George Saunders, “Puppy”

41ugrGr1YpL._SS500_A messed-up middle class family drives out to buy a puppy from a messed-up poor family.

(from Tenth of December)

Well, in this family laughter was encouraged! Last night, when Josh had goosed her with his GameBoy, she’d shot a spray of toothpaste across the mirror and they’d all cracked up, rolling around on the floor with Goochie, and Josh had said, such nostalgia in his voice, “Mom, remember when Goochie was a puppy?” Which was when Abbie had burst into tears, because, being only five, she had no memory of Goochie as a puppy.

Modern families are easy targets for sniper satirists like Saunders: The monstrous sons, the needy daughters, the moms barely holding it together, the aloof/worthless dads. But it’s not the whos, it’s the whats, that makes this story memorable, like the weird bread-baking video game, the allusions to pet euthanasia, and the thing with the kid and the tree near the end which I won’t spoil. Keeping this story short and swift was a good call, though I could picture Alice Munro getting 36 pages out of the same idea and kicking as with it via rural gothic drama. But she’s not a sniper. She’s a little more hand-to-hand.

Read this story here.

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