At that point, I started feeling like a chump, like I was being held down by a bunch of guys so another guy could come over and put his New Age fist up my ass while explaining that having his fist up my ass was far from his first choice and was actually making him feel conflicted.
I’ve been trying to find a way to approach a discussion of this story for a couple of days now. I can’t seem to do it justice. You can (and should) read it yourself: it’s available online. And then you can read an interview with George Saunders about the story, which is almost as powerful as the story itself. The best I can do is say if Michael Moore wrote fiction, this is the story he would write. I wish he’d make a movie of this story. Someone should.
Across the river the castles got smaller. By our part of town, the houses were like peasant huts. Inside one peasant hut were five kids standing perfectly still on the back of a couch. Then they all leapt off at once and their dogs went crazy.
It didn’t make sense in the beginning. I read the first couple of columns three or four times, thinking I’d missed a character somewhere. I wrote down the character’s names (something I do often, anyway): Ma, Mikey (son, returning home from… somewhere?), Harris (Ma’s boyfriend), Alberto (ex-boyfriend, who is completely unimportant).
Mommy, let me kneel at your feet and tell you what me and Smelton and Ricky G did at Al-Raz, and then you can stroke my hair and tell me anybody would’ve done the exact same thing.
I just decided to go on reading. Good idea. Renee, Mikey’s sister, married to Ryan. A hilarious discussion of planeloads of Russian babies with harelips which is actually a dissertation on wealth and philanthropy. We learn Mikey may have done something. Aha, Mikey was a soldier.
It was like either: (A) I was a terrible guy who was knowingly doing this rotten thing over and over, or (B) it wasn’t so rotten, really, just normal, and the way to confirm that it was normal was to keep doing it over and over.
Then Mikey’s ex-wife (and her new husband) and his child come into the picture. And, well, it goes on like that. Learning new things that make the hairs stand on end. Giggle-fests. Tears.
What are you going to stop me with? Your girth? Your good intentions? Your Target jeans? Your years of living off the fat of the land? Your belief that anything and everything can be fixed with talk, talk, endless yapping, hopeful talk?
What’s killing me is that I just went on a rant, in my latest Top Chef recap, about these phony “cooking for our troops” shows they pull, and how I hope the producers who think of this and the chefs who get so emotional about these episodes – “Thank you for your service” – vote for increased funding for VA programs and other veteran support services, and for candidates who advocate same, instead of tax-cutting bills.
I dropped my head and waded all docile into that crowd of know-nothings, thinking, O.K., O.K., you sent me, now bring me back. Find some way to bring me back, you fuckers, or you are the sorriest bunch of bastards the world has ever known.
I love this story. Just don’t ask me to explain it.