I have read two different versions of the “Tenth of December.” Don’t misinterpret — I did not find a unpublished, alternate version of this George Saunders story, where both Robin and Don Eber crash into the ice and die. The text for both versions is exactly the same, word for word, letter for letter.
The first version, read in 2015, is a hopeful story of our shared humanity, an expression of care and compassion in a moment of shared sacrifice that emerges out of our mutual fragility.
The second version, read in late 2019, is a fantasy, so aspirational as to be naive, almost delusional. We don’t have the empathetic capacity to make such sacrifices for one another. We are brutish, selfish, and angry. We are people who burn the tents of the homeless. We pose with dead bodies. I could go on… but if there is a second version, that means there could be a third version out there somewhere, waiting to be discovered.