Title Errand
Author Carver, Raymond

Excerpt from Errand by Raymond Carver.

The New Yorker, June 1, 1987 P. 30

In March of 1897 Chekhov was dining at an elegant restaurant in Moscow when blood began gushing from his mouth. He returned to his hotel, and later, after another hemorrhage, allowed himself to be moved to a clinic that specialized in the treatment of t.b. and related respiratory infections There he was visited by his sister and Tolstoy, both of whom kept diaries from which the writer quotes. Once Chekhov’s own t.b. was discovered, he tried to minimize the seriousness of his condition. He was moved to Badenweiller, a spa & resort city in the western part of the Black Forest. It was June, 1904. He was with his wife, the actress Olga Knipper. He was very happy with her. As he grew weak, he worked less; finishing “The Cherry Orchard” was the hardest thing he’d ever done. A Russian journalist visited the couple at their hotel and the dispatch he wrote to his editor is quoted. “Chekhov’s days are numbered.” On July 2, 1904, after midnight, Olga sent someone to get the doctor. Chekhov was delirious. When the doctor arrived, he told Olga he’d send for oxygen. Suddenly Chekhov became lucid & spoke, “What’s the use? Before it arrives I’ll be a corpse.” The doctor figured out how to use the phone on the wall & called the kitchen. He ordered up champagne and 3 glasses which were delivered by a young, sloppily-dress boy. It was almost 3 in the morning. They drank; minutes later, Chekhov died. Olga asked the doctor not to tell anyone about the death until the morning; she wanted time alone with Chekhov. He agreed. In the morning, there was a knock at the door. It was the same boy as the night before, only neatly groomed. He told her about breakfast, and he held a vase with 3 roses in it. He sensed something was wrong. She told him Chekhov was dead, and to find the best mortician. To go quickly yet calmly. To remain calm for her; soon things wouldn’t be.