Find today’s 1696 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/053.html
The words can have such a profound impact on another that it can affect their lives forever. The joke that the narrator tells in the first person point of view is with four words: “I love you, Nadya!” The girl (we’re not sure of her age) is frightened of tobogganing down a sharp ice hill in the village, but the narrator convinces her to ride along with him. During the middle of the run, when the sledge is flying down the slope “like a bullet” and the wind “beat in our faces, roared, whistled in our ears, tore at us, nipped us cruelly in its anger, tried to tear our heads off our shoulders…” he whispers those words. What is great about the story is that Nadya, frightened of the ride, continues to go back, so she can hears those words. She wonders if it is from the wind or him, but seems too insecure to ask him if he said it. I kept hoping that the girl would enjoy the ride, but she never did. She only like the feeling she got from those words. It made me think of a heroin addict who is scared of needles. They’ll still inject because the result is worth overcoming the fear. Nadya’s addiction or at least her source of pleasure can only last as long as the cold weather keeps the hill icy. Chekhov does something uncharacteristic by allowing the narrator to whisper the words one more time. It is a life-long gift. A message from the winds that she is loved. Kind of awesome feeling to have, even if it means being a butt of a joke… It is an interesting side note that the author doesn’t even remember his motives, but overall it seems she turns out better off after a young man’s manipulations.
I found the topic of today’s story particularly interesting given the title. The joke referenced by the narrator is that his girlfriend of many years ago was led to believe that the wind had uttered the words “I love you, Nadya” on several occasions when she was battling her fear of sledding down a steep hill. The fact that our narrator had uttered the words while riding with her was not realized through the fog of fear, rush of adrenaline, and sound of wind rushing past. The joke was reinforced when he was given an opportunity to say the words again while spying on her behind a fence. The story ends with a reminiscence by the narrator of that winter together and his telling of her current happy state–happily married with three children. Most intriguing is his assumption that the memory of those past events for her was the “happiest, most touching, and beautiful memory in her life.” There is no evidence for this and I find it hard to believe given her current happy state. I sense jealousy and regret. This leads me to believe that he was the joke and was too proud to admit his love of Nadya. The reality of this cuts too deep into his past and therefore he will remain blind the fact, forever searching for the motive of his joke.