Mavis Gallant knew “fake news” when she saw it.

“The picture is an obvious and mischievous fake, and it was with great reluctance that four reputable newspapers decided to run it.”

In fewer than a thousand words, “Mousse” considers the status of a once-significant political leader whose position has changed.

Not in any way because of the photo, but it was certainly an interesting photo, wasn’t it.

“All Paris is awash with election rumors concerning Sylvain Mousse.”

There is talk of wealth, flaunted and excessive. Abundance and luxury: over the top.

Immediately followed by this seemingly contradictory statement:

“Mousse hopes to win the hearts of the workers. Can he do it?”

Something for the workers to dream of perhaps? The day they, too, could be like Mousse?

It is all-too-easy to believe that large numbers of economically disadvantaged working-class people want to believe that a wealthy man is concerned for their welfare and eager to share his spoils for their benefit.

“Is Mousse still divisive?”

Once he was, indeed. Now, when the story is being written, after Mousse’s position has changed, the matter is up for debate.

Now, wouldn’t that make for an interesting picture.

Mavis Gallant’s super short stories don’t actually make me laugh out loud, but they frequently provoke a string of snorty chuckles.

“Mousse” felt particularly timely, and the stark shift in tone from last week’s extended meditation on a fragmented family was a welcome relief.

But the observations here, too, are sharp and painfully true.

Note: This is part of a series of posts on Mavis Gallant’s stories, as I read through her short fiction. This is the twenty-sixth story in Going Ashore. Please feel free to check the schedule and join in, for the series, or for a single story; I would love the company. Next week’s story: “Travellers Must Be Content”.