Perhaps I started checking the local stores too early, but neither B&N nor Borders had a collection in stock. Amazon was the next option, but the number of choices there was overwhelming. What could I do but turn to other bloggers for suggestions? A conversation on twitter and comments on my blog lead me to purchase Christmas Stories from Everyman's Pocket Classics, a book I first heard about around this time last year from Darlene.
This list of authors included reads like a literary Who's Who, and I couldn't wait to get started! Since December 1 happened to fall on a Tuesday, Short Story Monday is a day late this week.
"Vanka" by Anton Chekhov, originally appearing in The Cook's Wedding and Other Stories (1922), was the first story I chose. In it, a young orphaned boy, working as an apprenticed shoemaker for a cruel master, is writing a letter on Christmas Eve to his grandfather. The letter is a plea to be removed from the horrible situation and allowed come 'home' to the family that employs his grandfather as a night watchman.
Chekhov's description of Christmas Eve night is beautiful:
"The air is still, fresh, and transparent. The night is dark, but one can see the whole village with its white roofs and coils of smoke coming from the chimneys, the trees are silvered with hoar frost, the snowdrifts. The whole sky spangled with gay twinkling stars, and the Milky Way is as distinct as though it had been washed and rubbed with snow for a holiday..."
The letter, though, is simply sad. It reads:
"Dear grandfather, it is more than I can bear, it's simply no life at all. I want to run away to the village, but I have no boots, and I am afraid of the frost. When I grow up big I will take care of you for this, and not let anyone annoy you, and when you die I will pray for the rest of your soul, just as for my mammy's."
The boy addresses the letter "To grandfather in the village" but later adds a name to the envelope, and naively drops it in the box before returning home to dream sweet, hopeful dreams.
The story left me with an empty, somewhat bittersweet feeling... not at all what I was expecting from Christmas stories! You can read the story here. Visit The Book Mine Set for more short story posts.