Posts

Showing posts from October, 2014

Short Story #303: 2BR02B by Kurt Vonnegut Jr

Image
Title:  2BR02B Author: Kurt Vonnegut JrSummary It's into the future and cures have been discovered for all sorts of the illnesses and death itself.  Edward Wehling is waiting in the hospital waiting room as he awaits his wife to give birth to triplets.  Few people had children nowadays as population controls restricted it and Edward by societal standards is also considered young at age fifty-six.  He notes the room's decoration and a man painting a mural of a garden.  The artist is displeased with it as it implies a perfect garden to which he seems dubious about.  A passing orderly remarks on the effort and the artist explains it and also how it is quite far from representing life.  Displeased with the artist's responses, the orderly tells him to call directory number for the Federal Bureau of Termination, the place one calls to end one's life.  The artist explains he would prefer to do it himself, as messy as it would be.  A woman approaches from the FBT's "Se…

Short Story #302: Varieties of Religious Experience by John Updike

Image
Title:  Varieties of Religious ExperienceAuthor:  John UpdikeSummaryDan Kellogg has a front-row seat to the destruction of the Twin Towers and in that moment, loses all of his faith in God, despite being a practicing Christian all his life.  As he stands in his daughter's apartment trying to reconcile the world, he is at a lost in trying to make sense of it, while his daughter does her best to deal with her two daughters that are grappling with what has happened.  While he busies himself with things around the apartment and outside, he still has trouble reconciling what he has witnessed and his utter loss of faith.  The story jumps to a week prior to the event and a man named Mohamed who is in Florida at a strip bar.  He contemplates his forthcoming actions in contrast ot the scenes around him.  He is mentally preparing for the forthcoming task of flying a plane into the towards.  His partner is with him but a bit distracted by everything around him and eventually causes some issu…

Short Story #301: The Outage by John Updike

Image
Title:  The OutageAuthor:  John UpdikeSummaryA storm strikes the New England town that knocks out the power.  Brad decides to go into town and run some errands since he cannot work from home as usual.  His visit to the town center run into some problems since the power is out and many places cannot complete the transactions.  On his way home, he encounters a neighbor that he is not as familiar with, Lynne.  They chat about the storm and lack of electricity.  She explains that her husband is away and so she decides to walk about.  He invites her into the car and offers her a ride home.  When they get to the house, the burglar alarm is going off and Brad helps to turn it off.  While in the house, they continue to chat and he notices how much her house is like hs own.  She offers him some coffee but he asks for a drink of what she had been having.  The two move into an embrace.  They make their way upstairs, continuing to undress.  They enter the master bedroom that is filled with mement…

Short Story #300: A Sense of Shelter by John Updike

Image
Title:  A Sense of Shelter Author:  John UpdikeSummaryWilliam sits in class on a snowy day, contemplating his place in high school now that he was a senior, though still an outsider.  The center of his thoughts is telling Mary Landis of his love for her since childhood when she beat him in a race and Mary came back to give him his schoolbag after he ran away.  He makes his way through the day, going to classes and even lunch with classmates (though not really friends).  At lunch, William thinks about his chances with Mary now that she is a bit more socially isolated than in years past since they were seniors and she had spent previous years hanging with older students.  He makes his way through classes after lunch and then begins working on the school newspaper after school.  He manages his departure from the school at the same time that Mary is leaving, so they begin to chat.  He is frustrated by his stutter but continues chatting with her and praising her in their conversation.  The…

Short Story #299: The Swimmer by John Cheever

Image
Title:  The SwimmerAuthor:  John CheeverSummaryNeddy Merrill is spending his midsummer Sunday with a group of friends poolside, enjoying the day.  People are recovering from the previous night's drinking and he is contemplating returning home.  He slowly realizes that if he plans it right he could easily swim his way home by a mixture of cutting through backyards and swimming through the pools of people he knows.  It would be several miles of travel but he rather liked the idea and decides to pursue it.  He sets off in the current pool and then makes his way into the next yard.  He has it largely mapped in his head and finds his way easily from yard to yard.  At times, he encounters friends whom he briefly chats with before jumping into the pool and swimming across.  Many are happy to see him and offer him a drink so as he goes along, he begins to feel more and more fatigued.  While this is happening, the clouds are gathering and a storm is imminent. When the storm does hit, he fi…

Short Story #298: Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor

Image
Title:  Everything That Rises Must ConvergeAuthor:  Flannery O’ConnorSummaryJulian is taking his mother to the YMCA for her weekly class to help her reduce her blood pressure.  His mother supports him now that he has graduated college and can't seem to get his writing career started.  As they get ready, the two bicker about the hat that the mother is wearing and this eventually rolls into a discussion about lineage and how they descended from great men who owned plantations and slaves and now they live in less desirable conditions.  The conversation slips further into discussing race wherein Julian condemns his mother for her racist beliefs.  Julian continues to feel self-righteous in his evolved beliefs and looks for ways to annoy his mother.  When they are at the bus-stop, he takes off his tie.  Once on the bus, they converse with others about the heat and there is more tension that develops between Julian and his mother.  Enough so that when an African American gets on the bus,…

Short Story #297: Wunderkind by Carson McCullers

Image
Title:  Wunderkind Author:  Carson McCullersSummaryBienchen arrives early at her piano instruction when her instructor, Bilderbach makes note of her early arrival.  The other instructor Mr. Lafkowitz enters the room and greets Bienchen.  He asks her how she is doing and she admits to doing bad.  Before Lafkowitze can make a suggestion, Bilderbach encourages the start of the session.  Before starting Lafkowitz makes mention of a boy named Heime being featured in a magazine, Musical Corner and is being invited to a play in the Beethoven Concerto.  Bienchen sees this and reflects on how much practice she had put into her playing in just that day.  She remembers how she was considered a wunderkind like Heime at a young age and both of them now--of similar age, though she is slightly old--are in different places with their music.  Her first performance is impressive to the instructors in her ability to play from memory but they insist that if she is to do something, the playing needs both …

Short Story #296: Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl

Image
Title:  Lamb to the Slaughter Author:  Roald DahlSummary
Mary Maloney was a dedicated and loving wife, six months pregnant with her first child.  One evening, she waits for her husband, a police office, to come home and happily greets him.  His tone and body language is removed.  She attempts to help and serve him but he demands that she sits down.  He then shares news with her that indicates he is leaving (possibly with another woman).  Mary is stunned by this and attempts to disengage with it.  She decides to get dinner and goes downstairs to check the freezer where she finds a leg of lamb.  She brings it up and he sees it and begins to scold her because he's going to go out.  In a single motion, Mary bashes his head in with the frozen leg of lamb and he falls flat.  She realizes what she did and her mind quickly clears.  She puts the rack into the oven and then heads down to the market, where she talks to the grocer about making a special meal for her husband.  When she comes ba…

Short Story #295: Beware of the Dog by Roald Dahl

Image
Title:  Beware of the DogAuthor:  Roald DahlSummaryPeter Williamson is trying to land his plane.  However, his leg is bleeding profusely and he's losing full control of his cognition.  As he flies through the skies in his plan, he believe everything is fine and normal, that he doesn't feel anything.  He's flying above the clouds and is therefore a bit unsure of whether he has made it to England or not or is over the Channel.  Unsure of his options, he bails out of the plane and next awakens in a hospital room.  It takes some time to orient himself to the situation and eventually, a nurse comes in to check on him, telling him he is a lucky fellow.  Peter notices that the doctor is a military doctor, who is optimistic about Peter's situation.  After they leave, Peter swears he hears a JU-88 German airplane flying about which has a very distinct sound in contrast to the British plans.  When he asks the nurse, she shrugs it off and insists it's British planes.  Later, …

Short Story #294 The Catbird Seat by James Thurber

Image
Title:  The Catbird SeatAuthor:  James ThurberSummaryMr. Martin has decided to plot the death of Mrs. Ulgine Barrows.  She is her boss's new assistant and has set to task for cleaning up and organizing the offices within the company.  She soon sets her eyes on Martin's office and he determines he must do something.  He has plotted out exactly how he will execute this and he moves forward with it, moving through the night, setting up his alibi and his approach.  He sets out at night and makes his way to Barrows' home, doing his best not to encounter anyone or be seen.  He finally arrives at his apartment and she greets him at the door.  Before she can welcome him in, he charges in.  He frantically searches the apartment for something to kill her with and she is unclear about why he is acting so strange.  He eventually finds himself incapable of killing her but proceeds to smoke and drink and be disagreeable towards her--all of which is utterly out of character for Martin as…

Short Story #293: The Jockey by Carson McCullers

Image
Title:  The JockeyAuthor:  Carson McCullersSummaryAfter a big race, a jockey named Bitsy stands to the side in a dining room watching the room.  He keeps his eyes on one table that includes his trainer, a bookie, and the horse's owner.   He is clearly marked by his experiences.  The trainer spots him and the owner insists on inviting him over, even though the bookie believes the jockey's crazy. They talk about how his friend, another jockey, got seriously hurt on the track. Eventually, Bitsy comes over.  His demeanor is reluctant and angry.  He's purposely manner-less to the others.  The trainer keeps trying to rail him in and keep him behaved. His defiant position takes a turn to talking about his friend whom he explains that he just found out that they removed the case (6 months since the accident) and that one of his legs is two inches shorter than the other.  To this, his trainer delivers a line of faux empathy that enrages the jockey.  He decides to order more drinks …

Short Story #292: The Geranium by Flannery O'Connor

Image
Title:  The GeraniumAuthor:  Flannery O'ConnorSummaryOld Dudley watches out the window of the apartment to the apartment across the alley where the occupants put a geranium out on the windowsill for much of the day  He disproves of this but it does give him something to look at and think about.  He is a bit resentful about living in an apartment with his daughter's family but in a moment of weakness, the decision was made for him to live with them and not by himself out in the country.  Old Dudley continues flashes back and forth between life in the apartment in New York and the more open life he lived Coa County, where he lived in a boarding house with women and did various things around the area with an African American man, Rabie, who often was subservient to Old Dudley.  Dudley looks fondly upon the experience and longs to return as he experiences within the city are largely overwhelming.  The movement of the city coupled with the mixture of people can at times scare him. …

Short Story #291: The Raid by John Steinbeck

Image
Title:  The RaidAuthor:  John SteinbeckSummaryDick and Root arrive to town at night.  Dick is older and more experience, while Root is a bit nervous.  They make their way throw town, discussing the plans for the evening.  Root is nervous for the evening's even while Dick tries to reassure him that it will be fine.  They decide that Root will start off talking and Dick will follow up.  The discussion makes clear that they are there to help establish a union or organized labor for the town and that they have put flyers to invite people.  Root is also worried that police and anti-union people will arrive and do violence.  Dick affirms that they are not to run away when it gets violent but to hold their ground.  By staying, they will make their point.  As they arrive at the meeting place, it is utterly abandoned which makes Root increasingly nervous and wondering when they should give up. They begin to set up the space and feud a bit over how to do things such as get both lamps up and…

Short Story #290: The Fire and the Cloud by Zora Neale Hurston

Image
Title:  The Fire and the CloudAuthor:  Zora Neale HurstonSummaryMoses is upon Mount Nebo, sitting upon his grave and looking upon his people who have traveled to Canaan.  A lizard strikes up a conversation with him.  It has been thirteen days since he has been buried.  The lizard is impressed with his "nest" and wonders what Moses' female will think of it but Moses explains he is alone.  The lizard doesn't entirely understand this, but when he goes to further inquire, Moses's head is in the clouds.  The lizard goes back to his home and sleeps.  He comes back and sees Moses returns, so he begins talking.  The lizard notes that Moses has some kind of power because he can summon flies for the lizard to eat when he is hungry.  The lizard asks where he comes from and he points to the plains of Moab.  He explains that he is alone because he has been chosen by God to lead but he has never been able to understand why he was called.  Upon hearing all that he has done, the…

Short Story #289: Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway

Image
Title:  Hills Like White ElephantsAuthor:  Ernest HemingwaySummaryAn American and his woman wait at a train station in Ebrol.  The man orders two beers for them, while they look out at the hills beyond the tracks.  The woman comments that they look like white elephants.  The man says he's never seen one and the woman agrees.  They look at a sign for a drink called the Anis del Toro.  They decide to order the drink.  When told it tastes like licorice, she makes a passing reference to longing for absinthe.  This gets the American to tell her to cut it out and insist they try to have a fine time.  She comments that all they do is look at things and try new drinks.  They continue to look at the hills.  Finally, the man tells her that it's a simple operation that they just let in air.  He assures her that he will be with her throughout.  He assures her things will go back to normal and he says that it's the only thing that has bothered them.  They both admit to knowing people w…

Short Story #288: The Hack Driver by Sinclair Lewis

Image
Title:  The Hack Driver Author:  Sinclair LewisSummaryThe narrator after working his way through law school finds himself working in a law office that is sending him out to serve a summons, which he thinks is below him.  He travels out by train to New Mullion to find this person.  Upon arrival, he finds he needs to get around and find this person so he talks to the first person he encounters.  He says he is looking for Oliver Lutkins and hopes the man can help him.  The man, Bill Magnuson, says he saw him a brief while ago and that he would be happy to drive him around to find the man.  The narrator knows the man is trying to get some money out of him and he is ok with that so long as they find Lutkins.  Over the course of the next few hours, Bill brings the narrator all over town where they keep missing Lutkins by a briefer periods of times.  Eventually, Bill brings him to Lutkins mother who also spins a tale of frustration about her son.  The narrator returns to the office empty han…