Victory Lap which was first published in The New Yorker is the first story in George Saunders’ award-winning short story collection, Tenth of December.
The story begins with the perspective of Alison Pope, a teenage girl who is almost fifteen. We find her daydreaming – imagining herself in a grand ball looking for her “special one”, rejecting potential suitors for the tiniest of flaws. She is a happy child, in love with the world and herself. Alison thinks she is special, not as special as Helen Keller, Mother Teresa, or Mrs. Roosevelt, at least not yet anyway. Her sheltered life hasn’t given her much life experience, so she is confident her life will be perfect.
The story then turns to Kyle, Alison’s neighbor of the same age. He is also a sheltered child, but his parents keep Kyle on a tight leash. Kyle gets ‘work points’ and ‘chore points’ which can be cashed in for treats, and while fulfilling one of his chores Kyle sees Alison getting kidnapped by a meter reader. The highlight for me in Victory Lap was the internal monolog Kyle has with himself on whether or not to come to Alison’s rescue. Helping Alison would mean breaking his parents’ rule about not interfering with other people’s business. But not helping her would mean he would be known as the guy who had nothing FOREVER!
Victory Lap was a terrific read. The attempted abduction exposes both kids to the realities of adulthood. I wish that was not the case, and they had more time to enjoy their childhoods, but then again bubbles always do burst!