#108 A Bad Business

You can find today’s 2000 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/108.html

Travis review

There is a stereotype that security guards are not bright. There are many reasons for this, but one is that they protect wealthy people’s assets instead of making their own wealth. There are a few exceptions (Bill James), but the watchman in this story keeps the reputation in tact. This is one of the few times that Chekhov starts a story with a question. Usually he sets the mood by describing either a character or setting. I’m not sure if you can set up a situation any better than the words “Who goes there?” (Although Don Winslow sets the mood for Savages with an infamous two word chapter.) He never names the soon-to-be-unemployed watchman and the conversation between him and the pilgrim/lookout/thief is mostly devoid of dialog tags as it is easy to identify who is who. It is funny and tragic that it takes the watchman, almost a third of the story before he asks a question that he should have either asked or should have sent him running for backup. “The gate’s locked. Did you climb over the wall? If you did climb over the wall, that’s the last thing you would expect of an old man.” But then again, perhaps the watchman’s denseness saved his life as the stranger says towards the end, “If you want to stay among the living, stop and hold your tongue till I tell you. It’s only that I don’t care to spill blood or you would have been a dead man long ago, you scurvy rascal.”  If there is one thing that might help the watchman keep his job is that he overhears two of the thieves’ names, Timofey and Mitka. I’m sure he could also come up with the excuse that he was overpowered, but I’m sure he’d crack under the pressure of questions and tell his inquisitor what really happened. Overall I enjoyed the story even though it was easy to tell what was happening as Chekhov provided more than enough hints. This is also another instance when Chekhov has the opportunity to write violence, but fortunately for the watchman, he abstains.

Rating: 6




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