Next up is Fat and Thin. A flash story just under 800 words. http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/010.html
What a difference a person’s title makes as we see it today’s story. We are now on the 10th story and I’m seeing patterns in Chekhov’s stories, especially the small ones. It is like Chekhov is painting little portraits of Russian people on a 3-inch squared canvas. Not enough room to be expansive, yet he paints his characters rich and vivid with precise details in the room available. I love that childhood friends are reacquainted on a train platform and how for a moment they are equals until the fat man’s job title is revealed. This could have been a much shorter story or even larger (the movie The Best Years of Our Lives comes to mind), but the details that Chekhov uses for childhood nicknames, the extra work the thin man and his wife do to make ends meet, and even the son’s varying postures all add up to a single event in these people’s lives. A disappointing moment for the fat man and an unnecessarily tense one for the thin man and his family who, it seems, will never know better.
What’s in a title? Even the title of the story suggests a two-tiered hierarchy which forces the reader to size-up the characters for who is the stronger candidate for our affection. So, two friends meet at a train station… Who is the better man? The thin man with a family or the fat man having just ate (love the imagery of greasy lips like “ripe cherries”) and smelling of alcohol and perfume. Beginning the story, my bet was on the thin man who several times reminded his friend of his wife’s Lutheran heritage and seemed to have a decent job and family life–despite having to get second jobs. I felt convinced that the fat man would make up something to explain his appearance or lack of accompanying family. Instead, we are surprised by the revelation that the fat man is a senior councilor several ranks above our now dejected thin man. After having revealed personal histories and showered each other with kisses, you would expect titles to mean nothing between childhood friends. I ended the story feeling sorry for the thin man knowing that he will never again see beyond the mark of society where only moments before the fat man danced in his memory.