Aug 21

How Are Your Bones?

Do you think a lot about your bones? In fact, have you ever thought about them? I’ve started to think about mine recently, ever since I started reading Strong Women, Strong Bones*.

I was surprised to learn that we have two different types of bone in our bodies. I always thought all our bones were all the same: hard, solid and not easily broken. Well, the truth is a little more complicated. Some of our bones are like this. They are called Cortical Bone. These are the long bones we can easily feel in our arms and legs. They are difficult to break because they are so dense.

But we have another type of bone also. This one is very different. It looks a lot like the inside of a kitchen sponge. This type of is called Trabecular Bone. These bones have a “porous inner layer, are light and have a lattice structure.”**

Our Trabecular Bone are located at the end of some of our long, solid bones, for example in our wrists. That’s why our wrists are not as strong as our arms and break easier if we fall on them. As we get older, the empty spaces in our Trabecular Bones become larger. This makes them weaker so they can break more easily.

I also learned that our bones are constantly remodeling themselves. That means they are being broken down and rebuilt throughout our lives. The bones we have today are not the ones we were born with or grew up with! They are just the latest version of our ongoing remodeling project.

The cells responsible for tearing down our bones are called osteoclasts and the ones who do the reconstruction are called osteoblasts. They are not in balance. At the beginning of our lives, the osteoblasts are winning because they are building more bone than is being torn down. But, and there is always a but, as we mature and grow older, the osteoclast take the lead because they are tearing down more bone than is being replaced. That is why someone who starts out in life with very strong bones can end up with very fragile and weak ones.

When we’re young, especially until we’re 25, we’re growing bone, much more than is being torn down. In our thirties, most of us are in balance. We’re gaining as much bone as we’re losing. But in our forties, this balance starts to shift and not in a good direction. We begin to lose a little more bone than we’re gaining and after 50 this process speeds up as we lose bone much faster than it is being replaced. This is especially true for women.

This may all sound depressing but don’t give up just yet. Keep reading! There are things we can do to make our bones stronger and so less likely to break. Strong Women, Strong Bones talks about how important eating right is, especially getting enough calcium. It also talks about the importance of Vitamin D, whether you get it from the sun or a pill. Most importantly, it gives exercises we can do to improve our situations.

We can relearn how to stand taller, strengthen our bones and improve our balance. Yes, it does take hard work and setting aside some time each day to work on this. But, if we want to improve our situations, we can.

You may not have thought about your bones before reading this but maybe now is the time to start!

*Strong Women, Strong Bones by Miriam E. Nelson, Ph.D. with Sarah Wernick, Ph.D., A Perigee Book, 2000.

**Strong Women, Strong Bones, Page 18.

Aug 18

Coffee Shop Chronicles: Don’t stare

Smartworld Coffee

Denville NJ’

August 2017

I dash in, just missing the rain, and see there’s a problem with my regular table.

A woman with a toddler is there.  Her stroller takes up the entire comfy chair area and space next to my usual table.  Drat.  I really need that wall outlet today.  I walk over.

This mom appears to be unpacking toys and baubles for the weekend, much like how I spread out my scrapbook supplies for a one-day crop.  There’s no scrap book store near me, and I suddenly miss Michigan and my friends even more.  Now I want that table even more, just for principle.  If I’d been five minutes earlier, I would be in my space, but I wasn’t.  I glance at her—no, I’m pretty sure this is a glare—and look at her baby bottles, toys, food bags and blankets scattered on the table.  I drop my dry umbrella on the table next to her, the table that’s too far from the outlet.  I hope the sound is loud enough to annoy her and show my distaste.

“Oh, I’m just leaving,” the mom says with a smile.  All this mess is her organizing to pack up?  I understand.  I stare into her eyes and melt into guilt.  The rain, traffic and my phone’s low coughing battery has made me cranky.  It’s a good thing she will never know I was silently taking that out on her.

She packs up quicker than I expect, and I set my umbrella and work bag on my table and walk to the counter.  What looks good?  It all does.  What am I in the mood for?  I stare at the 12 pastries like it’s an endless list.  I notice the barista staring at me.  There’s no one else in the store.

“What do you recommend?” I ask.

“The lemon croissant,” she says after a moment of thought.

Always order something and always go with the barista’s recommendation.  I get the dark house coffee to pair with the pastry and hand her my money.  She takes it, gives me change and doesn’t make eye contact again.

A woman came in while I waited and set up shop on the table in front of me.  Literally.  The small circular table is filled edge to edge with trays of beauty products or creams or probiotic somethings.  There are two pre-filled boxes open and a variety of bottles and tubes lined up in a neat array.  I’ve seen meetings like this in coffee shops—the recent one of a wedding photographer comes to mind—but what kind of permission do you need from the store owner to have this display?  I’m curious what she’s hawking, but I get an Avon vibe from her.  I don’t stare at the products because I’m not in the mood for a sales pitch.  A blonde woman walks in and greets the saleswoman with a handshake.  Good.  I can get back to my writing and lemon croissant.

After maybe 15 minutes, a couple comes in and sits at the comfy chairs next to me.  I hear smooch smacks.  Are they kissing?  They must be doing some tongue thing because it is one loud wet sound.  I want to look and stare my appall, but is that just as rude as this makeout session?  The sounds stop.  She leans back in her chair and finger-brushes her hair onto my table very close to my food.  I stare at that, at her, but she doesn’t see me because she’s staring at her kissy-face man.

 

A wet draft smacks me.  The rain started, hard, and a woman pushed open the side door.  I look up and squint.  She scowls at me.  I have my reading glasses on and can’t focus that far away.  I was just looking up to see the commotion.  I better use those glasses and just stare at my papers.

The saleswoman has left and a family comes in.  Some older woman takes a young girl to the bathroom while everyone else pushes two circular tables together.  The girl, who must be someone’s daughter, fidgets and jerks her way back to the tables.  Don’t stare at people who are different, my folks always said to me growing up.  It’s not polite.  I wonder if she’s going to bump or fall onto my table.  Does her family have her under control?  I feel weird trying to think of a PC word to describe her—disabled? Physically challenged?—so I look up.  I can’t help staring, whether safety or curiosity.  One male adult at the table, maybe her father, is signing at her, or at least gesturing with his hands.  Everyone else sits down with coffee or whatever, and I can’t get a sense of family dynamics.  Just as well.  I stare down at my papers and get back to work.

I finish the page and see a shadow over me.  It’s not on top of me but in my peripheral vision.  The shadow doesn’t move.  Is it staring at me?  I look up and see a cluster of people.  Three people hold cardboard cup carriers.  Sloshy drinks.  Heavy rain.  Closed door.  This is a recipe for disaster.  I stare and instead have horrible, messy images.  For a heartbeat, I think of being one of those people who stare at disasters then turn their head as if what they saw was invisible.  I know how I’d feel if my to-go drink was dropped and spilled everywhere.  How disappointed after all that to-go effort with no way to go back for another drink.  I can’t let that happen and make someone else’s day cranky.  I could hold the door even if the man with them doesn’t.

“Can I help?” I ask, loud enough so they can hear me over the music.

“No, we’re fine.  Thanks,” one woman says, and it’s not in that polite I-don’t-want-to-bother-you way.  This is confidence, like they’ve done this a thousand times before.  They must have because the woman balances the tray on her thigh, pushes the door and glides out into the rain.  The man holds the door with his foot while the other woman walks through, then he lumbers behind.

I lose sight of them in the rain, between a car and telephone pole.  I’m hit with their wet draft, but this time I don’t mind that I stared.  I hope they make it.

Aug 15

Disconnects – Part One

A fun part of marriage is the occasionally odd disconnect that makes life interesting or, should we say, challenging. Years ago, for instance, my wife and I were shopping at Troy’s Somerset Mall, a major high-end suburban outlet, and I noticed there were fewer customers in the primary store, Lord and Taylor. Glancing at my watch, I saw it was nearing the 8:00 pm closing time. Just then, an announcement came over the store’s sound system confirming the end of the day closing and that everyone should leave.

I’d never been in a department store this late, but I mentioned to my wife that we’d better get moving. She said she’d only be a minute, so I ambled out to the entrance to wait inside the mall. As expected, within minutes, store lights began winking out with no Joan in sight. Then, to my great concern, a twenty-foot-high metal security gate began descending from the ceiling, but still no Joan. With many other mall stores also closing and almost nobody in sight, there was an eerie sense of abandonment. Almost like the beginning of a Zombie town horror movie.

Now my wife always made sure I wasn’t to worry in case she didn’t arrive exactly on time; that she’d be alright. But this fortress-like metal gate still clanking its way half-way down was understandably un-nerving. It was now so dark inside Lord and Taylor, I couldn’t see her in last mad scramble to get out. With my worry and blood pressure skyrocketing, the castle-like gate thudded into position.

Within seconds, she rounded a corner and stood there, helpless. We were well and truly separated, with not the slightest clue what to do to extricate her. Not only that, this happened before cell phones existed, and I’d never seen a mall phone booth while wandering around. Even if I could find a phone, I had no idea how to contact Lord and Taylor Security, much less the store’s main offices. Was there anyone in the mall that could help make a call to Lord and Taylor’s 5th Avenue New York City corporate headquarters?

This couldn’t be the only occasion when a customer was trapped inside, but was my wife forced to stay inside all night? The drinking fountains probably worked, but did they lock the restrooms? Somehow, I didn’t think Lord and Taylor offered sleeping bags and emergency rations in cases like this. I couldn’t even remember seeing a candy bar machine, and Joan becomes more than surly when she’s denied a meal. I’d never inspected Lord and Taylor’s bulletin boards, but there was little chance they offered all-night champagne and hor d’oeuvres parties that no one knew about. When would a store security person wander through, or did they even bother? The castle-like entrance gate certainly looked stout enough to keep the Mongol hordes out.

But how could wives who love to shop actually purchase anything when it’s too dark to see and no sales people to sell them anything? For the matter of that, how had we missed all the sales personnel disappearing at the end of day?  Worse, perhaps there was a way my wife could conduct more transactions all night. A sudden thought struck me; would shoppers being locked inside drive a new age of internet shopping when simply viewing a computer screen and ordering on-line became a necessity?

We stood there, staring at each other, completely flummoxed, unable to accuse each other of creating this mess. Who knew Lord and Taylor had such iron-clad closing rules, much less castle-like iron gates. Both of us began rattling the security gate for what seemed like a very long time, trying to figure out how to either open it or find a button to push. Did the store even have a security guard? Or would the Troy police soon arrive, sirens blaring, lights flashing, and guns drawn with itchy fingers wrapped around them?

To our huge relief, a lone guard finally heard the noise and came over, using some sort of unlocking device, to let my wide-eyed wife escape. After seeing her tiny fists clinging in desperation to the wrong side of the bars, it was like watching a cuddly little koala bear coaxed from a zoo cage enclosure. Overjoyed at reconnecting at Lord and Taylor, we decided it would be better to reconnect at home.

 

Aug 10

Steps to Midnight

Breaching the thick silence hanging in the air, Felicity Marcum opens her car door. A shiver strolls across her exposed skin, and her heart pounds. Her feet to the ground she takes one last glance over her shoulder to the gate that reads, Last Chance Cemetery. The light in its center, or what she assumes is the center, is her only choice to seek out salvation from a walk into town. If the town is close by.

White knuckles grip the car door as she pulls herself up to stand. Pain is a hiss across her lips as a hoot startles her, and her full weight bears down on her leg. Breaths tear through her nose as the ache settles into her bones. Snapshots of her mangled knee flash in her head. She mentally shakes the images to scatter them from her memory, but she never forgets the pain that one distracted smile caused. What Felicity needs to do is ignore the past and think about finding a cell signal to call a place to fix her car. This whole area seems to be a dead zone. She snorts at the thought.

A frown pulls down on her face. “Stupid bucket of junk. I should have replaced you when I had the chance.”

Felicity steps away and pushes the door shut, the eerie whine and screech ending with brittle metal slamming into metal. Her stomach churns with acidic indecision. Should she take the road on foot to the nearest gas station? Or should she chance following the light into the cemetery? She exhausts a breath. Felicity knows she can’t walk far on her stupid knee.

“Cemetery it is.”

The night gives sparse injections of light. Dark, menacing shadows hide the dead all around her as she searches for any signs of life past the tall, menacing bars of the gate.

“Hello?” she says just above a whisper. “Anyone alive out there.” She snickers this time. At least she can find some humor in the day that keeps on giving.

Gripping her threadbare jacket, she pulls the edges together worrying her thumbs across the space where the buttons should be. Felicity eyes the towering gate and takes a step. Her gut tells her this decision is going to twist a fork in the road, making what should be a trip from point a to point b something impassible. She’s scared. And the feeling isn’t going away. It’s churning up feelings that she thought she had dealt with. She shakes her head. “Like the Nike commercial,” says Fel, “Just do it!”

With no flashlight and the sliver of moon dropping toward the silhouette of tombstones Felicity’s confidence in her choice diminishes. Each step she takes she makes with care so she doesn’t trip. She stops to lean on one of the headstones to rest. Did she really see the light from the house? She looks at it again. She gasps when the light flickers and then dies.

“Shit!” She looks frantically around wondering what happened, as if some giant switch would appear so she could turn on the light. “Keep moving, Fel,” she whispers. “You’ll get where you need to go,” she repeated until she believed it or kept repeating it that is.

Felicity let go of the stone blowing warm air into her cold hands. She headed the direction the light had extinguished.

“The caretakers just in bed,” she said to the dead. “I’ll go to the house, he’ll let me in, and I can call for a tow truck, and then I’ll be able to get to my destination by morning.”

With each step, her focus is to keep her weight off her not so healed knee, her hobble is even more pronounced and her concentration on the bad knee so great she misses a large divot in the ground.

A scream cracks through the cold air, and she hits the ground hard as she twists around trying to avoid landing on her bad knee, instead, twisting her ankle on her good leg. Felicity’s whimper clogs her throat. She holds herself off her knee wresting on three limbs while she catches the wind she knocked out of her lungs.

“Stupid Felicity, stupid.” She squeezes her eyes shut holding back her tears because they’re of no use. “I should have taken the train.”

She grabs onto the nearest angel’s wing and brings herself back up to sit with her back to a head stone. She rotates her ankle and grunts through the movement. It hurts like hell but it’s doable. Using the angle’s wings again, she helps herself up, grits her teeth, and limps like a zombie looking for its next meal. She must look ridiculous she thinks to herself. Hysterical laughter launches out of her mouth and echoes throughout the graves bouncing back like a hoard of spirits zeroing in on her. It makes her shiver, but she ignores the chill and keeps on moving.

Walking around an ornate and very large stone monument—she looks at the carved words—dedicated to someone who must have been exorbitantly rich, Felicity comes to a sudden stop. The clouds have spilt apart, the moon shining down making the edges of the monuments glow in an unnerving light. But what makes her freeze is the movement from a shadow silhouetted by the same light. It’s not enough to see who it is but Felicity’s instincts tell her to keep quiet.

Felicity swallows hard and tries to regulate her breathing. She watches and waits to see what the large figure does. A hand reaches out and touches one of the grave stones. Who was the person that lies beneath his feet? She assumes it’s a ‘he’ standing there. The figure is significant. He seems to tower over her. There’s whispering, but she can’t hear what he’s saying. Felicity knows it is a man now. The voice is in too deep of a tone for a woman. She wants to take a step back. His size and that low voice make her nervous. But she doesn’t dare move.

An alarm blares form her coat. “Ahhh!” It’s her alarm. Fingers reach into her pocket for her phone, which had no signal earlier—the reason she couldn’t call anyone to get a tow truck.

She’d set it to remind herself that she had thirty minutes until midnight to get to her destination per her grandmother’s instructions. For the life of her Felicity doesn’t know why she still listens to the old woman, but when she speaks, all in her family listen. Felicity was to be in the small town of Humble by midnight, so that’s what she was doing. The woman is crazy, but she has a way. She knows things.

She slaps at it to get the alarm to shut off and hits the flashlight app instead.

“The flashlight app. Why didn’t I think of that earlier?”

Movement in the grass ahead of her reminds her she’s not alone. She brings up the light, and it shines on the huge goliath of a man a few yards away. His arm goes up to block his face, and he freezes.

“Don’t move! I have mace.” She does, but it’s in her car. “Crap.”

“You want to shine that damn thing somewhere else?” His words vibrate with almost a growl.

The words he says don’t really resonate though, and the rumbling tenor in his voice sings through Fel’s body like the purest chord lighting her up everywhere it touches. But then she realizes she’s in a graveyard with a strange giant of a man that could really do some damage, and she decides that it’s a good idea to direct the light somewhere else. She shifts it down so it’s not in his eyes but on him enough that she feels she could blind him again if she needs to.

Redirected the lights shows he’s holding a wreath at least three times as large as the engraved headstone he stands near. When she looks up again, the man’s body faces the grave but his face is at an angle such that the moon hits it just right and his eyes seem to glow. And his eyes are staring at her.

“Oh my,” she whispers, covering her mouth, the words and the sexual inflection she’s projecting toward this man coming out in full force, not appropriate for the mood of the hour.

He doesn’t say anything, and their gazes remain locked. Felicity’s body jerks when he says, “Your alarm’s still beeping.”

“Oh.” She unfreezes and turns it off. When she looks back up, he’s gone. She turns with unsteady movements searching but doesn’t see where he’s gone. “What the hell.” She turns again. “Ow. Stupid knee.” She looks around again. “Hello,” she yells. “I could use some help.”

There’s no response. “Jerk.”

She needs to keep moving, but before she does, she sees the wreath left at the grave. Grabbing her now remembered flashlight app she reads the inscription. “Beloved wife. 1984-2016. May you find what you were looking for.” What an odd epitaph.

She shakes off the sad feelings that the words invoke and then she gets angry. Didn’t the guy wonder why she was out here close to midnight?

“Fine!” she shouts to the world at large. The world hasn’t been that good to her in the first place. “But dammit, throw me a bone here.”

No answer.

She limps forward more determined than ever to get to the house. It isn’t like she has anywhere else to go…like the town thirty minutes away. Her grandmother always said she was traveling a new road soon. Felicity laughs so loud she stirs something in a bush, and it makes her stumble as the little critter races for cover. Her hand catches on a stone. She doesn’t fall. A breath huffs out, and Felicity keeps going.

Right before her grandmother stomped into the spiritual store they co-owned, Enchanted Glen, the stomping coming from the use of a cane she did not need, she had just returned from the grocers to the apartment she shared with her boyfriend. There had been an eviction notice on the door. Groceries in hand she did a little stomping and saw said boyfriend entangled with a blond that was not her. “What the hell,” she’d said. She hadn’t even yelled at him more surprised than anything. “You said you paid the rent.” He’d stood there with his mouth open which had a slight smile on it. He had probably been waiting for a pulling-the-hair-drag-down-fight with the girl in his arms. She hadn’t really cared. She’d been his roommate more than less. They hadn’t had sex but a handful of times since her car accident. He’d told her that he’d gotten another place to live, which she’d seen on the smirking blonds face. Felicity’s mind had been blank at that point. She hadn’t cared about food, not her job, not even her boyfriend. He had been a placeholder, really.

Her life isn’t moving forward or back unless you count her steps toward the elusive house she’s heading toward. Every time she thinks of the future, she feels more like she’s sinking, hoping for something to jump out of the proverbial dense woods of her reality that surrounds her dragging her in the right direction out of the mire that keeps pulling her under.

Felicity sighs at the memories folding over in her mind and keeps limping toward her destination. Lifting her face to the moon soaking in white light that gleams down on her, she is energized by its majesty. The darkness is what she’s afraid of more. The bleakness of it.

A year ago, her crushed car trapped for hours it seemed, her knee crushed, night falling over her as lethargy from all her wounds and blood loss covered her like a leaden blanket, swallowing her up in a mindless darkness.

“Oh, Jesus,” she exclaimed when she finally looked up.

A white Queen Ann style house a colossal slice of history cast in shadows comes into view as she tops a hill. Row after row of headstones strangles the house in ever tightening circles. She looks around noticing now that the path she’s walking is a ripple of graves from the center of the cemetery and as she moves forward taking the last step, her hand grabbing the newel post, she feels the power of it deep in her bones past her pain and the past. Like the power is centering her bringing her to the present.

Felicity breathes deep trying not to whimper as she lifts her leg to reach the next step and then the next. Reaching the door, she lifts her hand to knock but just as she does the moon shines on the center knocker, an open mouths skeleton holding a crystal stone in its giant jaws. She looks closer. Is it a wolf’s skeleton? The shudder she feels race down her spine is not welcome. As she stares at it, she feels the hum start to echo inside her, and it takes its cadence and changes her own. Her heart finds the rhythm easily which makes her nerves skitter. She looks over her shoulder. It feels like someone is watching her, eyes everywhere.

Grandma said to be at the rendezvous point at midnight. Felicity looks down at her watch just as her hand lifts the ornate knocker. Before she has time to react the knocker comes down, and the digits on her clock click over to midnight. She thinks maybe her grandmother lied and this is really her destination. Her destiny.

The hum under her skin feels bigger, somehow louder, and she knocks again. And again, until her hand is gripping the knocker so tightly she thinks her fingers will never release it.

This time she does whimper, confused, scared. The lights turn on, and she blinks. The door opens, but her hand is still on the knocker. She stumbles across the threshold, and three things happen she never thought would. One, arms wrap around so securely and strong, they feel so good she never wants them to let go. Two, the pain in her knee is so excruciating that she’s not walking anymore, she really does need to be held and carried someplace to lay down. And three, when she looks up into the face the bright light covers, she gasps.

“You,” Felicity says, the words so small she barely can hear them herself.

The man, holding her, gazes down into her eyes with an intensity that shakes her to the core. It’s the man from the cemetery.

Not only is he the man from the cemetery, but now that she sees him in the stark light, he’s the same man that a year ago changed her life forever. All because of a smile, another driver’s carelessness, and bad timing.

“Do I know you?” The man says, and his eyes narrow in what she suspects is confusion.

Hysterical laughter floats into the room from her mouth causing the man to smile. It’s stunning making her body heat up like a summer storm waiting to rain down on him.

“No,” she whispers. The man brings her to standing. “Ow,” she says when her weight hits her bad leg. And then just like in all her fantasies, the stranger lifts her up carrying her to a sofa in the next room gently sitting her down. But it’s not to sit her on the sofa. Because she can’t sit on the sofa if he’s still holding her on his lap.

She figures at this point she must be dreaming because things like this don’t happen to her.

Aug 08

The Top Score

Lists, rankings and ratings eliminate some of the guesswork in life. For example, instead of chancing a bad experience, I check rating websites for a restaurant, a movie or even a church. Goodreads and other online forums allow readers to post comments and ratings about novels or collections of stories. How would the general population rank Chekhov’s short stories?  The half-dozen books on my desk about Chekhov or Chekhov’s anthologies are the old way of researching. I need guidance on where to begin, what is considered the best of Chekhov and how to do all of this in the quickest amount of time.

An Editor’s Choice

Books like The Essential Tales of Chekhov edited by Richard Ford offer a method for reading the best of Checkhov. Ford, a temporary Michigan transplant from the South, attended Michigan State University and writes in his  introduction to the Chekhov anthology that Chekhov is a writer for adults. Chekhov’s most frequent themes of adultery, poverty and illness are not exactly the hero’s journey that Hollywood pumps into most movies. Chekhov’s plots pale and blur while his characters are noteworthy. My Russian dentist who inspired this literary trek says Chekhov descriptions, such as in “A Man with a Case,” have become Russian cultural references for describing personality types. After reading every Chekhov story, Richard Ford chose his favorites. He admits to adding a few stories that were not as polished and complete as Chekhov’s later works. In Ford’s opinion, “The Lady and the Dog” is one of Chekhov’s finest short stories.

Ranker.com

Since I read Ford’s number one pick, I wanted to compare other lists. ListVerse.com which compiles top ten lists of the bizarre to scientific failed in the literary realm with only three lists:

Top Ten Books of All Time (#9 The Stories of Anton Chekhov)

Top Ten Greatest Writers (#3 Pushkin with Russian runner ups of Tolstoy, Chekhov and Dostoyevsky)

Ten More Strange Moments In the History of the Novel Awards (no Russians until 1933)

My prize discovery is Ranker.com. This website allows viewers to vote for their favorites on people, entertainment, sports, culture and videos. Curious if the general public could be trusted to rank a literary giant like Chekhov, I find the ratings are generous for a guy who died in 1904. Here are the lists containing Anton Chekhov:

Best Anton Chekhov Short Stories

The Best Writers of All Time (#25 Chekhov)

Best Novelist of All time (#50 Chekhov)

Best Short Story Writers of All time (#3 Chekhov)

Dying Words Last Spoken by Famous People (#69 Chekhov)

The Greatest Playwrights in History (#2 Chekhov)

The Best Russian Authors (#3 Chekhov)

The Hottest Dead Writer (#3 Chekhov)

Every Person Who Has Been immortalized in a Google Doodle

I confess to spending more time on Ranker.com than in Chekhov’s actual writings. In regards to the primary mission of finding Chekhov’s best short stories, the survey says . . . the following stories received the most votes:

The Lady and the Dog (18 pages written 1889)

The Bet (9 pages written 1888)

Ward No. 6 (48 pages written 1892)

The Death of a Clerk (4 pages written 1883)

Misery (6 pages written 1886)

Fast Pass to Chekhov

If narrowing the reading to a handful of stories is still too much, then do what theme parks call the “fast pass.” Similar to a theme park’s shorter line, this method makes the classics very easy, fast and fun. I can listen to more stories than I have time to read.

The Duel (an independent film made in 2010 with an 81% on the Tomatometer)

“The Bet” (produced by ITV’s “The Short Story”)

The Seagull (a live performance by the Michigan Shakespeare Festival)

The Seagull  (a 1975 production with a Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score of 50%)

Both professional and school productions of Chekhov’s stories are found on YouTube.  Fans of silent movies will want to watch the short 2012 adaptation of Death of a Government Clerk by Ethan Unklesbay. Audio recordings are also on YouTube including the free online digital libraries of Librivox.org, read by volunteers. “Misery” is a good recording.

NPR produces Selected Shorts. The July 2017 program, hosted by Krista Tippett, begins with a Sherwood Anderson short story, continues to two poems by Tracy K. Smith and stories by David Whyte and Elizabeth Crane and finally ends with “An Enigmatic Nature” by Anton Chekhov. I veer off track to listen to Stephen King’s “Batman and Robin Have An Altercation.” This story is on Selected Shorts Too Hot For Radio. (I’m not counting this as a complete diversion because Stephen King’s Misery came to mind when I first saw the short story title of “Misery” by Chekhov.)

In conclusion, Chekhov’s short stories are for the reader to experience many times and in many ways. Ranker.com and Richard Ford helped begin my journey, but there are many stories remaining for me to enjoy. Each different story makes me fall a little bit more for the #3 Hottest Dead Writer.

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