Showing 61 - 70 of 145 annotations contributed by Miksanek, Tony

Poison

Dahl, Roald

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Harry Pope is afraid to move even a muscle. While lying in bed and reading a book, he notices a krait--Bungarus caeruleus, a deadly Asian snake--slithering on top of his pajamas. When his companion, Timber, arrives at the bungalow around midnight, Harry is still petrified with fright. Convinced the snake is asleep on his stomach beneath the bed sheet, Harry has been lying motionless for hours.

Timber telephones Dr. Ganderbai for help and despite the late hour, the Indian physician promptly makes a house call. He administers an injection of anti-venom just in case the snake bites Harry. Next, Dr. Ganderbai carefully infuses chloroform underneath the bed sheet in an attempt to anesthetize the krait. Timber and the doctor then remove the sheet but no snake is found. Dr. Ganderbai questions the validity of Harry's account and wonders if the man was merely dreaming. Harry becomes enraged and spews insults including racial slurs. The doctor remains composed and exits quietly, remarking only that Harry could use a vacation.

View full annotation

Clock Without Hands

McCullers, Carson

Last Updated: May-02-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the early 1950's, Milan, Georgia is a racially divided town where secrets are plentiful and the meaning of justice is muddled. J. T. Malone, a 40-year-old pharmacist who failed his second year of medical school, is diagnosed with leukemia and told he has only 12-15 months to live. In some ways, Malone's last year of life parallels the declining fortunes of the town's leading citizen, Judge Fox Clane, an overweight and elderly former Congressman who suffers from diabetes and a previous stroke. Judge Clane's wife died of breast cancer, his only son committed suicide, and his daughter-in-law died during childbirth. He raises his grandson, John Jester Clane, and aspires to restore the grandeur of the South in conjunction with redeeming his personal hoard of Confederate currency.

Judge Clane hires Sherman Pew, a "colored boy" and orphan, as his personal assistant, but Sherman eventually resigns from the position when he can no longer tolerate the Judge or his prejudice. Sherman moves into a house located in a white neighborhood. A group of townspeople including the Judge plots to get rid of him. A local man bombs the building and Sherman dies. Shortly after his death, the United States Supreme Court announces its decision supporting school integration.

The Judge is infuriated and goes on the radio station to express his opinion, but he has not prepared a speech. Instead, he begins babbling Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. The radio station cuts him off. Malone has been listening to the Judge on the radio, but his wife turns it off. Integration no longer matters to Malone. Near the end of his life, Malone finds solace in the renewed love for his wife, Martha. He finally appreciates the order and simplicity of life. The pharmacist dies peacefully in his own bed.

View full annotation

The Third Son

Platonov, Andrey Platonovich

Last Updated: Apr-13-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

When an elderly woman dies, her husband telegraphs their six sons to come home. They are successful men between the ages of 20 and 40 who reside in different regions of Russia. The third son, a physicist, brings his 6-year-old daughter along. First, the brothers weep--slowly and silently. They experience a combination of apprehension and loneliness. Next, the siblings participate in a brief religious ceremony. As they surround their mother's coffin listening to the priest, the six men are uncomfortable and perhaps even ashamed. Finally, the brothers act cheerful--singing, telling stories, and roughhousing while preparing to go to sleep.

The third brother calms the others and then exits the bedroom. He stands over his mother's casket and passes out. His head hits the floor. His five brothers revive him and console him. Now all six men are able to fully mourn their deceased mother. They easily recall their childhood. The six brothers carry their mother's coffin and are followed by the father and granddaughter in the funeral procession. The old man is content that one day these same six sons will properly bury him too.

View full annotation

Referred Pain

Schwartz, Lynne Sharon

Last Updated: Feb-03-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novella

Summary:

Richard Koslowski, a 32-year-old computer systems supervisor and musician, breaks a tooth when he bites an olive pit. Although the remnant of the damaged tooth is removed during his initial visit to the dentist, Koslowski embarks on a peculiar quest. He longs to find a perfect-fitting dental bridge, to eliminate a mysterious oral pain, and to measure up to the suffering his parents have endured as survivors of concentration camps.

He eventually elicits opinions or treatment from ten different dentists and specialists. Koslowski realizes that he has sustained more than just a cracked tooth. His entire life is now fractured. Koslowski becomes obsessed with his teeth. His girlfriend, Lisa, is a law student who is passionate about women's rights. She travels to Bosnia to interview and assist rape victims. When Lisa returns, she breaks up with Koslowski. His suffering seems so small and his life so insignificant that she can no longer tolerate him.

Koslowski's father is dying of a brain tumor but remains stoic until the end. Koslowski, on the other hand, has a poor pain tolerance. After undergoing multiple dental procedures--tooth extraction, root canals, a series of gum cleanings every week, and finally dental implants--Koslowski ultimately resigns himself to living with the discomfort in his mouth. His "reward" is marriage to a disabled woman, three children, and an ordinary life filled with minor ailments and nuisances.

View full annotation

Slow Man

Coetzee, J. M.

Last Updated: Jan-30-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

After being struck by a speeding car while riding his bicycle, Paul Rayment suffers extensive damage to his right leg. An above-knee amputation is performed by a young surgeon, Dr. Hansen. Paul is a 60-year-old former photographer who lives in Australia. Divorced and childless, he has no one to assist him with the activities of daily living after he is discharged from the hospital. He refuses a prosthesis. Paul's accident and loss of a limb have triggered a reexamination of his life. He now regrets never having fathered a child. Paul's life is further complicated by three unusual women.

He hires a Croatian lady, Marijana Jokic, as his day nurse and aid. He is attracted to and dependent on the much younger Marijana. Although she is married and has three children, he lusts for her. He offers to act as a godfather for Marijana's children and provide funds for their education. Drago, Marijana's oldest child, lives with Paul for a while. Drago and his father build a customized cycle to convey Paul, but the crippled man doubts he will ever ride it.

Paul has a single sexual encounter with a woman blinded by a tumor. Her name is Marianna. He is blindfolded during the affair and pays her afterwards. A novelist with a weak heart, Elizabeth Costello, intrudes on Paul. The elderly woman is mysterious. She pesters him, occupies his apartment without an invitation, and peppers him with questions. In time, all three females fade from his world, leaving Paul still struggling to adapt to loss and a new life.

View full annotation

The Lord

Torga, Miguel

Last Updated: Jan-30-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Filomena is the wife of the miller, Malaquias. She is miserable with labor pains and has been bedridden for three days. Her childbirth is failing to progress, and death seems likely for both mother and baby. A tiny hand protrudes from Filomena's vagina signifying the stalled process of birth and the urgent need for medical assistance. The midwife in this Portuguese village is not capable of performing such a difficult delivery. The local doctor is ill. He advises Malaquias to fetch a physician from another town but the cost is too great.

The Catholic priest, Father Gusmao, makes a nocturnal procession carrying the Holy Eucharist to the miller's home. He intends to administer Communion and Last Rights to Filomena. The priest examines her and discovers that Filomena's baby is in the breech position. He has little choice but to attempt delivering the baby by himself. Although Father Gusmao read a medical manual long ago, it is primarily intuition that steers his daring act. First a foot, then the body, and finally the head of a baby boy emerge from the birth canal. Mother and child survive. All the while, the Holy Eucharist in a pyx sits on top of a chest of clothes near Filomena's bed witnessing (or perhaps guiding) the entire sequence of events.

View full annotation

Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

When their young son dies from kidney failure, Stewart and Sharon Mackaney funnel their grief into a business--transporting donated organs for transplant patients. Sharon has put on weight and not cut her long hair since the death of her child, Matthew. The fortyish woman likes to read about vertebrate organs in a worn copy of Gray's Anatomy. She totes a red cooler on her trips crisscrossing the country. Inside of it is a precious organ--a kidney, liver, or pancreas.

Sharon spends lots of time in airplanes, hotels, and bars. Although they continue to share a house, she and her husband have been estranged since Matthew's death three years earlier. Stew suffers from irritable bowel syndrome and chronic flatulence that began at his son's funeral and has not improved a bit despite psychiatric treatment.

Stew and Sharon receive an award for their work as organ transporters. During a speech at the fundraising event, Sharon criticizes the audience for hoarding their kidneys. On returning home, she spends time in Matthew's bedroom and later has a variation of the recurrent nightmare that has plagued her since her son's death. Sharon dreams that her hair is gone, and she rises, unencumbered, until reaching the ozone layer where she is incinerated.

View full annotation

Wickett's Remedy

Goldberg, Myla

Last Updated: Jan-09-2006
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In 1918, the lives of ordinary Americans are disrupted by two cataclysmic events--an epidemic of influenza and World War I. Lydia Kilkenny is a young woman who works in a Boston department store. She falls in love with Henry Wickett, a sensitive and sickly man who is enrolled in medical school but has little enthusiasm for becoming a doctor. After marriage, Henry drops out of medical school. He tries to enlist in the army but is rejected.

Henry turns his attention to "Wickett’s Remedy"--a tonic accompanied by a handwritten letter emphasizing hope and encouraging recovery. Lydia designs the product’s label and concocts the placebo (based on ingredients revealed to her in a dream). The Remedy is an unsuccessful business venture for the couple.

A businessman named Quentin Driscoll likes the taste, however, and sells the Remedy as a beverage (QD soda). Although Driscoll promises to share future profits from the sale of the soda pop with Henry and Lydia, he fails to honor the agreement. QD soda eventually becomes quite popular, but Lydia never reaps any of the financial gain.

Influenza claims the lives of the two most important men in Lydia’s life--her brother, Michael, and her husband, Henry. She feels helpless and decides to volunteer at the local hospital where she cares for patients with the flu. Lydia realizes that she wants to become a nurse and signs up for a Public Health research project investigating how influenza is transmitted. Unfortunately, none of the test subjects (Navy deserters) contract the flu during the study, but a promising young doctor dies of influenza and pneumonia. Lydia later marries one of the men she meets during the research project.

View full annotation

Fever Dream

Bradbury, Ray

Last Updated: Dec-01-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Thirteen-year-old Charles has been sick with a fever for days. The family doctor makes house calls and diagnoses the problem as scarlet fever and a cold. The boy is unconvinced and questions the physician's certainty since no diagnostic tests have been done. Charles is terrified when first his hands and then his legs change. He senses that his extremities become swollen, warm, throbbing, and twitching. Although the limbs appear normal, Charles is sure that he no longer has control of them. Recalling how the wood of petrified trees transforms into stone, he now fears that his entire body has been irrevocably replaced by a propagating mass of microbes.

The doctor dismisses the boy's fright as the result of fever and imagination. He placates Charles by giving him pills. When Charles begins choking himself, his parents restrain him in bed. Fortunately, the teenager improves dramatically. His fever disappears, and he is suddenly robust. Yet there is something odd (and a bit creepy) about Charles following his recovery.

View full annotation

Finesse

Faber, Michel

Last Updated: Dec-01-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

A screening chest X-ray reveals the presence of a cardiac myxoma in a 72-year-old dictator. His personal physician (fearing for his own life) timidly informs Mr. President about the tumor and the likelihood that it will claim the dictator's life in a matter of months. The physician lacks the training and ability to remove the tumor but recommends Dr. Gala Sampras as the surgeon most qualified to perform the procedure.

Slight problem: Sampras was one of 14 surgeons who "disappeared" in 1992 after criticizing the dictator and his regime. She was imprisoned and abused in a labor camp. Her husband and three children were also removed from society. A bargain is struck. Sampras will do the operation. After the surgery is done, she will be reunited with her family.

The dictator shows Sampras pictures of her family. Although the photos of her children appear to be recent, the picture of her husband seems to have been taken years ago. On the day of surgery, the dictator directs the doctor's attention to the courtyard where soldiers surround her daughter. Sampras realizes the dictator might not survive the operation given the complexity of the procedure and the patient's age. Before succumbing to his anesthesia-induced sleep, the dictator is told by Sampras not to worry, but her every move is closely monitored by his soldiers. The night is likely to be long and hard for the doctor and the dictator.

View full annotation