A Shorts Story by Jerome Richard Swanink poses an immediate question to the reader. What kind of title is this? Is it a short story of some sort and the author tried to attract attention by putting a very annoying “s” on the end of the second word? Not at all. This is an actual short story about shorts and the struggle to acquire and maintain control over them.
And it is the story of Arpi Ons an unoriginal character with an original name. (This is per the author’s description). Arpi is the ultimate nerd, a person who so rarely raises his eyes from the floor that he identifies his coworkers by the shoes they wear. Ignored by fellow workers, he rarely even goes to staff meetings. One fateful day (for this story) he goes to a staff meeting. The CEO has a big announcement but he does not clearly state what it is; after mumbling incoherent instructions he leaves the company-wide meeting. Before he does he hurls an ugly yellow pair of shorts into the air. Everyone except Arpi tries to capture the shorts but they seem to have a magical life of their own as they evade capture and land on the lap of … you guessed it … Arpi.
From this point on this is a tale of the struggle to maintain possession of the shorts. Everyone is friendly to him when they notice he is the person carrying the transparent bag with the shorts. They try to give him gifts; they fawn over his behavior. All they want is to get possession of the shorts.
The shorts seem to have a life of their own as they fall into a fish tank in Arpi’s apartment. This necessitates a trip to a laundromat where there is a mix-up with washers and dryers. The shorts leave in a collection of laundry owned by an anonymous old woman. Recovered and freshly laundered, Arpi has them when he comes upon an accident where there is a woman about to give birth. After struggling, Arpi decides to give them up when he notices that all bystanders, rescue workers, and the woman herself are his former colleagues engaged in a conspiracy to recover the shorts. He knows this by recognizing their footwear, the same they had worn to the staff meeting.
In a physical struggle for the shorts, they are torn. Arpi must repair them before taking them back to his company where he will attend another staff meeting with the shorts. He has hopes that he will have completed the mission assigned by the CEO where the shorts were first hurled. Unable to repair them, he decides to buy a replacement pair only to find that there is a store that only sells one product, shorts identical to the ones Arpi are carrying. Arpi buys the last pair after a small fight with an octogenarian female competing customer, leaves the store, and runs back to the company staff meeting only to notice the threads are unraveling, thread by thread.
No problem. When the CEO enters the building to adjudicate the success of the previously assigned task, he announces a complete change in company direction by stating “Sometimes things have to be looked at from a completely other direction. Like when you wanna go out and ride that horse, but you can’t, cuz it ain’t round. So you have to ride a cow or a goat or some other farm animal.” (loc 643-644).
This makes as much sense as anything else in this surreal novel There isn’t a (one) spoiler or surprise. The process of the writer from beginning to end is the surprise. This is a lot of fun for a reader wanting to take a break from reality and wander around in an environment reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland.