“Big, Dark Hole,” by Jeffrey Ford
Appeared in Conjunctions:71, A Cabinet of Curiosity, Fall 2018
8.25 pages in the magazine, therefore approximately 4,364 words
The struggle to understand and remember someone who’s lost forever. This struggle seems to arise most often with suicides, and, as in this case, disappearances that might or might not be suicides. It’s like there’s something unfinished and we have to keep telling the story to find out how it ends.
That’s the struggle to understand. The struggle to remember involves the horror or melancholy of losing parts of our own stories, parts of ourselves.
Like “Transfer,” this story is about an outside observer of a mysterious drama that’s never completely explicated. I find it more effective though. Maybe because it so blatantly dwells on the narrator’s loss at the end, making it clear to the superficial reader (me) what the story was about. “Transfer” ends with the narrator contemplating the harm she has done by interfering, and then “marvel[ing]” at the stories she can now tell. Perhaps that story is about casual cruelty, and was just too subtle for me.
The last line ought to be a little too neat, but to my ear it rings just right. The narrator is approaching his own death, his own disappearance.
I admire the prose—snappy and full of juice.
My theory on the dog is that he was bleached by old urine.