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 is a landscape painter and animalist Ryabovsky – “a blond young man of about twenty-five who had success at exhibitions and sold his last painting for five hundred rubles.”
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!” “… there is something strong, mighty, bearish in it,” she says to the guests, sort of explaining why she, an artistic nature, married such a “very ordinary and nothing remarkable person.” Dymov turns out to be either a husband or a servant. She calls it: “My dear maitre d’hotel!” Dymov prepares snacks, rushes for the outfits for his wife, who spends summer at the dacha with friends. One scene is the height 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 immediately rides on the train the night before,
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 bank 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, boredom and jealousy in it. Dymov starts to guess about the change, worries, but does not give a look and works more than before. Once he says that he defended his thesis and, perhaps, he will be offered a private docent for general pathology. His face shows that “if Olga Ivanovna shared with him his joy and triumph, he would forgive her everything, but she did not understand what the private docent and the general pathology meant, besides she was afraid to be late for the theater and nothing said “. In the house appears a colleague Dymov Korostelev, “a small cropped man with a wrinkled face”; with him, Dymov spends all his free time in incomprehensible for the wife of scientists conversations.
Relations with Ryabovsky are at a dead end. Once in his studio Olga Ivanovna finds a woman, obviously, his mistress and decides to break with him. At this time, the husband becomes infected with diphtheria, sucking out the films from the sick boy, which he, as a doctor, is not obliged to do. Korostelev takes care of him. The local luminary, Dr. Shrek, is invited to the patient, but he can not help: Dymov is hopeless. 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 having ruined her husband. The largest scientist could grow out of him, but the lack of time and home peace prevented him from becoming what he should rightly be. Olga Ivanovna realizes that she was the cause of her husband’s death, forced him to engage in private practice and provide her 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, emphasizing the pointlessness of the situation: “What’s there to ask? You go to the churchyard and ask where the goddesses live.” They’ll wash the body and clean it up, they’ll do what it takes. “