George Saunders, “My Chivalric Fiasco”

Tenth-of-DecemberSexual assault at a medieval theme park leads to promotions for the victim and the witness.

(from Tenth of December)

Once again it was TorchLightNight.

Around nine I went out to pee. Back in the woods was the big tank that sourced our fake river, plus a pile of old armor.

Don Murray flew past me, looking frazzled. Then I heard a sob. Near the armor pile I found Martha from Scullery, peasant skirt up around her waist.

Martha: That guy is my boss. Oh my God oh my God.

I knew Don Murray was her boss because Don Murray was also my boss. All of a sudden she recognized me.

Ted, don’t tell, she said. Please. It’s no big deal. Nate can’t know. It would kill him.

From a sort of aerial view, this is old-school Saunders, the creepy/insane theme park populated buy douchey bosses and disgruntled, droney reenactors. But “My Chivalric Fiasco” is both darker and more ridiculous than I remember those old stories being. On the one hand there’s the grim horror of the one character being raped by her boss, and taking on shame because of it. On the other, there’s this drug, KnightLyfe, that somehow turns a relative dullard into an Arthurian orator, complete with suddenly capitalized Letters and ren faire phrasing, a la “But then there Occur’d a fateful Event.” So. Real world? Cartoon world? Does it matter? Surely it’s closer to the former than the latter, but mostly it’s up in the air. Saunders is a master at assembling the skeleton of a scene and letting the reader decide how serious things are, and how upset we want to get about everything.

I couldn’t find this story online in its entirety. Get the book, read it and upset yourself.

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