Today’s fish story comes in at 2047 words. http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/028.html
Men will forever be boys. There is work to be done, but when there is a brother in need and that need involves capturing a fish… well other obligations can wait. So two carpenters are shrugging off their work and doing what I’ve recently learned has the unfortunate name of Okie Noodling. They are trying to pull out an eel-pout, a prehistoric fish, out of a lake who has wedged itself between roots. More men come and struggle to pull the fish out with comic and unfortunate (you can almost hear the wah-wah music) results. An interesting contradiction happens early in the story when Gerassim, a bearded red head’s “face is covered with perspiration.” Yet, later in the same paragraph we find that he and his hunchbacked companion are “blue with cold.” I take it an editor missed this. I enjoyed the vain expedition nonetheless.
Today Chekhov delivers on a fish tale where everyone is an expert fisherman but nobody comes up with the prize. The exaggerated antics of the men who come to the rescue of the carpenters to catch a fish caught in the roots of a willow tree are so outlandish that I actually believe they could happen. My favorite character to join the watery foray against the eel-pout was the elderly shepherd whom we are told is “a decrepit old man, with one eye and a crooked mouth.” He has no patience for removing all of his clothes but pauses long enough to make the sign of the cross before leaving his herd to jump in the water and join the others. Finally the commotion attracts the attention of the master of house who joins the others in the water and with the aide of an axe is finally able to get a good hold of the fish and pull him to safety. Unfortunately, the admiration of their prize is short-lived. I suspect that while the men were exhausting themselves trying to extricate the fish, the fish was conserving just enough energy to produce the perfect, and predictable, ending to the story.