Showing 321 - 330 of 456 annotations in the genre "Short Story"
Denny and Susan McCready are a young couple whose newborn son has cystic fibrosis. They take him home to the farm, where they live with Denny's father. For several months Denny can barely bring himself to touch the baby, because he is afraid to develop too close a relationship with a child condemned to an early death.
After the boy dies, the grief-stricken Susan drifts away from her husband, finally leaving the farm and moving into town. Denny, too, is lost. He buys a small boat--something his father always objected to--and cruises on the river. One day Susan returns. "I want to come home," she says. (p. 196) "I sometimes think that all of us out here just gave up a little early." (p. 204) They endure.
This short story was written by Willa Cather around 1905 when she was living in Pittsburgh; it is the only one of her stories with that city as a background. During her time there she taught in a high school and she said the story was based on experience with two boys in her classes. It also has connections to her own background of growing up in a small town in Nebraska where she hungered for a broader life experience.
Paul, a sensitive high school student, felt very frustrated with his home life and his family's expectations that he would grow up to work in a factory or the steel mills as his father and most of his neighbors did. He was not close to anyone in his family and had no neighborhood or school friends. Instead, he spent his evenings ushering at the symphony hall or backstage at a local theater.
Paul dreamed of living the life of the performers he saw. He was without discipline and without direction. He had problems at school and was surly when called before a school committee. Eventually he was pulled out of school and sent to work by his father. He devised a scheme to steal money from his employer and then ran away to New York City where he stayed at the Waldorf Astoria, living for a few days the life of his dreams. When he realized that he would have to return home and accept his punishment he killed himself. The poignancy of the story is intense.
Albert Gans' father is in the hospital dying of something the doctors cannot identify. Depressed, Albert is entering the subway when a retarded woman hands him a card reading "Heal the Sick. Save the Dying. Make a Silver Crown." It gives a rabbi's name and address. Albert had just been speaking to a friend who encouraged him to try a faith healer saying, "Different people know different things; nobody knows everything. You can't tell about the human body."
So, Albert goes to the Rabbi's house. The aging man tells him that he will make Albert's father a crown made of pure silver, covered with blessings and his son's love that will heal him completely. For $401 he can have a medium crown, for $986 a large one that will work more quickly. Albert is skeptical and asks rational questions that the Rabbi answers with a combination of mysticism and salesmanship. Finally, Albert agrees and gives the Rabbi his money. Immediately afterwards, he feels duped and threatens the Rabbi, calling him a thief.
The Rabbi tries to soothe him, asking him not to spoil the miracle and to think of the father who loves him. Albert bursts out, "He hates me, the son of a bitch, I hope he croaks." He then rushes out. An hour later, Albert's father dies.
Bruno Kamenar is a pale and thin ten year old boy who lives with his stepmother and younger brother in Croatia in 1948. His father, Pero, has just returned home after serving in the Yugoslav Federal Army. With the constant threat of a Soviet invasion serving as a backdrop, Bruno is plagued by frequent nightmares as well as a cough. He finds solace both in drawing and in the company of the family cow.
Sadly, Bruno contracts tuberculosis from the cow's fresh milk. At first he is unable to be treated because the government rejects an offer of free streptomycin from the Swiss. It is only after Pero publicly criticizes his country's refusal of medical aid and becomes a political prisoner that UNICEF physicians arrive at Bruno's home and treat him with streptomycin and PAS.
He recovers and his father is released from prison. As he watches the family cow and its pen incinerated, Bruno is filled with horror and relief by the death of an animal that once provided food and comfort but almost killed him.
The narrator, an author, is accosted by his friend, Sam Nolan, who has just had his appendix taken out and thinks his experience would provide useful information for one who writes stories: Sam says he has discovered how and why male patients fall in love with their nurses. Sam's experience of being hospitalized is at first like being caught in a machine, he says. This changes after the surgery, when the nurse becomes his caregiver and rescuer.
He feels a great tenderness for what he calls the "beauty of her efficiency." He denies being in love, blaming the morphine and fever for his attachment, but he tells how he did not want to see his wife when she visited, and when he describes giving the nurse a parting gift, a pair of gloves, the narrator sees tears in his eyes. According to the narrator, Sam's story is in fact about his "terrible wife," and she is the reason "it [falling in love] has happened."
Millie is a "baby nurse," hired as a domestic helper and live-in night nurse who cares for other women's infants up to the age of two years. She is "condemned by life to love many babies and lose them all" (1). Millie is described as old, but we are not told how old, or of what else her life has consisted; probably little, since she appears to have cared for one child after another, and has no home apart from where she is employed.
The story begins as she starts a new job, caring for Mrs. Jones's baby daughter. She adores the baby, but is tense and possessive, strongly dislikes the Jones's noisy six-year-old boy, and complains to Mrs. Jones about the other servants. Reluctant to let the baby grow up, she does not encourage her development, and she is overly defensive and protective of the child.
As the baby gets older, Millie becomes more and more anxious until, after a fight with one of the other servants, Mrs. Jones fires her. The story ends where it began, in the waiting room of the employment agency as Millie seeks a new position, a new baby to love and lose.
Corky Nixon is a patient in a ward of amputees in a military hospital for casualties of the Korean War. He has lost both legs. The head nurse on the ward has been given the nickname "Old Ironpuss" because she is so fierce and strict and unattractive, showing, as Corky says, "no warmth, no sympathy, no concern" (131). By implication, she is unfeminine. All the patients fear and hate her.
On Christmas Eve, a severely injured patient, Hancock, is brought in. He is conscious but catatonic. Corky is outraged that "Old Ironpuss" should be taking care of Hancock (he says that so sick a patient should get "the best damn-looking nurse in Christendom"!). Corky tries to get Hancock to talk, but is interrupted when the nurse comes in and berates Hancock for being such a difficult patient. Corky is outraged and complains to the colonel, who then points out that Hancock, reacting to the nurse's diatribe, has roused himself, talked back, and begun to recover.
He tells Corky that in cases like this, kindness and sympathy don't work and that the best treatment is the provocation of anger. Corky accepts this, and decides to collaborate with the nurse by having all the men in the ward stage the loud singing of Christmas carols with bawdy new lyrics, ostensibly to irritate her. In the midst of this chaotic display of good spirits, we see "Old Ironpuss" listening to their spirited defiance, and then turn away, alone, weeping.
Fred McCann is an energetic man in his thirties, something of a playboy, when the Second World War breaks out. He becomes a soldier, and in an Italian village one day he goes to a pump for a drink of water. The pump is booby-trapped and explodes. He is blinded and loses all four limbs. The story traces the development of a relationship between Fred and Alice, his nurse in the military hospital.
As he learns to submit to being entirely helpless, reliant on Alice for all his needs, he gradually begins to adapt to his new condition. Then Alice changes everything by having sex with him. At first their new and obsessive relationship makes him happy, restoring some of his old sense of himself as a man. When Alice is moved to another duty and replaced by a sadistic male nurse, Fred is so devastated and makes such a scene that he gets Alice back.
To celebrate her return, Alice sneaks some whiskey into his room and they get drunk. She then says something that appalls him: she calls him her "thing" and confides that she has always hated men, who look at her and touch her and have power. Fred is nauseated, seeing himself reduced to nothing more than a "a phallus on its small pedestal of flesh." He realizes now that he is no longer a man, and later that night he manages to drag himself out into the garden, where there is a small pool in which he drowns himself.
Margo Billis and her son, Matthew, barely endure a strained and rather twisted relationship. She is a 73 year old woman dying from cancer. Despite her illness, she continues to provide for her lazy, 40 year old son who still lives at home.
Matthew's condition might also be described as terminal in an emotional and psychological sense. He claims to suffer from endogenous depression and wastes most of his life sleeping for long periods of time in his garish green bedroom. His mother implores him to get a job but all he seems capable of is wallowing in self-pity.
Matthew has neither empathy nor sympathy for his mother's misery. One day he finds his mother dead in her bed. Her safe is open and contains $14,000, some undeposited but endorsed checks, a bottle of 200 morphine tablets along with a prescription for morphine, half a carton of cigarettes, and Hummel figurines. Matthew transports her corpse to the freezer in the garage where she will remain until he is ready to announce her death. Realizing he can co-sign her checks and forge her signature, he has finally found a job to his liking.
Joe and Mary Wilson live an isolated life in the outback of New South Wales. Their infant son Jim begins to "take convulsions." Jim turns into a sickly child who appears to be "too old fashioned" to survive in this word. After the three-year-old boy has spent a month with his mother's sister, he and Joe begin the two-day trek home. The boy becomes ill while they are camping overnight, and Joe, terrified that his son is going to die, carries him to "Brighten's sister-in-law," who lives in the only homestead in the area. She nurses the boy, who survives.