Today’s story is 2003 words and can be found here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/083.html
After yesterday’s “A Tripping Tongue” and “A Trivial Incident” the day before that comes today’s “T” titled story completing a Chekov T-trifecta. Belyaev is a self-absorbed, successful man living with a woman or as he says “dragging out a long, wearisome romance.” It’s interesting Chekhov describes the man as “well-fed” in the first description of him. I think this is a set up to show he is a piggish lout. Olga, the woman he lives with, has two children he doesn’t care about or even notice. When he talks to the eight year boy, Alyosha, it is like he meeting him for the first time. With time to kill, he even shows a few ounces of tenderness, earning the boy’s trust. But discovering that the boy’s father is saying that he is ruining Olga, Belyaev loses it. Even though he takes a moment to be honest “‘Of course, whose fault is it if not mine?’ he muttered with a snort. ‘He is right! He is an injured husband.‘” his hurt ego causes him to expose Alyosha’s secret. Belyaev does exact same thing that he claims upsets him: “This is more important than any word of honour. It’s the hypocrisy revolts me, the lying! . . .“ Sorry, Belyaev, but you sir, are a liar and a hypocrite. Although it is painful for Alyosha to bear, at least he sees the bastard for what he is now. Hopefully he’ll learn to discern the good adults from the rotten ones. I also feel bad for the unseen maid, Pelagea, as she may find herself unemployed, leaving Alyosha more alone.
Today we find Alyosha, the eight year-old son of Olga, who is stuck at home with Olga’s boyfriend Belyaev. They live together but it is largely a relationship of convenience. We are informed in the beginning that “the first interesting and enthusiastic pages of this romance had long been perused; now the pages dragged on, and still dragged on, without presenting anything new or of interest.” Belyaev sits down to wait for Olga and eventually notices Alyosha whom he had previously ignored throughout their relationship. The thing that struck me most about Alyosha was how mature he sounded. He entrusted Belyaev with the secret that their nurse was taking them to visit his biologic father without the knowledge of his mother. All goes well with this new-found trust until Alyosha mentions that his father blames Belyaev for his mother’s unhappiness. When Olga returns he instantly turns on Alyosha destroying any hope of a future relationship with the boy. His implicit childhood trust and innocence are shattered. I enjoyed the story only because it was a harsh reminder of how little respect children often received in 19th century life. The glimmer of hope I had as Belyaev initially warmed up to the boy was drowned out by his immediate betrayal when his mother returned. If Belyaev and Olga’s relationship was a long drawn out novel, then the relationship between Belyaev and Alyosha was a trifle of a short story.