theresaurus

December 15, 2014

I bought oysters

Filed under: Uncategorized — theresaurus @ 11:41 pm

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From Anton Chekhov’s Oysters:

“I need no great effort of memory to recall, in every detail, the rainy autumn evening when I stood with my father in one of the more frequented streets of Moscow; and felt that I was gradually being overcome by a strange illness. … If I had been taken to a hospital at that minute, the doctors would have had to write over my bed, Fames, a disease which is not in the manuals of medicine.

“Before us was a big house of three stories, adorned with a blue sign board with the word ‘Restaurant’ on it. … ‘Oysters’ I made out on the placard.  A strange word! … ‘Papa, what does ‘oysters’ mean?’ … ‘It is an animal … that lives in the sea.’

“I instantly pictured to myself this unknown marine animal. … I thought it must be something midway between a fish and a crab.  As it was from the sea they made of it, of course, a very nice hot fish soup with savory pepper and laurel leaves, or broth with vinegar and fricassee of fish and cabbage, or crayfish sauce, or served it cold with horse-radish.

“‘They are eaten alive,’ said my father.  ‘They are in shells like tortoises, but … in two halves.’  ‘How nasty!’  I imagined to myself a creature like a frog.  A frog sitting in a shell, peeping from it with big, glittering eyes, and moving its revolting jaws.

“The children would all hide while the cook, frowning with an air of disgust, would take the creature by its claws, put it on a plate, and carry it into the dining-room.  The grown-ups would take it and eat it, eat it alive with its eyes, its teeth, its legs!  I shuddered at the thought of them, but I wanted to eat!  To eat!

“‘Oysters! Give me some oysters!’ was the cry that broke from me and I stretched out my hand.  ‘Do you mean to say you eat oysters?  A little chap like you!’  I heard laughter close to me. …  I remember that a strong hand dragged me into the lighted restaurant.  A minute later there was a crowd round me; watching me with curiosity and amusement.  I sat at a table and ate something slimy, salt with a flavor of dampness and moldiness.  I ate greedily without chewing, without looking and trying to discover what I was eating.  I fancied that if I opened my eyes, I should see glittering eyes, claws, and sharp teeth.

“All at once I was biting something hard … .  ‘Ha, ha!  He is eating the shells!’ laughed the crowd. …  After that I remember a terrible thirst.  I was lying in my bed, and could not sleep for heartburn and the strange taste in my parched mouth. … Towards morning I fell asleep and dreamt of a frog sitting in a shell, moving its eyes.”

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