Showing 71 - 80 of 456 annotations in the genre "Short Story"
Art Woo, thirty-eight years old, Asian-American, and a salesman in a dying industry, finds himself housed in a welfare hotel during a sales convention--the unexpected result of trying to limit travel expenses for his company. His modus operandi is to "maintain a certain perspective," so he attempts to make the best of the situation.
We learn that his wife, Lisa, has divorced him--the outcome of Art's inability to grieve along with her when, after many months of fertility treatments and two miscarriages, Lisa's successful pregnancy was medically terminated at four and a half months because the fetus was afflicted with a severe genetic abnormality. Whereas Art reacted with hope for having another child, Lisa had seen only loss. Likewise, when his boss had insulted Art with a racial slur, Art had maintained "perspective," while Lisa thought he should have quit his job.
The "birthmate" of the title is Billy Shore, four years younger, American, and a business rival. Billy is obnoxious, but has advanced to a new job. Art thinks that if Billy can get ahead, so can he. But Art's equilibrium is ultimately destroyed by an experience in the welfare hotel. He realizes that he has lost not just a job opportunity and his wife, but also his child.
Told in the voice of an immigrant Chinese grandmother, this is a story of gaps--gaps of communication, cultural gaps, age gaps, gaps in family relationships. The narrator describes herself as "fierce." Now widowed, she and her husband had owned and operated a restaurant; her married daughter is also "fierce" because she is a bank vice president and quite ambitious. Grandmother takes care of little Sophie, her granddaughter, the product of a mixed marriage--her son-in-law is Irish.
The narrator is contemptuous of her son-in-law because he and his brothers are unemployed even though they are white and were born in the USA. To the narrator, the world is upside down. Her son-in-law (John) is at home but thinks that it would demean him to baby-sit for his own child; in China her daughter would be taking care of her but instead, she is baby sitting to help her daughter out. Grandmother cannot understand why her son-in-law needs to be pampered, why she needs to be "supportive"--"we do not have this word in Chinese, supportive." She and her daughter differ about how to discipline Sophie. There are indications that John would like to send his mother-in-law back to China.
Events come to a crisis when the willful Sophie--perhaps reacting to the strains on her parents' marriage--defies her grandmother, hiding from her in a playground foxhole. The child's parents are horrified by what looks to them like child abuse. Grandmother must move out. Yet, at the same time, the daughter is miserable, and grandmother feels useless. Says the daughter, "I have a young daughter and a depressed husband and no one to turn to." Narrates her mother, "when she says no one to turn to, she mean me." As the story closes, grandmother is living with her son-in-law's mother, a woman whom she admires.
The narrator, Anju, and her cousin, Arundhati (Runu for short) are both young married Indian women who are pregnant for the first time, due to give birth within a few days of each other. The difference is that Anju lives in the United States and Runu in India. They write letters to each other, and when the story begins, Anju is planning a special telephone call to Runu because this is the day they are both due to get the results of their amniocentesis.
As Anju anticipates the phone call, she provides information about both women. She grew up in a relatively affluent family in Calcutta, went to college, and moved to San Diego with her husband, Sunil. Runu was less wealthy, and married into a large and traditional Brahmin family in the provinces. Runu is strictly controlled by her mother-in-law.
Anju receives her test results: her baby, a boy, is healthy. But Runu is expecting a girl, and because of this her family decides that she should have an abortion. She is devastated, and is planning to run away. Anju encourages her, but Anju's husband becomes angry, arguing that perhaps Runu should be obedient and have the abortion.
They argue, but then Anju remembers the ultrasound earlier that day, when she saw her son for the first time, and realizes that Runu must have had the same experience, and like her would do anything to protect the fetus. The story ends with her planning to help Runu to come to America, and imagining, almost certainly unrealistically, the future of their children together.
This story is set in the 1950s. Gloria St. Clair's great grandmother, Great Mam, is a displaced Cherokee--one of the Bird Clan's "Beloved Women" who "keep track of things"--who moved from her tribal home in Tennessee to Kentucky with the white man whose children she bore. Gloria's father, a coal miner, decides that the family should take Great Mam back to Tennessee for a last visit before she dies.
The journey is a disaster, revealing that remnants of Cherokee life have been reduced to poverty and tawdry tourism. Gloria realizes, though, that Great Mam's heritage has survived, not in the place she came from, but in what she has passed on to her great granddaughter: Great Mam has given Gloria the nickname "Waterbug" after the creature that, according to Native American myth, retrieved the earth from the bottom of the sea, and in remembering this and all the other stories Great Mam told her, Gloria becomes the next one whose task is to retrieve the past, to "keep track of things."
"My mother danced all night and Roberta’s was sick. That’s why we were taken to St. Bonny’s." Thus begins Twyla’s narrative of her long-term, intermittent relationship with Roberta, another eight-year-old who shares her failing grades and "not real orphan" status at St. Bonaventure’s, the shelter where they live for a few months.
The two girls become fast friends despite the discomfort occasioned by the situation, their problematic mothers (Roberta’s is hyper-religious and unfriendly; Twyla’s is pretty but childlike, an embarrassment to Twyla because of her casual clothing and behavior), and their racial differences (one is white, one African-American). They also share a defining moment, in which they watch bigger girls assault Maggie, a disabled woman who works in the institution’s kitchen.
The girls meet by accident four more times; as young adults in a Howard Johnson’s, where Twyla works and Roberta stops in with two young men on the way to the coast for "an appointment with Hendrix"; in a grocery store in Newburgh, the blue-collar town on the Hudson river where Twyla lives (Roberta lives in white-collar Annandale); at a picket line against a busing plan (Roberta is protesting the busing; Twyla ends up picketing for it); and finally in a diner on Christmas Eve. Each time they meet, they piece together what has happened in their lives, but also return to the defining moment of Maggie, arguing about what really happened and what role they played in the abuse.
Vanya and Uncle Nicolai, two orderlies in a morgue, are preparing for funeral the body of Trepov ("Known everywhere simply as Trepov" (63), a hated officer because of whom "more [Russian] people were murdered than absolutely necessary." Trepov is the pawn of "the Little Father" (64); both very well may be cruel administrators of an invading force, not necessarily Russians themselves, although this is not clear.
What is clear is that Vanya, the younger orderly, despises Trepov. After finishing the dressing of the cadaver in military finery, replete with "all those gilt-enameled medals" (64). Vanya suddenly closes the door, to Uncle Nicolai’s bewilderment. Even more surprising is Vanya’s determined slapping of Trepov’s face three times. With tacit approval from Uncle Nicolai, Vanya then kicks Trepov. Finally, Vanya slaps, with all his strength "the corpse’s face again. Now we can go, he stammered, his face flushed with the thrill of it." (65)
Vanya goes to bed thinking about the son his wife is expecting (since there was no ultrasound between 1908 and 1912 when Csáth most likely wrote this story, this detail remains mysterious) and how he will boast to him about "that day’s doings." And then he falls fast asleep, "breathing evenly, deeply, like all healthy people" (65).
A night on the town with two friends turns into "an attack of nerves" for Vasilyev, a law student. The three students spend the night drinking and visiting houses of prostitution; Vasilyev is horrified and repulsed by the women, who he thinks are "more like animals than human beings." The social problem of prostitution becomes an obsession; he is so fixated on finding a solution that he is in moral agony. His friends, among whom is a medical student, are concerned only with his health; they take him to a psychiatrist who "cures" Vasilyev with bromide and morphine.
The narrator is a Vietnamese husband who has a beautiful, flirtatious wife. They have been living in the New Orleans area for more than a decade, arriving in America after the fall of South Vietnam. The husband tells a remarkable story about the lengths to which he has gone, both in Vietnam and in America, to intercept and discourage his wife’s extra-marital interests. The narrator is humorously self-deprecating and matter-of-fact.
In Vietnam, he was a spy for the Americans, and able to "bring fire from heaven" in the form of American rocket attacks to scare off his wife’s would-be lovers; in America, he adapts to the local culture by consulting a "low-down papa" voodoo specialist. What follows this consultation is a hilariously told sequence of events that succeeds finally in winning the wife’s loyalty.
A Mexican-American woman has an appointment for her son Jorge to be seen at the Anglo clinic. She insists on keeping the appointment, even though her relatives think she is crazy. She reflects on events in her life--Jorge's congenital heart disease, the fact that she had a tubal ligation after his birth, and that the heart disease might have been a punishment from God. She reflects upon the fact that often people go for clinic appointments, only to find that the Anglo doctors aren't there and another appointment must be made. She carefully selects Jorge's clothes. She takes the crowded bus.
Finally, at the clinic two doctors enter after a long wait. One is a psychiatrist. In this last scene it becomes evident that Jorge has already died. His mother has brought a bundle of Jorge's clothes to the clinic for "his" appointment, still hoping for a miracle. Referring to the psychiatrist, the woman doctor tells the mother, "He will make you better."
An American-trained Japanese surgeon working in Japan during World War II, pulls a wounded American sailor, presumably an escaped POW, from the surf behind his home. Against the advice of his wife, he hides the sailor, operates on him, and preserves his life temporarily.
Becoming fearful for his family, he reports what he has done to his patient, an official in the Japanese military. The officer says he will arrange to have the American assassinated in order to spare possible retribution against Sadao, the surgeon, and his family. It doesn’t happen, and Sadao is left with determining how to rid himself of this hazard he has brought into his home and healed. He makes a series of decisions that lend themselves to widely varying interpretations in terms of his motivation.