Sticks by George Saunders, 1995
The magic trick:
Sketching out a full story in two paragraphs
It’s not coincidence that this story follows “Victory Lap” (as featured last week on SSMT) in Saunders’s Tenth Of December collection. It touches on a similar theme: the need for even the slightest sense of control. At least that’s how I read it. In “Sticks,” we meet a father who decorates a pole in his front yard to process his personality – and later, his bitterness. It’s those little things that make us think we have a handle on fate. Remarkably, this story sketches all of that out in two paragraphs. And that’s quite a trick on Saunders’s part.
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 blinking.