Find today’s 2555 word story. http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/112.html
Today’s story is a sad tale told from a young lieutenant’s personal point of view as he returns home. Sitting next to a pipe smoking “well-to-do Finn or Swede“, the lieutenant feels ill and his annoyance at the pipe smoker becomes an obsession as several paragraphs are dedicated to hate of the old “Fin” to the point of immature racism. “Detestable people these Finns and . . . Greeks,” he thought. “Absolutely superfluous, useless, detestable people. They simply fill up space on the earthly globe. What are they for?” Often Chekhov puts people on the train and leaves them there with a poignant thought or action, but he extends this story having the lieutenant get off the train and go home. At this point his fever is much worse, but I expected the Finn to make a life-saving appearance, but that does not happen. Chekhov puts us through the lieutenant’s annoyances with his doctor’s speech, his fever dreams with imagined characters coming through his room as well as real ones including his sister and aunt, and then his recovery, which mixes joy with gut-wrenching sorrow. The sadness being the loss of his sister to the spotted typhus he brought home. It was interesting that Chekhov chose not to show the sister more than twice and with no dialogue. In one scene she has a “pencil and exercise book in her hand” and in the other she kneels down to an ikon with her aunt. Yet she is the tragic figure, dying before she finished her exams. Chekhov ends with a hammer on the head, “And joy gave way to the boredom of everyday life and the feeling of his irrevocable loss.” While I never liked the lieutenant and didn’t know the sister well enough to feel the sadness as intended, the intense and random thoughts of the ailing lieutenant were interesting.