Thursday, October 18, 2007

Curious George

I am going to re-post a few of my choice tidbits from the Stranger blog. Kindly forgive this repetition, the few of you who may be aware of it.


Author George Saunders is getting a lot of well deserved attention these days. I came across Saunders for the first time many years in Rochester, New York, just before he published his first book of stories, “CivilWarLand in Bad Decline.” I sought out a story that had just been published in a small local lit journal. I loved it, and have held on to it ever since.

by George Saunders.

Every year on Thanksgiving night we flocked out behind Dad as he
dragged the Santa suit to the road and draped it over a kind of
crucifix he'd built out of metal pole in the yard. Super Bowl week the
pole was dressed in a jersey and Rod's helmet and Rod had to clear it
with Dad if he wanted to take the helmet off. On the Fourth of July
the pole was Uncle Sam, on Veterans Day a soldier, on Halloween a
ghost. The pole was Dad's only concession to glee. We were allowed a
single Crayola from the box at a time. One Christmas Eve he shrieked
at Kimmie for wasting an apple slice. He hovered over us as we poured
ketchup saying: good enough good enough good enough. Birthday parties
consisted of cupcakes, no ice cream. The first time I brought a date
over she said: what's with your dad and that pole? and I sat there

We left home, married, had children of our own, found the seeds of
meanness blooming also within us. Dad began dressing the pole with
more complexity and less discernible logic. He draped some kind of fur
over it on Groundhog Day and lugged out a floodlight to ensure a
shadow. When an earthquake struck Chile he lay the pole on its side
and spray painted a rift in the earth. Mom died and he dressed the
pole as Death and hung from the crossbar photos of Mom as a baby. We'd
stop by and find odd talismans from his youth arranged around the
base: army medals, theater tickets, old sweatshirts, tubes of Mom's
makeup. One autumn he painted the pole bright yellow. He covered it
with cotton swabs that winter for warmth and provided offspring by
hammering in six crossed sticks around the yard. He ran lengths of
string between the pole and the sticks, and taped to the string
letters of apology, admissions of error, pleas for understanding, all
written in a frantic hand on index cards. He painted a sign saying
LOVE and hung it from the pole and another that said FORGIVE? and then
he died in the hall with the radio on and we sold the house to a young
couple who yanked out the pole and the sticks and left them by the
road on garbage day.

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