Today’s story is 1611 words. http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/024.html
Today we have the first instance of Chekhov’s gun, and in a play too! Alcohol again causes calamity in a hotel. This time, Murkin, a piano tuner, finds that his boots are missing. Calling on the attendant who had “had a drop,” they discover the boots are in a woman’s room next door. What happens next is different than what I believe would happen today. Murkin insults the attendant and then knocks on the woman’s door for the shoes. I believe the rest of us would have made the attendant find the shoes, wherever they may be, or replace them. The onus of finding the boots should have been on the attendant. Perhaps the results would have been similar, but with Bluebeard chasing a different fellow. Although nobody saw the gun go off, the last sentence implies that it had.
Chekhov delights in false assumptions. Here we have the story of a frail piano-tuner named Murkin who lives in a hotel and makes a habit of telling everyone he encounters about his delicate health. When a hotel attendant inadvertently misplaces Murkin’s boots in another guest’s room while in a drunken stupor, Murkin takes it upon himself to rediscover them. After all, he needs them to keep his feet warm due to his poor health. The attendant leads him to the room of a female guest who eventually tosses out a pair of boots with her “plump feminine hand”. Murkin quickly realizes they are not his boots. In fact, they are two left boots and in much poorer condition. The attendant surmises that Murkin’s boots must have been left with another guest — an actor who only stays one day per week at the hotel. To get his boots back, Murkin must go to the theater and speak to the actor who, as it happens, is the lead role in the play Bluebeard. Upon confronting the actor about the boots that a woman gave him in Room 64, a fellow actor (King Bobesh) pipes up that is where his wife stays! Bluebeard claims slander/libel when Murkin makes the appropriate deduction that “[the attendant] left my boots as well as yours at 64…and when you left this gentleman’s lady you put on mine.” It’s never quite clear if Murkin realizes he may have inadvertently uncovered an extra-marital affair in the pursuit of his boots. Nevertheless, he is rewarded for his ineptitude by the addition of a closing phrase to his typical dialogue about his health. He is no longer just frail and naive, he is also a wounded man. The thing I enjoyed most about this story was how convoluted it all was in the span of barely 1600 words.