Showing 61 - 70 of 457 annotations in the genre "Short Story"
An already depressed second year medical student, Deborah, finds herself even more confused about the meaning of life after her aunt sustains a head injury and is in critical condition. Auntie Jenny’s convertible car collides with a utility pole and the impact ejects the woman (who was not wearing a seatbelt) onto the concrete road where she smacks her head. Five days later, Jenny remains in a vegetative state and connected to a ventilator. Deborah’s mother and Auntie Sal keep vigil over their unresponsive younger sister.
Deborah has been slacking – missing classes, sleeping a lot, and uninterested in most activities she formerly enjoyed. Previously she has suffered from insomnia and has fifteen barbiturate sleeping pills remaining. She questions the medical librarian as to how the drug works and the physiologic effects of an overdose. In the seventh grade, Deborah was hospitalized and out of school for one month with unexplained abdominal pain. In retrospect, her mother now admits that Deborah was likely suffering from depression as a child but no diagnosis was made and no treatment provided.
Jenny’s medical status remains unchanged. Deborah’s mother gives her an ultimatum: “You’ve got to make up your mind. The living or the dead” [p 119]. Deborah envies Jenny. No more worries about finding answers to important questions. Survival itself seems to be out of her control. Jenny’s fate rests in the hands of her close relatives who confer with the doctor about whether to continue artificial life support or “pull the plug.”
Although doctors have told her that things will get better, Jyl’s odds of surviving cancer are only five percent. She lives alone in a mountain cabin and receives cancer treatments at the hospital in town. She sleeps much of the day. “Her intestines had been scalded, cauterized as if by volcanic flow” [p 67], and Jyl continues to experience problem with digestion. She feels fatigued and is easily short of breath.
Her closest neighbors are the Workman’s, a Christian fundamentalist family of seven. They live miles away in a mountain valley near the creek. Without telephone, electricity, or indoor plumbing, they live off the land and toil day and night. Jyl starts carving small boats toting messages to send down the creek for the Workman children to find. Soon 15-year-old Stephan and 7-year-old Shayna visit Jyl. The two children bring her food that the Workman’s have hunted and gathered. They cut and stack firewood for the recluse. Jyl teaches them about geology and gives them small gemstones that her father had collected. The children’s visits revitalize the ill woman.
When Stephan and Shayna do not return to see her, Jyl is overcome by loneliness. She acknowledges that being alone is far worse than any aspect of her disease and treatment. Jyl makes the difficult trek to the Workman’s property to call on the children but finds that the place is deserted. Nothing remains in their boarded-up cabin except a stack of the small boats that she had crafted. Jyl sits outside their cabin and cries. The falling snow and silence envelop everything.
The narrator, Meera, is an Asian Indian American with a "good life": a beautiful apartment in San Francisco, a challenging job at a bank, and an attractive, attentive, and successful boyfriend Richard. Despite her mother's constant urgings for marriage ("prelude to that all-important, all-consuming event--becoming a mother" ), Meera feels no compulsion to do so. Then one day her life is irreversibly changed when she finds, huddled under a stairwell in her apartment building, a young boy, who she take in and cares for as her own.
Fearful and wordless, the boy adapts to life with Meera, and she to him. Her friends, especially Richard, do not have a clue as to her intense attachment to Krishna, the name she has given him. Worried that she might lose him to child protective services, Meera goes through the process of becoming a foster parent without informing the authorities that she has Krishna living with her. When they find out, he is taken from her, placed in foster care elsewhere, and eventually runs away.
During the following year, Meera looks for him everywhere and grieves as a mother who had lost a child. She briefly considers moving back to India and taking her mother up on some of the men her mother had found for her, "if she could find me a widower with a little boy of about seven. Such a man, I reasoned, would understand about mother-love far more than Richard--or any other American male, for that matter--ever could." (106) But she does not, and eventually marries Richard, on the condition that they not have children.
Dr. Aloysius Lana, a "Black Doctor" of Spanish ancestry, settled in a Lancashire town and courted Miss Frances Morton, a young woman of the local gentry. After he unexpectedly broke off their engagement, he was found dead, and Frances's brother was arrested. At the trial, Dr. Lana himself appeared: the corpse was instead his dissipated twin brother Ernest, dead of a heart attack. Ernest's secret arrival had forced Aloysius to dissolve his engagement, not wishing scandal; Ernest's death allowed Aloysius to create a new identity abroad, his future shattered. But, hearing that the death had been misdiagnosed as murder, Aloysius explained the situation, and he and the Mortons were reunited.
There are many crossings in this bittersweet short story about Cleofilas. First, as a young woman, she leaves her dusty little town in Mexico with a new husband she hardly knows to cross north to Texas, "en el otro lado--on the other side." Filled with images of fictional passions from telenovas--soap operas--Cleofilas can hardly admit it to herself, let alone to anyone else, when her dreams of romance and domestic happiness sour in the face of poverty, alcoholism, and abuse. She remains trapped by shame, disbelief, and the limitations of women's traditional roles in a hovel on the banks of La Gritona--Woman Hollering Creek.
Finally, a health care worker notices Cleofilas's bruises during a prenatal visit and offers to help her escape. The clinician arranges for her friend to drive Cleofilas to the bus home to Mexico. Crossing the bridge over the Woman Hollering Creek, which has swollen with Spring rains, Cleofilas is introduced to and amazed by new, stronger and more positive possibilities for womanhood.
Billy Sanchez and Nena Daconte, children of two wealthy Colombian families, fly to Europe to celebrate their honeymoon. Although married only three days, Nena is already two months pregnant. After she scrapes her ring finger on a rose thorn, the nearly imperceptible cut starts bleeding profusely. Nena is admitted to the intensive care unit of a Paris hospital. Visitation is permitted only one day a week so Billy must wait six days before he can see his wife again. He spends most of his time alone in a nearby hotel.
Billy tries to visit Nena sooner but is thrown out of the hospital by a security guard. Billy’s attempt to enlist the aid of the foreign embassy is equally unsuccessful. When Tuesday’s visiting hours finally arrive, Billy cannot locate his wife. He spots the physician who first evaluated Nena. The doctor regretfully announces that Nena bled to death sixty hours after hospital admission. No one could find Billy to apprise him of the situation so Nena’s parents have already arranged the funeral and transported the body home for burial. Billy exits the hospital with thoughts of violence and revenge for his calamity.
This amusingly told narrative by a surgeon/author begins by describing how "wrong-headed [it is] to think of total submersion in the study and practice of medicine." He sets aside time to read at his neighborhood library, where he befriends six elderly, indigent "regulars." In spite of himself, the physician will out. His powers of medical observation and empathetic character lead him to perform a most menial task: cutting the overgrown toenails of these severely arthritic people in order to alleviate their pain.
The story is told from the perspective of Julian, a recent college graduate who appears to be waiting for employment commensurate with his education; he lives at home with his solicitous widowed mother. The setting is the recently integrated South of the 1960’s. Events unfold during a ride on an integrated bus, in which all of the story’s complex relationships are played out: the vindictive, self-deluding dependency of Julian on his mother; the insightless yet well-intentioned doting of his mother, who is tied to the societal conventions in which she was raised; the condescension of "enlightened" whites toward blacks; the resentment of blacks toward well-meaning whites- all depicted with great skill and humor.
The crisis occurs in a confrontation between Julian’s mother and a black woman wearing the same hat, when the mother tries to give a penny to her counterpart’s child. In the incident, Julian’s mother suffers a stroke to which Julian is at first oblivious, being so consumed with fury at his mother’s (to him inappropriate) gesture to the child. When he realizes how disabled his mother is, Julian is overwhelmed with grief and fear; the extent of his self-deception is fully confirmed.
The setting is the children's ward of a hospital in Paterson, N.J. during the Great Depression. Alternating between a cynicism born of desperation, and empathetic concern, the physician-narrator describes the sorry condition of his young patients, virtually abandoned by their parents. He muses that they would be better off left untreated so that they would not have to live the inevitably wretched lives ahead of them.
One child in particular has captured his attention. She is Jean Beicke, an eleven month old, malnourished, deformed girl suffering acutely from broncho-pneumonia. The nurses and he look after her, and she responds to their care by taking nourishment and gaining weight. This is tremendously rewarding and reinforces their interest in her, but to their consternation she continues to be very ill. "We did everything we knew how to do except the right thing." "Anyhow she died." The benumbed mother is persuaded to allow an autopsy; the physician wants to understand what went wrong although he "never can quite get used to an autopsy."
The postmortem uncovers an infection of the mastoid process which has spread to the brain. The narrator and the "ear man" berate themselves for having failed to take proper steps to identify and treat the infection. In the end, however, the physician is still unable to resolve the dilemma of wanting passionately to have saved his patient's life, and knowing that the life saved would have been one of misery.
This disturbing story is told from the view point of Sheppard, widowed for more than a year, and left to raise his ten year old son, Norton. Both are struggling to cope with the grief of this loss, but Sheppard seems incapable of recognizing and responding to his son’s feelings and believes they should both occupy themselves by doing good deeds for others. Sheppard is a volunteer counselor at the local reformatory and prides himself on "helping boys no one else cared about."
He is impatient and insensitive toward his own son, however, and instead has become fixated on one of the reformatory boys, Rufus, an impoverished, fatherless teenager whose mother is in prison. Rufus was born with a club foot and has been brought up roughly by a fanatically religious grandfather. Convinced that Rufus can be salvaged because he has a high I.Q., Sheppard makes Rufus his pet project, devoting to him all of his attention and energy, in spite of the fact that Rufus wants no part of it. Indeed, the boy is a defiant conniver who fends for himself by stealing. He has worked out a complex ethic in which he is convinced that he is under "Satan’s" power to do evil but "the lame shall enter [heaven] first" and all sins will ultimately be forgiven. Sheppard’s do-gooder social atheism infuriates Rufus.
A telescope becomes the vehicle for the tragic culmination of Sheppard’s self-deception, Rufus’s vindictive scorn, and Norton’s severe depression. Rejecting the gift of this telescope which Sheppard bought for Rufus so that he could "see the universe" and be "enlightened," Rufus persuades the impressionable Norton that he will find his mother in the heavens with the scope and could join her there were he to die young. Too late, Sheppard realizes how misdirected his love and concern have been: Norton has hanged himself.