Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sad Story, Russian

She has wicked tendencies in spite of the best efforts her parents have made over the years. They have to think very hard to remember when the girl wasn’t thoroughly wretched. One night her cousin came to visit. The last time he had been to their region, a verdant and bustling countryside, she was very young. Now she is almost nineteen. Her cousin remembers her as a delightful girl of three or four (he is just a few years older than her, a young lieutenant in the service). After she took her sedative and went to bed, the cousin sits up with her parents and reminisces. With a glass of sherry, he tells a story of hiding in a toy box with her and stealing a kiss, and he remembers her laughter. The parents are grateful for this memory. They have been so miserable over the last years. They tell him that it’s hard to remember any time that was different. The cousin can understand that, certainly. Her behavior is lousy. He extends his sympathy and goes to his bedchamber. The next day he leaves before his cousin awakens.

She takes her breakfast in bed. Then, when she finally makes it downstairs, she is annoyed that her cousin has left and she returns to her rooms. There, she throws a mild tantrum. Her father is out hunting. He comes home and finds everyone in the house gathered around her bed, where she is pale and trembling in her sleep. Her mother, sitting in a chair she’s drawn up along the bedside, has set her jaw with some resolution, and she gives a cold look to the father. A doctor comes in.

He gives a dim pronouncement, leaves a vial of some solution, and departs. It’s evening. The girl sleeps through the night, and in the morning, wakes and is happy. It’s a mystery to all, and they are miserable for days.

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