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“Sea Oak,” by George Saunders
You can read all of George Saunders’ most horrible (um, possible trigger warning for many things?), funny, awful, incredible short story, “Sea Oak” here. It is certainly the finest story ever written about male strippers living in a dystopian United States, coping with a reanimated, disintegrating dead aunt. To make this particular writing style work, you have to do it perfectly, which he does, but most people don’t, and then you go ughhhhhhh. If you like it, maybe you could purchase Pastoralia, and then he will write more stories for all of us?
In the meantime, what’s your favourite part? This part?
Aunt Bernie’s a peacemaker. She doesn’t like trouble. Once this guy backed over her foot at FoodKing and she walked home with ten broken bones. She never got married, because Grandpa needed her to keep house after Grandma died. Then he died and left all his money to a woman none of us had ever heard of, and Aunt Bernie started in at DrugTown. But she’s not bitter. Sometimes she’s so nonbitter it gets on my nerves. When I say Sea Oak’s a pit she says she’s just glad to have a roof over her head. When I say I’m tired of being broke she says Grandpa once gave her pencils for Christmas and she was so thrilled she sat around sketching horses all day on the backs of used envelopes. Once I asked was she sorry she never had kids and she said no, not at all, and besides, weren’t we were her kids?
And I said yes we were.
But of course we’re not.
For dinner it’s beanie-wienies. For dessert it’s ice cream with freezer burn.
“What a nice day we’ve had,” Aunt Bernie says once we’ve got the babies in bed.
“Man, what an optometrist,” says Jade.