Osip Ivanovich Dymov, titular counselor and doctor of thirty-one years, serves in two hospitals at the same time: an intern and a draftor. From nine o’clock in the morning until noon he takes the sick, then goes to open the corpses. But his income is barely enough to cover the costs of his wife – Olga Ivanovna, twenty-two years old, obsessed with talents and celebrities in the artistic and artistic environment, whom she takes daily in the house.
Passion for people of art is fueled by the fact that she herself sings a little, molds, paints and possesses, according to friends, an undisclosed talent in everything at once. Among the guests of the house there is a landscape painter and animalist Ryabovsky – “a blond young man of about twenty-five who was successful at exhibitions and sold his last painting for five hundred rubles” (which equals the annual income from Dymov’s private practice). Dymov adores his wife. They met when he was treating her father, on duty at night beside him. She loves him, too. In Dymov, “there is something,” she says to friends: “How much self-sacrifice, sincere participation!” “… it has something strong, powerful, bearish,” she says to the guests, kind of explaining why she, an artistic nature, went for such a “
Dymov prepares snacks, rushes for the outfits for his wife, who spends summer at the dacha with friends. One scene shows the upper hand of Dymov’s male humiliation: after a hard day at a dacha to his wife and bringing snacks with him, dreaming to have dinner, he rests on the train the night before, for Olga intends to take part in the telegraphist’s wedding the next day and not can do without a decent hat, dress, flowers, gloves. Olga Ivanovna together with the artists spends the rest of the summer on the Volga. Dymov remains working and sending his wife money. On the steamer Ryabovsky admits Olga in love, she becomes his mistress. About Dymov tries not to remember. “In fact: what Dymov, why Dymov, what does she care about Dymov?” But Olga soon becomes bored with Ryabovsky; he gladly sends her to her husband, when she is bored with life in the countryside – in a dirty hut on the banks of the Volga. Ryabovsky is a Chekhov type of “bored” artist. He is talented, but lazy.
Sometimes it seems to him that he has reached the limit of creative possibilities, but sometimes he works without rest and then creates something significant. He can only live creativity, and women do not mean much to him. Dymov meets his wife with joy. She does not dare to confess in connection with Ryabovsky. But Ryabovsky comes, and their romance languidly continues, causing boredom in it,...
Olga Ivanovna finally understands the deceit and meanness of her relationship with her husband, curses the past, prays to God for help. Korostelev tells her about Dymov’s death, cries, accuses Olga Ivanovna of destroying her husband. From him, the largest scientist could grow up, but the lack of time and home peace prevented him from becoming what he should rightfully be. Olga Ivanovna understands that she was the cause of her husband’s death, forcing him to engage in private practice and provide her with an idle life. She understands that in the pursuit of celebrities “missed” the true talent. She runs to Dymov’s body, cries, calls him, realizing that she was late. The story ends with Korosteleva’s simple words, which emphasize the pointlessness of the situation: “What’s there to ask? You go to the churchyard and ask where the goddesses live.