Today’s story is 2319 words long and can be found here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/068.html
This story could be called “How I Started Drinking” or “They Drove Me To Vodka.” Zaikin starts off the story by leaving the train station to his summer villa in a foul mood and he is not the only one as “a crowd of summer visitors — mostly fathers of families — burdened with parcels, portfolios, and ladies’ hat-boxes, was trailing along… [t]hey all looked exhausted, hungry, and ill-humoured.” He finds a sympathetic man in “ginger-coloured trousers” who seems to share his view that “summer holidays are the invention of the devil and of woman.” Considering that Zaikin only comes to the villa two or three times a week, it’s safe to believe he works in the city and takes the taxing journey to the villa. It’s funny how a summer villa is supposed to be a retreat, an oasis of relaxation. However it is anything but that for Zaikin. Evidently his wife, Nadyezhda, does fine without him around, singing and being apart of the arts community. Their son, Petya, sadly starved for attention, grates on Zaikin’s nerves with his questions. At the end, kicked out of bed and dodging his son’s random (and funny) questions, he leaves the house only to find Ginger Trousers in probably the same predicament. If there is a tavern open, they will soon be clinking glasses and commiserating each other’s annual summertime misery.
Today we meet Zaikin, a member of the Circuit Court, who is trudging with other men toward their summer villas where their wives and families enjoy the summer holiday. Zaikin gets to visit his wife and son only two to three times per week on account of his job and the financial burden of the trip. As he approaches the villa we are introduced to a civil councillor who is also making the trip but otherwise known only by what he is wearing: “Ginger Trousers”. The two men commiserate about their role in the summer holiday as Zaikin asserts it is the work of the devil (out of malice) and of woman (out of frivolity). Their main complaints are the lack of attention they receive from their spouses, children, and servants which have all retreated to the villas while they stay behind to work. As they part ways, Zaikin enters his villa to discover his 6 year-old son, Petya, has been left alone in the house while his mother is rehearsing a play with another female friend. Exhausted from the trip and irritated that dinner has not been prepared for him, he initially takes out his frustration on his son. In atypical fashion, Chekhov spares Petya anything beyond mild verbal abuse when Zaikin eventually realizes the futility of taking out his frustrations on the son left behind. Retreating to his room he waits until his wife, Nadyezhda, finally returns. Unfortunately she has also brought with her two males actors and her friend Olga. With no polite means of escape, Zaikin eventually retreats again to his room but not before paying for an exorbitant dinner for their guests that he can barely afford. The ‘frivolity’ continues with rehearsing of lines and song until two in the morning when Nadyezhda insists that the late hour necessitates her guests staying the night. Eventually, Zaikin is kicked out of his own bed having been forced to surrender it to his wife and Olga (who is afraid to sleep alone). Retiring to the couch he discovers his son wherein the proclamation is finally made that he and his son are not wanted…they have “nowhere to sleep even.” He decides to take a walk outside in the night where lo and behold he discovers Ginger Trousers walking about. Apparently Ginger Trousers had lived through an analogous experience with a mother-in-law and his wife’s nieces. There is humor in their shared misery as they ponder their outcast state and irrelevance in the villa longing for a tavern and looking to heaven for deliverance. I found this story amusing and hesitate on the open internet to profess recognition of their plight. We know little of their lives outside the villa but have seen previous examples of abusive men in their element (e.g. “The Head of the Family“) so it was a nice change of pace to see women in theirs. After all, the cause of their ‘suffering’ is the men are no longer the center of attention while on vacation. I am reminded of the image of a traveling husband who serves as pack mule for luggage. The one person I do feel sorry for is Petya who is stuck in the middle. Is Zaikin justified in his complaint? Absolutely. Do I feel sorry for him? No…I suspect he reciprocates the injustice upon his wife when not on vacation.