The last two years, for the month of June, I wrote about a short story that was available online each day of the month… you can see the list for 2014 and 2015 in the comments for this page. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.
Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.
Today’s story, for day six – The Semplica-Girl Diaries, by George Saunders
Read it online here:
All my life I have had neighbors that take better care of their lawns and other landscaping than I do. They are always out there, doing battle against the natural increase in entropy. I have seen grown men crawling around on their hands and knees on a hot Texas afternoon all over their lawn pulling out individual stems or blades of diverse species of plants (weeds) one by one. They must have that bright-green, carpet-like monoculture of their carefully-chosen cultivar covering the entire sward.
It seems like insanity to me. I say I am going for the more environmentally-friendly method of allowing nature to take its natural course… as much as the neighborhood association (Nazis) and the City Inspectors (more Nazis) will allow. That is, of course, bullshit – I am simply lazy.
What is going on here? Is it a way to fight back the inevitable advance of death, chaos, and decay? (suburban life is singularly dedicated to concealing the inevitable march and ultimate victory of death, chaos, and decay) Or is it a “keeping up with the Joneses” thing? (artificial tokens of wealth are again, totally unknown to my way of thinking) Or is it simply a way to pass the time? Or maybe a habit, born of generations of suburban life?
Or all of the above.
Todays story, another long one (but very worth reading, trust me) takes all this to an extreme. It is a set of diary entries by a family man, a father of children, that is struggling and failing to keep up with the Joneses. (It’s always especially tough when the Joneses have kids that hang out with yours) He is in debt, his car is a wreck “Kids got in, Eva (middle child) asked what was meaning of ‘junkorama.’ At that moment, bumper fell off.” and his lawn is bereft of ornament.
He writes one evening, after attending the birthday party at his daughter’s friend’s place.
Do not really like rich people, as they make us poor people feel dopey and inadequate. Not that we are poor. I would say we are middle. We are very, very lucky. I know that. But still, it is not right that rich people make us middle people feel dopey and inadequate.
Am writing this still drunk and it is getting late and tomorrow is Monday, which means work.
Work, work, work. Stupid work. Am so tired of work.
And that brings us to the concept of the Semplica-Girls. When I first read the story, it took me a while to grasp the concept (it is so horrifying) and then I had to re-read the thing before I figured out what SG stood for. (Semplica-Girl, of course). To make things easier for you, I’ll explain. Semplica-Girls are living lawn ornaments – desperate young women from the poorest countries that sign a contract agreeing to perform on a rich person’s property. They are strung together on wires run through their brains (a micro-line run through a pathway burned by a very fine laser – it doesn’t even hurt) and hoisted up into the air as decorations.
The story is written more as a comedy than as a cruel dystopia. Somehow, that makes the horror worse.
The father-diarist wins some money in a scratch-off lottery and decides to blow the cash on an extravagant party for his oldest daughter, plus a lawn make-over, complete with four SGs(Semplica Girls) strung together, wafting in the breeze, quietly chatting with each other, four feet off the ground.
Everyone is happy. Everyone except Eva – the father’s most sensitive daughter. She is upset.
I’m pretty sure the SG are not happy, either.
Things do not end well… Actually, maybe they do. I guess they end the way that everything always ends.