- Coulehan, Jack
- Date of entry: May-27-2003
The story is set in a ship's infirmary where five soldiers and sailors are returning to Russia after serving in the Far East. One of them, Gusev, served as an orderly. He is content to do his duty and get by. His delirious dreams are filled with images of his family's farm. He is concerned that if he does not make it home, the farm will fail and his parents will be thrown into the streets.
He makes kind overtures to another patient, Pavel Ivanych, who responds angrily. Pavel Ivanych considers himself a realist, a truth-teller, and a member of the revolutionary intelligentsia. He ridicules Gusev's optimistic good nature. Where Gusev is blind to the oppression he has suffered, Pavel Ivanych denounces injustice wherever he sees it and has a reputation for being a troublemaker. Even as his illness advances, Pavel Ivanych protests. He refuses to believe that he can die like the others; indeed, he insists that he is improving. Nonetheless, he dies.
Gusev grows worse, too. He feels an insatiable yearning for something that he cannot define. Shortly afterward, he, too, dies and is buried at sea. The story closes with a description of his body descending through a school of fish while a brilliant sunset shines above.
A Doctor's Visit: Short Stories