Tenth of December by George Saunders: Sticks

Tenth of December

Sticks, the second story in Tenth of December is possibly the shortest in the collection.

Sticks is the story of a grown man reminiscing memories of his father. The Dad in the story is a strict, controlling parent who yelled at his children over trivial things like wasting a slice of an apple and monitored the amount of ketchup children served for themselves! The only ‘concession to glee’ he provided his family was the pole in their front yard which he decorated quite religiously to fit different occasions. So it didn’t come as a surprise to me when he died alone, ignored by his children despite the apology notes he hanged on strings that connect the six sticks that he planted later around the main pole; sticks symbolizing his children.

The story has only two paragraphs, and in spite of its brevity, it still aroused a sense of melancholy in me. The father in the story is definitely not the Dad of the Year, but I felt bad imagining him as years passed by. His pole decorations were always a bit too eccentric, but, before his children moved away and started their own families, they at least made sense and were based on happy events like holidays. Later in the years, the logic behind his pole dressings became less discernible, and his bitterness and loneliness started showing.

I wish Sticks had a happy ending, but if it did, it wouldn’t have been as effective!

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