You can find today’s 1585 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/093.html
Today’s comic tale is similar to the journey of an American fruitcake. Specifically, it’s a gift to give that nobody wants and so it passed for another to another. In every situation, it is funny how the work of art is forced upon the recipient and how it is genuinely appreciated for it’s intricacies, but the conservative mores of the people cause them to reject it. Also the phrase, “no good deed goes unpunished” is apropos here. The good doctor, Ivan Nikolaevitch, is repaid for saving the life of a boy with a candelabra with “two female figures in the costume of Eve.” He is told that he “will wound mamma and me by refusing” to take it. And thus, the plot is born, as the flustered good doctor must find away to get rid of pornographic candleholder: “The figures were smiling coquettishly and altogether looked as though, had it not been for the necessity of supporting the candlestick, they would have skipped off the pedestal and have indulged in an orgy such as is improper for the reader even to imagine.” Although completely different, there was something about the candleholder that reminded me of A Christmas Story and the movie mother’s horrified reaction to the father’s prize. Overall I found this story funny and engaging. I expected the twist with the candelabra returning to mother/bronze dealer, but not the additional twist they were elated to bring the doctor what they thought was the missing pair.
Today we find Sasha Smirnov, whom we are told no less than six times is the “only son of his mother”, as he tries to give a bronze candelabra to Dr. Koshelkov who apparently saved his life. The candle holder is no ordinary statue and came (ironically?) wrapped in the Financial News, No. 223. The footnote reference to Zola’s novel L’Oeuvre which appeared in the 223rd edition of the Financial News was interesting. L’Oeuvre is roughly translated as “Work”, as in ‘work of Art’, and the plot is apropos to today’s story. The candle holder includes two nude females with erotic “attitudes” and posture suggestive of a desire to indulge “in an orgy such as is improper for the reader even to imagine.” That doesn’t mean I didn’t try… I couldn’t help but wonder if such an heirloom might still be passed down today via the internet, but all I could find were relatively tame examples (example 1, example 2). The doctor eventually accepts the odd gift but quickly pawns it off onto his lawyer friend who subsequently gives it to a comedian who eventually sells it back Sasha’s mother. When we first find out that this particular candelabra was part of a pair, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to the other one. This story was full of humorous moments and sought to address the fine line between artistic expression and social norms. I enjoyed the story and hadn’t expected (until the final page) that the artifact would make the full round-trip back to the doctor’s office.