“Victory Lap” Summary by George Saunders: Short Story

Victory Lap Summary by George Saunders Short Story
“Victory Lap” Summary

“Victory Lap” is a short story by George Saunders first published in 2009 and appearing in his 2013 collection Tenth of December: Stories. It can be read in the Amazon preview. It’s about two teenage neighbors who have a traumatic encounter with a stranger. Here’s a summary of “Victory Lap”.

“Victory Lap” Summary

Alison Pope, almost fifteen, is home alone getting ready to go to her dance recital. She imagines standing on a marble staircase while some potential “special ones” vie for her attention. They prove inadequate.

She hops around while thinking. She loves everything—the whole town. She imagines comforting a baby deer in the woods. A hunter who also wants to win her favor comes along with its dead mother.

She hopes her special one will come from far away and not be a local boy. She likes being in charge of everything to do with her and considers herself special. Not the most special—she still has things to learn.

Through the living room window she sees Kyle Boot, the pale neighbor boy, running home. He’s skinny, dresses weird, is unpopular and has a mullet. They hung out as kids, but not anymore.

Alison imagines sharing some of her food with the poor. She believes people are good and life is fun. Her Ethics teacher, Mrs. Dees, seems to disagree, but she has lots of pain. Her husband cheated on her.

There’s a knock at the back door. It’s a big man in a meter-reader vest. She feels like she should slam the door, but freezes.

Kyle Boot dashes inside. The Family Status Indicator is pointing at All Out, so he’s home alone. The Work Notice in the kitchen tells him to lay down the new geode in the yard, for which he’ll earn five Work Points. This seems like a lot of work after a day of cross-country running practice.

He walks to the TV with his shoes on. He imagines explaining himself to his dad if he walked in right now. Kyle runs to the garage, throws his shoes in and gets the vacuum to restore the living room carpet. He goes back to place his shoes properly on the Shoe Sheet.

He takes off his socks because he walked in the garage with them. He swears in his head and thinks how disappointed his parents would be if they knew how much he did that.

Today is a Major Treat Day. With his accumulated Work Points, he could get some yogurt covered raisins and twenty minutes of TV.

His dad has threatened to make him quit his running if he doesn’t obey cheerfully.

“Victory Lap” Summary, Cont’d

Kyle notices a van pull into the church parking lot. He describes the vehicle in the parking log (per his dad’s order). A stranger gets out and puts on a meter-reader vest. He leaps across the creek and into the Pope’s backyard.

Alison, who’s beautiful, comes out onto the deck to look at something. The guy has her by the wrist. Kyle steps out onto his deck. The guy sees him and freezes. Alison looks scared. The guy shows Kyle a knife and threatens Alison if he moves. The guy drags Alison out of her yard.

Kyle thinks of all the household rules he’s violating, and remembers his parents don’t like him getting involved in potentially dangerous situations. Alison looks even more scared.

Kyle’s just a kid. There’s nothing he can do. He looks at the geode and thinks how glad his parents will be that he did his work and didn’t get involved.

The stranger had seen Alison in her backyard one day. He has everything planned out and it’s going well. He’ll get her in the van, restrain her and give his speech so she’ll cooperate.

Reaching the van, he finds the side door locked. He remembers Melvin’s look of disapproval and the abuse that would follow. Melvin is long dead and so is his mom.

He has a place in mind out in a cornfield, with contingencies for if it goes well or poorly. Alison looks at him imploringly. He punches her in the stomach.

Kyle thinks his parents will approve of his decision. He sees Alison get punched. He thinks of some of their time together as kids.

He could pretend he never saw anything and act surprised later. He could call the police when they leave, but that wouldn’t help and everyone would know he did nothing.

Without thinking, he starts running across the yard and over the creek. He’s breaking so many rules! He throws the geode, hitting the stranger in the head and knocking him down.

“Victory Lap” Summary, Cont’d

He’s pleased with himself and thinks what would have happened if he hadn’t helped. He smashes the windshield with the geode, and retrieves it again. He feels strong and wild.

The stranger is disoriented. He sees the kid from next door and Alison is crawling away. She makes it inside her house and the plan is ruined. He can’t find the knife. His windshield is smashed and he hears sirens. He’s not going back to jail. His legs aren’t responding and his head is bad.

The kid looms over him with the rock. He knows it’s coming down on him and knows he’s going to Hell.

Alison stands at her kitchen window, distraught, after making the call. She sees Kyle still out there, holding the rock over the guy. She whispers “don’t”.

For months, she has nightmares of Kyle bringing the rock down on the guy’s head. She can’t tell him to stop. Kyle looks like he’s ruined his life.

The last time she woke up crying from the dream, her parents told her it didn’t happen that way. They get her to tell it how it really happened—she ran out and shouted and Kyle put the rock down. They say it was a bad experience but it wasn’t worse because they both did great.

(End of “Victory Lap” summary)

I hope this short story summary of “Victory Lap” by George Saunders was helpful.