I read Madame Poirier's Dog by Kathleen Winter for my first Short Story Monday. It is part of Walrus Magazine's Summer Reading Issue 2011.
My favourite line was "The air in here — it is as if we are walking to the cafeteria and the bingo room in a warm vapour of piss. " So you've been to Japan in summer then, Ms. Winter!
An older woman is in an old folk's home and dreading an old acquaintance who is going to be barging in to her life. In this way it sort of recalls Water for Elephants, but this is where the comparison ends.
Although her son Armand is the apple of her eye, almost everyone else in this story suffers the old lady's disdain; her other sons, Armand's wife, her old neighbour who likes the dog a little too much and her husband who was apparently a few peaches light of a basket.
The old lady tells a couple of stories. One about Armand's old boss who knew the ratio for ripping his customers off without complaint, and another about Madam Poirier's dog. This dog was so precious it had a chastity belt, but her canine courter was handy enough to get around it. The dog story was funny, the one about the cheating fruit seller was not.
Perhaps my disdain for the old lady comes from the fact that I am more likely to be like the daughter-in-law she despises, always asking questions, than the old lady herself.
The story was interesting even if I didn't sympathize with the main character.