It was midnight. Suddenly Mitia Kuldaroff burst into his parents’ house, dishevelled and excited, and went flying through all the rooms. His father and mother had already gone to rest; his sister was in bed finishing the last pages of a novel, and his school-boy brothers were fast asleep.
“What brings you here?” cried his astonished parents. “What is the matter?”
“Oh, don’t ask me! I never expected anything like this! No, no, I never expected it! It is — it is absolutely incredible!”
Mitia burst out laughing and dropped into a chair, unable to stand on his feet from happiness.
“It is incredible! You can’t imagine what it is! Look here!”
His sister jumped out of bed, threw a blanket over her shoulders, and went to her brother. The schoolboys woke up —
“What’s the matter with you? You look like a ghost.”
“It’s because I’m so happy, mother. I am known all over Russia now. Until to-day, you were the only people who knew that such a person as Dimitri Kuldaroff existed, but now all Russia knows it! Oh, mother! Oh, heavens!”
Mitia jumped up, ran through all the rooms, and dropped back into a chair.
“But what has happened? Talk sense!”
“You live like wild animals, you don’t read the news, the press is nothing to you, and yet there are so many wonderful things in the papers! Everything that happens becomes known at once, nothing remains hidden! Oh, how happy I am! Oh, heavens! The newspapers only write about famous people, and now there is something in them about me!”
“What do you mean? Where is it?”
Papa turned pale. Mamma glanced at the icon and crossed herself. The schoolboys jumped out of bed and ran to their brother in their short night-shirts.
“Yes, sir! There is something about me in the paper! The whole of Russia knows it now. Oh, mother, keep this number as a souvenir; we can read it from time to time. Look!”
Mitia pulled a newspaper out of his pocket and handed it to his father, pointing to an item marked with a blue pencil.
His father put on his glasses.
“Come on, read it!”
Mamma glanced at the icon once more, and crossed herself. Papa cleared his throat, and began:
“At 11 p. M., on December 27, a young man by the name of Dimitri Kuldaroff — ”
“See? See? Go on!”
“A young man by the name of Dimitri Kuldaroff, coming out of a tavern on Little Armourer Street, and being in an intoxicated condition — ”
“That’s it, I was with Simion Petrovitch! Every detail is correct. Go on! Listen!”
“ — being in an intoxicated condition, slipped and fell under the feet of a horse belonging to the cabman Ivan Drotoff, a peasant from the village of Durinka in the province of Yuknofski. The frightened horse jumped across Kuldaroff’s prostrate body, pulling the sleigh after him. In the sleigh sat Stepan Lukoff, a merchant of the Second Moscow Guild of Merchants. The horse galloped down the street, but was finally stopped by some house porters. For a few moments Kuldaroff was stunned. He was conveyed to the police station and examined by a doctor. The blow which he had sustained on the back of the neck — ”
“That was from the shaft, papa. Go on! Read the rest!”
“ — the blow which he had sustained on the back of the neck was pronounced to be slight. The victim was given medical assistance.”
“They put cold-water bandages round my neck. Do you believe me now ? What do you think ? Isn’t it great ? It has gone all over Russia by now! Give me the paper!”
Mitia seized the paper, folded it, and put it into his pocket, exclaiming:
“I must run to the Makaroffs, and show it to them! And the Ivanoffs must see it, too, and Natalia, and Anasim — I must run there at once! Good-bye! ”
Mitia crammed on his cap and ran blissfully and triumphantly out into the street.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (29 January 1860-15 July 1904) was a great Russian short-story writer, playwright and physician. His career as a dramatist produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Chekhov practiced as a doctor throughout most of his literary career: “Medicine is my lawful wife,” he once said, “and literature is my mistress.”
Chekhov had at first written stories only for financial gain, but as his artistic ambition grew, he made formal innovations which have influenced the evolution of the modern short story. His originality consists in an early use of the stream-of-consciousness technique, later adopted by James Joyce and other modernists, combined with a disavowal of the moral finality of traditional story structure. He made no apologies for the difficulties this posed to readers, insisting that the role of an artist was to ask questions, not to answer them.
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