly send for Dr. Toporkov, the elegant and highly successful physician whose father was once a serf on their estate. The cold, haughty, and uncommunicative Toporkov appears, gives a few orders, and rushes away. Yet, the princess views the man as a savior and exclaims: "How considerate, how nice he is!"
Marusya also falls ill, and Toporkov makes several house calls, "walking importantly, looking at no one." Old Princess Priklonsky tries to ingratiate the doctor by providing him with a hefty bonus and inviting him to tea. But rather than warming up, Toporkov lectures them "with medical terms without using a single phrase which his listeners could understand."
Some time later, a matchmaker arrives with an astounding proposal--the doctor wishes to marry Marusya for a dowry of 60,000 rubles. (The truth is he will marry anyone for that price.) The Priklonsky family immediately turns the down proposition, ostensibly because of Toporkov's peasant background, but really because they don't have 60,000 rubles to their name.
Meanwhile, as time goes on, Marusya falls in love with the doctor. As she becomes sicker with consumption, the family's financial straits become worse. Finally, with her last five rubles, Marusya seeks help from Toporkov, throwing herself at his feet and proclaiming her love. The astounded doctor experiences an epiphany. He suddenly realizes the worthlessness of all his money-grubbing in an outpouring of love for the dying woman.
Mr. Lucas, an Englishman, is growing old. He has always wanted to visit Greece and has finally achieved this, accompanied by his unmarried daughter, Ethel, who will, it has been assumed, dedicate her life to taking care of him in his old age. In Greece, Mr. Lucas becomes restless and resistant to the idea of an expected passive, peaceful death from old age. He wants to "die fighting." Something mysterious happens: he finds a great old hollow tree from which a spring of water flows. He climbs into the tree and experiences an epiphany: he suddenly sees all things as "intelligible and good."
But when the rest of his party find him, he is oddly repelled by them. He does not feel that anyone can share the revelation he has experienced, and he becomes afraid that if he leaves the place he will lose the feeling himself. He decides not to leave, and says he plans to stay at an inn near the old tree, but the others are horrified, and force him to leave with them.
Back in England, some time later, Ethel is now about to be married. Mr. Lucas has become a perpetually disgruntled old man, complaining about everything (especially the sound of water in the plumbing--the mystical Greek spring has been reduced to this annoyance--he says, "there’s nothing I dislike more than running water"). His sister, Julia, whom he hates, is going to take care of him once Ethel is married.
Then a gift arrives from a friend in Greece, wrapped in a Greek newspaper. In it Ethel reads the news that on the night they left, the old tree was blown down, and fell on the family who kept the inn nearby, killing them all. Ethel is upset, and says how lucky it was that they hadn’t stayed there that night, calling it a "marvellous deliverance," but Mr. Lucas dismisses the story without interest. He no longer cares.
England in the 18th century. The wealthy Lady Neville finds that she has become sad and bored with life. So she arranges an elaborate ball and decides to invite Death as the guest of honor. To be invited, Death must first be found. After discussion about whether Death lives among the rich or the poor, Lady Neville remembers that her hairdresser’s child is dying, so she gives him the invitation to pass on when death arrives.
Two days later the heartbroken hairdresser arrives with a note of acceptance. All agree that Death’s handwriting looks feminine, but when the hairdresser will not describe the source of the note, Lady Neville has him whipped and thrown out.
At the ball, the guests become increasingly fearful until Death arrives, late, in the form of a beautiful young woman. Everyone falls in love with her. When she says she has to leave, they beg her to stay, and she says she will, if they’re sure. They are, so she says that she must now choose someone to take her place as immortal Death.
After a careful (and revealing) process of selection, Death chooses Lady Neville herself, concluding that one who could treat her hairdresser so heartlessly would take on the role well, since it is clear that only she knows "how meaningless it is to be alive." The story ends as Death kisses Lady Neville--and they, presumably, change roles.
Much to the disapproval of her children, a newly-widowed seventy-two year old woman decides to continue living independently and spends her time in disreputable behavior like going to the cinema alone, visiting insalubrious parts of town, eating at inns, and going to the races. She befriends a middle-aged cobbler (who is also, scandalously, a Social Democrat) and a young "feeble-minded" kitchen maid, and she stops visiting her husband's grave. One of her sons assumes she must be sick and wants to call the doctor. Without consulting her children, she mortgages her large house and apparently gives the money to her cobbler.
The narrator (her grandchild) observes that she has lived two lives: the first as dutiful daughter, wife, and mother, and the second "as Mrs. B, an unattached person without responsibilities." She dies suddenly, without illness, and the grandchild describes a photograph taken of her corpse after death: she has the face of one who "had savoured to the full the long years of servitude and the short years of freedom and consumed the bread of life to the last crumb."
Kate, a doctoral student, has chosen to move far away from the small town in which she grew up and in which her widowed mother (a school superintendent) and brother (an insurance man) still live. Kate's life is solitary, punctuated by unsatisfactory and transitory sexual relationships with men; she has headaches and wonders if "there were an agent in her body, a secret in her blood making ready to work against her" (p. 180).
While her mother disagrees with Kate's life choices, their long-distance relationship is sisterly, playful, and intimate. Kate sends her mother Valentine's Day cards, "a gesture of compensatory remembrance" since her father's death six years earlier (177). One year Kate forgets to send the card; soon after, her mother is suddenly hospitalized for tests that reveal a brain tumor.
Kate's brother insists that if she wants to come home, she must keep quiet about the likelihood of the tumor's malignance and the risk that the upcoming surgery will result in paralysis. He argues that their mother is terrified and that there is no point in making her more afraid. Kate objects to the concealment of the truth but complies unwillingly with her brother's request.
She gains permission to take her mother for a ten-minute walk outside, just time enough to take a ferris wheel ride. As their car reaches the top of the wheel, Kate is clearly upset. Her mother comforts her, saying, "I know all about it . . . I know what you haven't told me" (196).
In rural Georgia, Mrs. Hopewell runs her family farm with the help of tenants Mr. and Mrs. Freeman. Mrs. Hopewell's daughter, Joy, who got her leg shot off in an accident when she was a child, now lives at home with her mother. Thirty three year old Joy has earned a PhD in philosophy, but she does not seem to have much common sense. In an act of rebellion, she has changed her name to Hulga, and she lives in a state of annoyed anger at her mother and Mrs. Freeman.
A Bible salesman comes to the door, claiming his name is Manly Pointer (!), and manages to get invited to dinner. He and Hulga make a date to have a picnic together the next day. That night Hulga imagines with her superior mind and education that she's in control and that she will seduce him.
However, the next day by the time they have climbed into a barn loft, Manly manages to persuade her to take off her glasses and then her wooden leg which he packs in a suitcase, between a "Bible" which is really a box with liquor and pornographic cards in it. As Manly leaves Hulga without her false leg, he tells her that he collects prostheses from the disabled. She is shocked to realize that he is not "good country people."
In Greeley, Colorado, where he paints dormitory rooms for a living, the narrator encounters Tarvis, a refugee (like himself) from the hills of Kentucky. Tarvis lives in a shack outside of town, "a little version of eastern Kentucky, complete with woodpiles, cardboard windows, and a lousy road." (p. 118)
The narrator spends most of his free time drinking to get drunk at the Pig's Eye, but when Tarvis asks him to come out and skin a barred owl he found dead on the road, the painter agrees. He is a hunter with lots of experience skinning animals, while Tarvis shamefully admits that he doesn't hunt. He has never been able to shoot an animal. Tarvis collects bird wings and animal bones, and he is always on the lookout for arrowheads.
Months later, the narrator learns that Tarvis has committed suicide. He had found a chert arrowhead, fitted it to an arrow, rigged up a bow to an iron plate and screwed it to the floor, then sat in front of the bow and released the arrow. Tarvis finally made it home to Kentucky when his body was sent there for burial.
In 1929, a Danish physician identifies a new strain of smallpox that is capable of infecting and killing even those individuals who have previously been vaccinated against the disease. Before this incurable plague reaches them, the citizens of Vaden, a prosperous town renowned for their fanatical love of children, unanimously agree to barricade the city from the rest of the world.
Only once during this time when Vaden has quarantined all of Denmark does the town make an exception. A traveling European circus is allowed into the city because the mayor cannot bring himself to refuse its sick children. Unbeknownst to the villagers, a dwarf clown who is the featured performer of the circus has just died from the virulent strain of smallpox, but not before introducing it to Vaden. A 12 year old member of the circus successfully impersonates the dead clown. One night, the imposter with his wooden flute leads the children out of Vaden through a gate in the wall.
Despite years of trying, Cara Glanzman and her husband, Richard Case, both thirty-four years old, are unable to have a child. In fact she is contemplating getting a divorce, and he has decided that he really doesn't want any children. Everything changes when Cara is raped and becomes pregnant by Derrick James Cooper, also known as the "Reservoir Rapist." Although Cara initially considers having an abortion, she decides to have the baby.
As the pregnancy progresses, Cara discovers herself even as her husband becomes lost and despondent. The couple is greatly aided by a delightful midwife named Dorothy Pendleton. When Cara's large, hairy son is born, Richard is present to assist Dorothy with the delivery. "Wolfman Junior," the son of a monster, seems to be accepted by both his mother and surrogate father.
Alois Burda loves money. He is a wealthy owner of a car dealership who has many acquaintances but no true friends. He has been married twice and has three children but is uninterested in his family. Prior to his sixtieth birthday, he experiences weight loss, abdominal pain, and night sweats. Burda is diagnosed with inoperable metastatic cancer of the pancreas.
He seems worried most about what to do with his property and money. Before entering the hospital, he hides his money in some old slippers until he can decide what to do with it. He is comforted by a young nurse, Vera, whose voice reminds him of his mother's. After he dies, Burda's wife discards her husband's belongings into a heap of rubbish, unaware of the fortune hidden in his slippers.