Shane Jones is a young writer who knows all about hype. His 2009 debut novel Light Boxes was originally published by Baltimore independent ‘Publishing Genius’ in an edition of just 600. Thanks to a semi-inexplicable perfect shitstorm of publicity, all 600 sold out in a blink and became lusted-after collectors items, then Shane got an agent, then he sold the film rights to Spike Jonze (imagine it!), then he sold the book to all types of European publishers and became and all-round overnight literary goldenballs. Four years later, and the shitstorm has receded somewhat: the film option has been dropped and things have gone a bit quiet at Shane’s end. But he’s been quietly keeping at it: “I have a new novel, called Crystal Eaters, coming out next year,” he told us; “I've been working on it the past three years and not much else. Since Light Boxes all of the interest and hype has definitely died down, which I think is good, in a way, because I can concentrate on writing. I think I became distracted, even "poisoned" by the reactions to Light Boxes. My head is clearer now.” Here then, are two quite banging short stories on loss from Jones’ mercifully clear head. Fuck the hype.
TWO STORIES ON LOSS:
Bag of Holes
The reason I let Robin sleep with another man was because I wanted her to be happy. I wasn’t enough. People are like bags, and the more problems you have, the more holes in your bag. Not like an Oh, I’m hungry for Peanut Butter and Cheese Crackers but I don’t have any in the house kind of problem. For example, thinking, Every day I lose another day and get closer to death. That’s a problem everyone has, even if they don’t think about it. That’s a hole in your bag. For Robin, needing someone to fulfill her sexually was a hole in her bag. And a big part of life is having few holes in your bag so you can try and achieve some joy from the days ahead. You want to give yourself the illusion of moving through life as a solid form.I wonder how many Peanut Butter and Cheese Crackers I could eat in one sitting. Fifty? As a kid, I had a hole in my bag and didn’t tell anyone. The hole lasted a year. I spent nights in bed looking at a poster of a basketball player on my ceiling. I can say now with 100% certainty that I will never slam-dunk a basketball. You don’t think about that stuff as a kid. You think you can do anything because you don’t count days and you don’t fully understand that there’s an end. A few years ago, after work with colleagues for drinks, we walked through a parking lot and saw a basketball hoop near some dumpsters. I ran and jumped and felt my hand graze the bottom of the net and Kevin said to me in the car, “Not too shabby, Vincent.” The hole in my bag as a kid was any time I went for a bike ride I had an impulse to steer the bike off the road. Even worse when I went over bridges, or rode near cliffs, or near the railing around The Bend. Did other kids have this desire to glance down at their hands on the handlebars and envision their left hand rising, their right elbow coming into their ribs, their bike losing control beneath them and floating away? Many times I saw my body, wind-blown, go over a bridge.The impulse went away when I felt too old to ride a bike and got car rides from friends. Then I got my license and the hole came back. I drove as close to the guardrail as possible. My car swerved from imaginary squirrels. You can drive pretty close to a cliff and not fall off. One time, late at night, I drove outside the city until the road fell apart to gravel, and then, a field. No one was around so I backed the car up until the rear tires crunched gravel. I hit the gas and drove into the field and turned and weaved the car and screamed and yelled. The back end of the car skidded out and pushed dust-clouds into the sky only the headlights could grab. I cracked my head against the driver’s side window, and from then on, I never had the impulse again. The hole closed up. Another man’s penis entering my wife’s vagina was a hole in both our bags. Robin often asked me if she was destined to a life of sexual un-fulfillment. I always said something like, “I’ll work on it,” to which she would say, “But what if you’re already doing your best?” Here are some other holes in my bag:- Fear of orange cats.- Habit of saying for five minutes straight this day is a grave in order to fall asleep. - Do I need to eat or I want to eat?- Fear of being alone when I’m dying (no one in or around my bed).- I’ve imagined throwing coffee into a strangers face to experience the consequence. - Too much time spent watching television. Especially shows I’ve seen, and not even liked, but watching them again because it’s easy. - Fear of cars exceeding 100 miles per hour (metal coffin). I have more. Everyone has things to work on. I hope people don’t look at me and think he’s full of holes nobody can fix.
Wonder what Robin would think if she saw me. But that doesn’t matter now. You can’t spend your life thinking about your ex-wife and the men currently pleasing her with long-form cunnalingus. That’s no way to live, Bub. I’ll eat anything if it’s hot. I’m talking mainly about the soup genre. I know people who will eat one type of clam chowder, but not the other. I prefer New England. But give me a hot bowl of Manhattan, and it’s just as good. Vegetable Barley? Why not. They should make pastrami flavored soup. Even cream of mushroom is tasty if it burns. All you need is heat. Let’s face it, with most soup you’re basically just eating a bowl of hot fucking salt. The other day I cleaned my bathroom, which I hadn’t done in months. But this was a different kind of clean, not a quick clean, but a deep clean, where, with a wet paper towel covered finger I dug up the gunk between toilet and floor. After making two laps around the bowl I inspected my finger and saw a hair. Robin’s hair! How did it exist back there for so long? I examined the hair, thought no big deal, and threw it away. I forgot about Robin. But later that day, while brushing my teeth, guess what, the hair was in the sink. How is that possible? So, I turned on both the hot and cold water and made sure it flushed far away from me and any memories of Robin standing at that sink, brushing her amber-ribboned hair as I waited to brush my big teeth. Bye bye Robin. See-ya! Just thought to myself this day is a grave. I’m ready for my adventure. Sometimes I sit when I pee. Sometimes I don’t feel solid.