Another week, another prompt over at Microcosms, based on Dostoevsky’s works
Landlady, weak heart, romance
Madame Poulet guards her rooms with the beady eye of a tricoteuse and the ferocity of a tigress. She has rules, both verbal and written, involving matters as diverse as the proper way to fold a counterpane and the hours when the communal toilet can be flushed. No one who rents from La Poulet makes the mistake of challenging her laws and their application. Most guests accept breakfast in a sepulchral silence and spends their spare time in their rooms. Other than Arnold Whettaker.
Arnold rents the attic rooms, climbing and descending the seven flights of stairs twice a day, always chipper and always in trouble. His crimes are many and petty, usually involving lights left on and cups. And then there are the deliveries.
Every day, 37 minutes after he departs for his office, a delivery arrives. Madame Poulet takes it in and sighs. She hates cluttering her hall so begins the slow climb to the top floor. On his return, she greets Arnold with a withering critique of his thoughtlessness: ‘You know my heart isn’t up to it’. He apologises and offers to show her what it was he has bought.
One day, the parcel is damaged. The contents catch Mme Poulet’s eye and, that night, she confronts Arnold. Once again he invites a viewing and this evening she accepts. Over tea and custard creams, she is shown Arnold’s comprehensive collection of restraints and corrective aides. Shyly, Arnold asks Mme Poulet to strap him to the sofa and administer chastisement. Mme Poulet considers the request and consents.
Now, every afternoon at 5.17, Mme Poulet finishes her beverage and biscuit and takes Arnold to task. After, they lie in bed, holding hands until it is time for Mme Poulet to serve dinner. Neither now mentions her heart.