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Short Stories "Old Age"


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Does Age Matter? Books That Challenge the Question of Being Young and Being Old
Short Stories

“Old Age” by Anton Chekhov (below)

“On Old Age” by Cicero

“Thank You, Ma’am” by Langston Hughes (below)

“The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant (below)

“The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (below)



“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (full text at http://xroads.virginia.edu/~HYPER/Fitzgerald/jazz/benjamin/benjamin1.htm)
Books About Youth Confronting Adult Issues (34)

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ismael Beah
The Boy’s War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the Civil War by Jim Murphy
Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Bartoletti
Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan
Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Staples
Lost Boys of the Sudan by Mark Bixler
Within Reach: My Everest Story by Mark Pfetzer

The Last Part First by Angela Johnson
Freedom’s Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell their Story by Ellen Levine
I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing up in the Holocaust by Livia Bitton-Jackson

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer
Tomorrow When the War Began by John Marsden

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Nothing But the Truth by Avi
Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor by Russell Freedman
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Patillo Beals
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Far North by Will Hobbs

My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelson

Downriver by Will Hobbs

River Thunder by Will Hobbs

Sarah Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

Caleb’s Story by Patricia MacLachlan

Island of the Blue Dolphin by Scott O’Dell

Scribbler of Dreams by Mary Pearson

Freedom Writer’s Diary by Erin Gruwell

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
Cross-generational Relationships (14)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

The Absolutely True Story of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Finding Buck McHenry by Alfred Slote

The Pigman by Paul Zindel

Toning the Sweep by Angela Johnson

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

1001 Cranes by Naomi Hirahara

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Wait for Me by An Na

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
Books About Aging and Time Shifting (8)

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffennegger

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster
Books About the Elderly and Confronting Death (10)

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest Gaines

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis (48 pp)

Frozen Man by David Getz (64 pp)

Life is So Good by George Dawson

Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

The Bonesetter’s Daughter by Amy Tan

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Film

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Arsenic and Old Lace

God Grew Tired of Us

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

The Karate Kid

The Last Lecture (1:16 --http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo)
Poems

“Mother to Son”* by Langston Hughes

“Harlem 2” (Dream Deferred)* by Langston Hughes

“Childhood is the Place Where Nobody Dies”* by Edna St. Vincent Millay

“The Courage That My Mother Had”

“We Real Cool”* by Gwendolyn Brooks

“Death Be Not Proud” by John Donne

“One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop

“Queries to My Seventieth Year” by Walt Whitman

“He Who Has Lived Sixty Years” (Egyptian Papyrus)

“Nothing Gold Can Stay”* by Robert Frost

“The Road Not Taken”* by Robert Frost

“Crossing the Border” by Ogden Nash

“Grass”* by Carl Sandburg (perfect for 10th grade)

“My Papa’s Waltz”* by Theodore Roethke

“Dead Boy” by John Crowe Ransom

“Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” by Dylan Thomas
Alternative Assignment

Students will write a comparative literature essay based on the targeted text (Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie) and the work of their choice. In addition, they will create and alternative assignment of a visual representation of their work of choice. Possible forms and formats for the alternative assignment include:



iMovie

Painting


Poem

Interpretive Dance

Play/Skit

Poster


Sculpture

Song/Rap


Oral Presentation/Monologue

Collage


Slideshow

Power Point

Comic Strip


Pop-up Book

Scrapbook

Create a Happy Meal

Story Box

Menu

Magazine Cover



Newspaper Article

Soundtrack

Picture Book

Food




Old Age

Anton Chekhov
UZELKOV, an architect with the rank of civil councillor, arrived in his native town, to which he had been invited to restore the church in the cemetery. He had been born in the town, had been at school, had grown up and married in it. But when he got out of the train he scarcely recognized it. Everything was changed. . . . Eighteen years ago when he had moved to Petersburg the street-boys used to catch marmots, for instance, on the spot where now the station was standing; now when one drove into the chief street, a hotel of four stories stood facing one; in old days there was an ugly grey fence just there; but nothing -- neither fences nor houses -- had changed as much as the people. From his enquiries of the hotel waiter Uzelkov learned that more than half of the people he remembered were dead, reduced to poverty, forgotten.
"And do you remember Uzelkov?" he asked the old waiter about himself. "Uzelkov the architect who divorced his wife? He used to have a house in Svirebeyevsky Street . . . you must remember."
"I don't remember, sir."
"How is it you don't remember? The case made a lot of noise, even the cabmen all knew about it. Think, now! Shapkin the attorney managed my divorce for me, the rascal . . . the notorious cardsharper, the fellow who got a thrashing at the club. . . ."
"Ivan Nikolaitch?"
"Yes, yes. . . . Well, is he alive? Is he dead?"
"Alive, sir, thank God. He is a notary now and has an office. He is very well off. He has two houses in Kirpitchny Street. . . . His daughter was married the other day."
Uzelkov paced up and down the room, thought a bit, and in his boredom made up his mind to go and see Shapkin at his office. When he walked out of the hotel and sauntered slowly towards Kirpitchny Street it was midday. He found Shapkin at his office and scarcely recognized him. From the once well-made, adroit attorney with a mobile, insolent, and always drunken face Shapkin had changed into a modest, grey-headed, decrepit old man.
"You don't recognize me, you have forgotten me," began Uzelkov. "I am your old client, Uzelkov."
"Uzelkov, what Uzelkov? Ah!" Shapkin remembered, recognized, and was struck all of a heap. There followed a shower of exclamations, questions, recollections.
"This is a surprise! This is unexpected!" cackled Shapkin. "What can I offer you? Do you care for champagne? Perhaps you would like oysters? My dear fellow, I have had so much from you in my time that I can't offer you anything equal to the occasion. . . ."
"Please don't put yourself out . . ." said Uzelkov. "I have no time to spare. I must go at once to the cemetery and examine the church; I have undertaken the restoration of it."
"That's capital! We'll have a snack and a drink and drive together. I have capital horses. I'll take you there and introduce you to the church-warden; I will arrange it all. . . . But why is it, my angel, you seem to be afraid of me and hold me at arm's length? Sit a little nearer! There is no need for you to be afraid of me nowadays. He-he! . . . At one time, it is true, I was a cunning blade, a dog of a fellow . . . no one dared approach me; but now I am stiller than water and humbler than the grass. I have grown old, I am a family man, I have children. It's time I was dead."
The friends had lunch, had a drink, and with a pair of horses drove out of the town to the cemetery.
"Yes, those were times!" Shapkin recalled as he sat in the sledge. "When you remember them you simply can't believe in them. Do you remember how you divorced your wife? It's nearly twenty years ago, and I dare say you have forgotten it all; but I remember it as though I'd divorced you yesterday. Good Lord, what a lot of worry I had over it! I was a sharp fellow, tricky and cunning, a desperate character. . . . Sometimes I was burning to tackle some ticklish business, especially if the fee were a good one, as, for instance, in your case. What did you pay me then? Five or six thousand! That was worth taking trouble for, wasn't it? You went off to Petersburg and left the whole thing in my hands to do the best I could, and, though Sofya Mihailovna, your wife, came only of a merchant family, she was proud and dignified. To bribe her to take the guilt on herself was difficult, awfully difficult! I would go to negotiate with her, and as soon as she saw me she called to her maid: 'Masha, didn't I tell you not to admit that scoundrel?' Well, I tried one thing and another. . . . I wrote her letters and contrived to meet her accidentally -- it was no use! I had to act through a third person. I had a lot of trouble with her for a long time, and she only gave in when you agreed to give her ten thousand. . . . She couldn't resist ten thousand, she couldn't hold out. . . . She cried, she spat in my face, but she consented, she took the guilt on herself!"
"I thought it was fifteen thousand she had from me, not ten," said Uzelkov.
"Yes, yes . . . fifteen -- I made a mistake," said Shapkin in confusion. "It's all over and done with, though, it's no use concealing it. I gave her ten and the other five I collared for myself. I deceived you both. . . . It's all over and done with, it's no use to be ashamed. And indeed, judge for yourself, Boris Petrovitch, weren't you the very person for me to get money out of? . . . You were a wealthy man and had everything you wanted. . . . Your marriage was an idle whim, and so was your divorce. You were making a lot of money. . . . I remember you made a scoop of twenty thousand over one contract. Whom should I have fleeced if not you? And I must own I envied you. If you grabbed anything they took off their caps to you, while they would thrash me for a rouble and slap me in the face at the club. . . . But there, why recall it? It is high time to forget it."
"Tell me, please, how did Sofya Mihailovna get on afterwards?"
"With her ten thousand? Very badly. God knows what it was -- she lost her head, perhaps, or maybe her pride and her conscience tormented her at having sold her honour, or perhaps she loved you; but, do you know, she took to drink. . . . As soon as she got her money she was off driving about with officers. It was drunkenness, dissipation, debauchery. . . . When she went to a restaurant with officers she was not content with port or anything light, she must have strong brandy, fiery stuff to stupefy her."
"Yes, she was eccentric. . . . I had a lot to put up with from her . . . sometimes she would take offence at something and begin being hysterical. . . . And what happened afterwards?"
"One week passed and then another. . . . I was sitting at home, writing something. All at once the door opened and she walked in . . . drunk. 'Take back your cursed money,' she said, and flung a roll of notes in my face. . . . So she could not keep it up. I picked up the notes and counted them. It was five hundred short of the ten thousand, so she had only managed to get through five hundred."
"Where did you put the money?"
"It's all ancient history . . . there's no reason to conceal it now. . . . In my pocket, of course. Why do you look at me like that? Wait a bit for what will come later. . . . It's a regular novel, a pathological study. A couple of months later I was going home one night in a nasty drunken condition. . . . I lighted a candle, and lo and behold! Sofya Mihailovna was sitting on my sofa, and she was drunk, too, and in a frantic state -- as wild as though she had run out of Bedlam. 'Give me back my money,' she said, 'I have changed my mind; if I must go to ruin I won't do it by halves, I'll have my fling! Be quick, you scoundrel, give me my money! ' A disgraceful scene!"
"And you . . . gave it her?"
"I gave her, I remember, ten roubles."
"Oh! How could you?" cried Uzelkov, frowning. "If you couldn't or wouldn't have given it her, you might have written to me. . . . And I didn't know! I didn't know!"
"My dear fellow, what use would it have been for me to write, considering that she wrote to you herself when she was lying in the hospital afterwards?"
"Yes, but I was so taken up then with my second marriage. I was in such a whirl that I had no thoughts to spare for letters. . . . But you were an outsider, you had no antipathy for Sofya. . . why didn't you give her a helping hand? . . ."
"You can't judge by the standards of to-day, Boris Petrovitch; that's how we look at it now, but at the time we thought very differently. . . . Now maybe I'd give her a thousand roubles, but then even that ten-rouble note I did not give her for nothing. It was a bad business! . . . We must forget it. . . . But here we are. . . ."
The sledge stopped at the cemetery gates. Uzelkov and Shapkin got out of the sledge, went in at the gate, and walked up a long, broad avenue. The bare cherry-trees and acacias, the grey crosses and tombstones, were silvered with hoar-frost, every little grain of snow reflected the bright, sunny day. There was the smell there always is in cemeteries, the smell of incense and freshly dug earth. . . .
"Our cemetery is a pretty one," said Uzelkov, "quite a garden!"
"Yes, but it is a pity thieves steal the tombstones. . . . And over there, beyond that iron monument on the right, Sofya Mihailovna is buried. Would you like to see?"
The friends turned to the right and walked through the deep snow to the iron monument.
"Here it is," said Shapkin, pointing to a little slab of white marble. "A lieutenant put the stone on her grave."
Uzelkov slowly took off his cap and exposed his bald head to the sun. Shapkin, looking at him, took off his cap too, and another bald patch gleamed in the sunlight. There was the stillness of the tomb all around as though the air, too, were dead. The friends looked at the grave, pondered, and said nothing.
"She sleeps in peace," said Shapkin, breaking the silence. "It's nothing to her now that she took the blame on herself and drank brandy. You must own, Boris Petrovitch . . . ."
"Own what?" Uzelkov asked gloomily.
"Why. . . . However hateful the past, it was better than this."
And Shapkin pointed to his grey head.
"I used not to think of the hour of death. . . . I fancied I could have given death points and won the game if we had had an encounter; but now. . . . But what's the good of talking!"
Uzelkov was overcome with melancholy. He suddenly had a passionate longing to weep, as once he had longed for love, and he felt those tears would have tasted sweet and refreshing. A moisture came into his eyes and there was a lump in his throat, but . . . Shapkin was standing beside him and Uzelkov was ashamed to show weakness before a witness. He turned back abruptly and went into the church.
Only two hours later, after talking to the churchwarden and looking over the church, he seized a moment when Shapkin was in conversation with the priest and hastened away to weep. . . . He stole up to the grave secretly, furtively, looking round him every minute. The little white slab looked at him pensively, mournfully, and innocently as though a little girl lay under it instead of a dissolute, divorced wife.
"To weep, to weep!" thought Uzelkov.
But the moment for tears had been missed; though the old man blinked his eyes, though he worked up his feelings, the tears did not flow nor the lump come in his throat. After standing for ten minutes, with a gesture of despair, Uzelkov went to look for Shapkin.
Thank You, Ma’am

Langston Hughes
She was a large woman with a large purse that had everything in it but hammer and nails. It had a long strap, and she carried it slung across her shoulder. It was about eleven o’clock at night, and she was walking alone, when a boy ran up behind her and tried to snatch her purse. The strap broke with the single tug the boy gave it from behind. But the boy’s weight and the weight of the purse combined caused him to lose his balance so, instead of taking off full blast as he had hoped, the boy fell on his back on the sidewalk, and his legs flew up. the large woman simply turned around and kicked him right square in his blue-jeaned sitter. Then she reached down, picked the boy up by his shirt front, and shook him until his teeth rattled.
After that the woman said, “Pick up my pocketbook, boy, and give it here.” She still held him. But she bent down enough to permit him to stoop and pick up her purse. Then she said, “Now ain’t you ashamed of yourself?”
Firmly gripped by his shirt front, the boy said, “Yes’m.”
The woman said, “What did you want to do it for?”
The boy said, “I didn’t aim to.”
She said, “You a lie!”
By that time two or three people passed, stopped, turned to look, and some stood watching.
“If I turn you loose, will you run?” asked the woman.
“Yes’m,” said the boy.
“Then I won’t turn you loose,” said the woman. She did not release him.
“I’m very sorry, lady, I’m sorry,” whispered the boy.
“Um-hum! And your face is dirty. I got a great mind to wash your face for you. Ain’t you got nobody home to tell you to wash your face?”
“No’m,” said the boy.
“Then it will get washed this evening,” said the large woman starting up the street, dragging the frightened boy behind her.
He looked as if he were fourteen or fifteen, frail and willow-wild, in tennis shoes and blue jeans.
The woman said, “You ought to be my son. I would teach you right from wrong. Least I can do right now is to wash your face. Are you hungry?”
“No’m,” said the being dragged boy. “I just want you to turn me loose.”
“Was I bothering you when I turned that corner?” asked the woman.
“No’m.”
“But you put yourself in contact with me,” said the woman. “If you think that that contact is not going to last awhile, you got another thought coming. When I get through with you, sir, you are going to remember Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones.”
Sweat popped out on the boy’s face and he began to struggle. Mrs. Jones stopped, jerked him around in front of her, put a half-nelson about his neck, and continued to drag him up the street. When she got to her door, she dragged the boy inside, down a hall, and into a large kitchenette-furnished room at the rear of the house. She switched on the light and left the door open. The boy could hear other roomers laughing and talking in the large house. Some of their doors were open, too, so he knew he and the woman were not alone. The woman still had him by the neck in the middle of her room.
She said, “What is your name?”
“Roger,” answered the boy.
“Then, Roger, you go to that sink and wash your face,” said the woman, whereupon she turned him loose—at last. Roger looked at the door—looked at the woman—looked at the door—and went to the sink.
Let the water run until it gets warm,” she said. “Here’s a clean towel.”
“You gonna take me to jail?” asked the boy, bending over the sink.
“Not with that face, I would not take you nowhere,” said the woman. “Here I am trying to get home to cook me a bite to eat and you snatch my pocketbook! Maybe, you ain’t been to your supper either, late as it be. Have you?”
“There’s nobody home at my house,” said the boy.
“Then we’ll eat,” said the woman, “I believe you’re hungry—or been hungry—to try to snatch my pocketbook.”
“I wanted a pair of blue suede shoes,” said the boy.
“Well, you didn’t have to snatch my pocketbook to get some suede shoes,” said Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones. “You could of asked me.”
“M’am?”
The water dripping from his face, the boy looked at her. There was a long pause. A very long pause. After he had dried his face and not knowing what else to do dried it again, the boy turned around, wondering what next. The door was open. He could make a dash for it down the hall. He could run, run, run, run, run!
The woman was sitting on the day-bed. After a while she said, “I were young once and I wanted things I could not get.”
There was another long pause. The boy’s mouth opened. Then he frowned, but not knowing he frowned.
The woman said, “Um-hum! You thought I was going to say but, didn’t you? You thought I was going to say, but I didn’t snatch people’s pocketbooks. Well, I wasn’t going to say that.” Pause. Silence. “I have done things, too, which I would not tell you, son—neither tell God, if he didn’t already know. So you set down while I fix us something to eat. You might run that comb through your hair so you will look presentable.”
In another corner of the room behind a screen was a gas plate and an icebox. Mrs. Jones got up and went behind the screen. The woman did not watch the boy to see if he was going to run now, nor did she watch her purse which she left behind her on the day-bed. But the boy took care to sit on the far side of the room where he thought she could easily see him out of the corner of her eye, if she wanted to. He did not trust the woman not to trust him. And he did not want to be mistrusted now.
“Do you need somebody to go to the store,” asked the boy, “maybe to get some milk or something?”
“Don’t believe I do,” said the woman, “unless you just want sweet milk yourself. I was going to make cocoa out of this canned milk I got here.”
“That will be fine,” said the boy.
She heated some lima beans and ham she had in the icebox, made the cocoa, and set the table. The woman did not ask the boy anything about where he lived, or his folks, or anything else that would embarrass him. Instead, as they ate, she told him about her job in a hotel beauty-shop that stayed open late, what the work was like, and how all kinds of women came in and out, blondes, red-heads, and Spanish. Then she cut him a half of her ten-cent cake.
“Eat some more, son,” she said.
When they were finished eating she got up and said, “Now, here, take this ten dollars and buy yourself some blue suede shoes. And next time, do not make the mistake of latching onto my pocketbook nor nobody else’s—because shoes come by devilish like that will burn your feet. I got to get my rest now. But I wish you would behave yourself, son, from here on in.”
She led him down the hall to the front door and opened it. “Good-night! Behave yourself, boy!” she said, looking out into the street.
The boy wanted to say something else other than “Thank you, m’am” to Mrs. Luella Bates Washington Jones, but he couldn’t do so as he turned at the barren stoop and looked back at the large woman in the door. He barely managed to say “Thank you” before she shut the door. And he never saw her again.
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