I’m trying to get back on track with my Deal-Me-In Challenge, and I finally drew the first short story of the year, The Runaway by Anton Chekhov.
|Science and Charity (1897)
After a long journey, young Pashka and his mother wait at the hospital to see the doctor. Pashka has a boil on his elbow, but the mother has waited too long and the doctor scolds her, declaring that the wound is infected and the boy may lose his arm. A stay is required, about which Pashka is not thrilled but he is lured by the doctor’s promises of seeing a live fox and eating sugar-candy. After a sumptuous dinner of soup, roast beef and bread, the boy awaits the doctor to honour his commitment but when he doesn’t come, he explores the wards, finally returning to his own where he hears the patient, Mikhailo, coughing and wheezing. When he wakes late in the night, he finds three people at the dead Mikhailo’s bed, yet when they leave, the old man’s chest wheezes again. Terrified, Pashka screams for his mother, leaps out of bed and tears through the wards and into the yard, intending to run home but a graveyard looms ahead, and Pashka is intensely relieve to spot the kind doctor through a window in a building. When he burst inside the doctor’s words echo: “You’re a donkey, Pashka! Now aren’t you a donkey? You ought to be whipped ….”
|The Runaway (1958)
Well, what to make of that? There is the danger of infection, the tension of being separated from his mother, the doctor’s promises that manipulate (for good or ill, who knows) yet come to nought, the wards of sick people and the boy’s terror, perhaps at hearing a dead man who appears to still live. It’s curious, especially since Pashka’s condition appears serious, yet the reader never has a whisper as to its outcome. Chekhov himself spent most of his life in the medical profession, so one wonders if he is also exploring the psychological methods physicians might use on their patients. Through the boy’s eyes the doctor is “kind” but is he really? The boy has a serious medical condition yet no one seems to be rushing him to surgery, and the doctor has promised many delights for Pashka and is delivering none of them. What is behind Chekhov’s tale? Is it a simple tale or a story with a deeper meaning?
|Birthhouse of Anton Chekhov
Deal Me In Challenge #11