Monday, April 6, 2009

Short Story: Year of the Dog by Casey Kait

Meili met us at the door of the restaurant. She kissed my head as my father and I entered, and when he wasn’t looking, she slipped me a thin, red envelope.

Year of the Dog by Casey Kait is the 14th short story in Fifty-Two Stories.

The story has been told in the voice of a thirteen year-old girl. She and her father, Peter, are dining with Meili and her sons, Sammy and little Pete. Her mother is not there with them as she has a migraine. Meili's husband too is working late. The story starts with the girl thinking how much she likes Meili, who considers her like her own daughter. Meili is always giving her presents. This time she slips in twenty dollars in that thin, red envelope.

Sammy, 13, is morose throughtout the meal but little Pete, 9, is eager to talk about Tennis with her father. The girl is not too happy the way her father is monopilising the younger boy. They finish the meal and come out into the streets which are crowded. It is the Year of the Dog and one can hear cymbals playing and see the head of the Dragon moving with it in tune.

Sammy walks ahead, the girl is with little Pete, Meili and her father are behind. They buy titbits in the noisy, crowded streets and the girl in none too pleased to see her Father and Meili holding hands. At one point, Meili throws a tantrum and her father holds her again after she calms down.
Sammy too has seen all this and says he hates his mother. The girl spend the twenty dollars given by Meili, to buy a toy drum for little Pete. She doesn't wish to have anything from Meili again. When Peter and Meili join the children, the girl refuses to shake hands with Meili and walks to their car with her father and starts crying..

This story started with good vibes between Meili and the girl. She says she is fond of Meili but at the end, she hates Meili. She shows her displeasure by refusing to shake hands. She does not make a scene or anything but does it with quiet dignity. Her father understands her turmoil and lets her cry. The reader too likes Meili in the beginning but somehow that diminishes towards the end. The girl has not expected Meili and Peter to have feelings for each other. She hates the very thought of Meili taking her mother's place. And so does the reader.

It is a story which is all too common. And that makes it very readable.