Chekhov has “A Boring Story”
about a professor.
The old man’s wife and children
don’t understand him and don’t care.
His wife’s only concern is
to marry off their daughter
to this blockhead, a nonentity.
So the old man goes on a journey
to investigate, find out what he can
about their future son-in-law . . .
and finds himself in a hotel room
in a strange town, wondering
how on earth life brought him there.
He has a friend, a young woman.
They’re not lovers . . . loving friends.
She had an affair that turned sour
and now she’s at loose ends.
She asks him what to do, what to live for,
and he has nothing to say to her,
not a word. That’s the end of the story.
Here’s another boring story about a professor.
Years ago he embarked on an affair
with a young woman. It became a scandal.
His wife threw him out,
then she took him back. The young woman
tried to kill herself, I’m told.
I see them fairly often.
He and I talk about literature
and what’s wrong with the country
while his wife knits or does some ironing.
I find myself looking out the window
or at the walls. Some surrealist
recommends staring at a wall
till something unusual happens . . .
an arm protruding from the wall.
He mixes drinks, she lays out cheese-dip.
Then the children come running in,
streaked with dirt from wherever they’ve been.
They make for the cheese-dip,
stick their fingers in and dabble.
I’ve seen them at the table.
They snatch the meat from the plate
with their hands.
She smiles at her little savages.
One thing’s sure: she’s not raising her children
to be members of any faculty.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 5 Number 4, on page 50
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