Find today’s 2043 word story here: http://www.chekhovshorts.com/stories/131.html
With a title like “The Doctor,” I would have expected the titled character to be in the midst of surgery or giving a diagnosis to a patient. At the point we enter the story he has already given a terminal diagnosis of a friend’s (and his obsession’s) bastard son. But Dr. Tsvyetkov (very similar to Chekhov) could have had any occupation with an off the page doctor already giving the bleak diagnosis, since his primary goal is to confirm that he is not the boy’s father. The opening line gives atmosphere for story and insight to Dr. Tsvyetkov quiet, uncomfortable demeanor. “It was still in the drawing-room, so still that a house-fly that had flown in from outside could be distinctly heard brushing against the ceiling.” It is also a starting point moments after Tsvyetkov delivers the bad news, which has been cut out. (Chekhov believed in starting late and ending early.) We see Olga’s reaction and the doctor building up his nerve to shed parental responsibility. Tsvyetkov knows he is one of three men who has been paying for the support of Olga’s son over the years. Each of them at some point believed Misha was theirs. Although Olga seems to have had led a wild life in the past, she has profited from it by becoming a mother. Not to sound callous, but there may be a double meaning in her line “And if, as you say, I cease to be a mother, if he . . . dies, there will be nothing left of me but a shadow. I cannot survive it.” Towards the end I am fairly convinced that the boy is Tsvyetkhov’s, although Olga may be lying or might honestly not know at all. Tsvyetkhov, “[t]he doctor, who did not know how to talk with weeping women or with children…,” probably believes he is the father too, although he really wants it to not be true. As Olga has been “...the one attachment in [Tsvyetkov’s] life…” and the only person he has loved, he may be sabotaging any future opportunities to be with her after Misha dies. On a final note, it is interesting that Chekhov barely goes into the doctor’s head, often relying on observation and his muttering over internal thought. “From his face it could be seen that he wanted to speak, and was waiting for a fitting moment.” Overall the story is a good piece of drama with two people torn to extremes over the birth and eventual death of a child.