These short stories remind you of a concise crossword with the clues all being there but it not being so simple to crack the puzzle. To do that you have to read and engage with the characters that on the face of it seem to be sketched but in reality have quite a bit of depth.
Highlights from The Mire
A solider on leave looking to raise the 5,000 roubles needed to pay for his wife goes round collecting debts on behalf of his cousin. One of the debts is with a rich daughter of a vodka brewery and she acts in such an odd way that she bewitches the young solider. He returns home telling his cousin all about her and her refusal to pay the debt. The cousin storms off and comes back a day later equally bewitched but without the money. Both think about her but the solider has to go back and the cousin lends him the money and bids him farewell. He then thinks about paying the woman a visit a few days later and as he walks through her house, full of men, he discovers his cousin there who mumbles something about planning to leave the next day after having said goodbye.
Highlights from Verotchka
A youngish statistical who has been helping out a collective get their books in order comes to say his goodbyes. The daughter of the household of the head of the collective walks with him to the woods to be him farewell. She tells him that he loves him and takes him by surprise opening up her heart. He searches inside his own but finds no feelings for her and then refuses her. He then wanders around her home thinking about the love he is turning down but nevertheless heads back to his hotel and packs his bags.