I Am a Seagull

Steve De France

The man turned his collar up against the Moscow cold.

It was 18 November 1898.

The wind fresh from the Steppes was strong & snow fell steady swirling in the wind—the man shivered—chilled to the bone.

He curbed his open carriage at the Hotel Borodin—a groom wearing a soup-stained muffler grappled with the horses' reigns.

“Throw a blanket over her,” shouted the well-dressed man.

Doctor Anton Pavlovich Chekhov walked along the miasmic corridor.

Smells of cabbage, vodka & potatoes competed for his attention.

A corpulent figure moved out of shadow.

“I didn't think you would come at all,” her voice guttural & accusatory.

“I am here, as you can plainly see,” he coughed harshly into a folded napkin.

“I thought you would stay at your theatre tonight,”

“I can't stand yapping here all night.”   A small spray of blood had stained his napkin.

“Yes…yes, Doctor—” the bear of a woman pushed at the door ushering him into a dark and squalid room, lit by a single oil lantern.

“She hasn't paid rent in a week,” lamented the old woman, “perhaps you…”

The doctor threw his bag and great coat on the bed.

“Now, Nina, let's have a look at you…”

Her hair was golden, face terribly pale—almost marble.

“I'll tell you her trouble is with men—men who won't pay.”

“Madam, I must ask you to leave me with my patient.”

“I'm not paying for this whore,” grumbled the landlady.

“Yes, I understand.”   He threw a few ruples on the table.   “Leave us.”

He listened to the young women's lungs slowly filling with fluids.

He changed her dressing and administered an elixir to thicken the blood & stop her abdominal bleeding.

“I am so ashamed,” she blurted out, “I want to be dead.”

Chekhov adjusted his nose spectacles.   “Death will come for both of us—let's have no more talk of this.   So what shall we talk about tonight?   The theatre?   Dance?   The Musicals?”

Her body trembled with emotion, “My baby cold as the grave,” cried the young woman.

The doctor pressed his index finger to her lips & she tried to smile away her memories.

Chekhov consulted his chained vest watch—the curtain was going up at the Moscow Arts Theatre.

He thought of leaving, but remembered the last time THE SEA GULL was produced, it ran for only three days.

Strangely at home, he pulled up a wooden chair & lit his pipe.