Find today’s 2349 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/129.html.
Chekhov has a great methods of telling stories. In this case, a wealthy man is dying via a self inflicted gunshot to the head. We could have seen the story from the grieving wife or the hopeless doctors trying to save him or even the man in his final dying breaths. Instead we learn about the situation through a discussion by a house-porter, a coachman and an old fishmonger over a game of cards in the coach-house. All of their talk and the old man’s superstitions are eventually interpreted through an eight year old visiting his grandfather. Brilliant. Through the course of a few hands of King, the wealthy man dies. Both the porter and fish hawker believe that suicides happen to those with “…too much learning… his wits outstripped his wisdom.” There is something to be said about the poor and peasant class being too busy eaking out a meager living that they have no time for suicidal thoughts. After the man dies, about a third of the way into the tale, the story changes.The fishmonger recalls a spooky tale about a young man’s suicide and his unholy burial on church grounds. This unnerves Alyoshka, the child, who had been calm and focused on the game. Earlier he had had a recollection of the dead man asking him “What district do you come from, boy?” Yet he seemed collected, all things considered. The last third deals with effects of the story on Alyoshka. He gets so worked up with fear that he curses his grandfather in a way that is surprising. “Grandfather Stepan, let’s go to the village!” he besought… “And why did you bring me from the village, accursed man?” The insult line is funny and uncharacteristic of what we’ve seen before of the kid and Chekhov’s usual depiction of children. Like a child repeating swear words he’s heard from adults, the boy no doubt latches on to this word in his moment of fear. His agreeing to punishment confirms just how scared the boy is. “Do whip me, grandfather, do; beat me like Sidor’s goat, but only take me to mammy, for God’s mercy!” I liked this story for it’s structure, authentic characters, and point of view.