Ellen Gilchrist, “Victory Over Japan”

1037457A third-grader befriends a boy who was bitten by a squirrel in order to write an article about him for the school paper.

(from Victory Over Japan)

When I was in the third grade I knew a boy who had to have fourteen shots in the stomach as the result of a squirrel bite. Every day at two o’clock they would come to get him. A hush would fall on the room. We would all look down at our desks while he left the room between Mr. Harmon and his mother. Mr. Harmon was the principal. That’s how important Billy Monday’s tragedy was.

This is the title story in the collection, which won the National Book Award in 1984. I found a signed first edition at my parents’ house, which is pretty cool.

I like this story a lot, though I’m not quite sure what it’s about. It centers around the narrator’s obsession with a boy who was bitten by a squirrel, but it’s also about her mother’s maybe-affair with the preacher and her father, who is overseas at war–where she hopes he will stay–and a bunch of pornography found in a basement, among other things. I’m not certain what it all adds up to, though I didn’t feel this way while reading it, only thinking about it after. Anyhow, you can read some of it here.

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