Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Monday, December 12, 2005


Could Be Books' Guide to Christmas

A sprig of holly, snow on the windowpane. A man in a black coat who says to Louise, "Can my duck play your harp?"


A sprig of holly on the windowpane. Surname, forename, a form to fill in, you're standing on my hat.

This is the gist of page one. And a partridge pretending he knows how to use a stethoscope.

Page two, a small drawing of a tree. A tree, father? The silly bears are in the trees. The Christmas ghosts are barely there, dozing off to sleep by the fire. The kids look out at the dog, walking around in circles in the snow. A silent afternoon; the house gets dark. A star appears outside. Turn on the lights on the tree before the other lights.

The barely-there's are on the ground beneath the Christmas tree. A gold leaf sprig of holly, a windowpane and a hole in the ground. I'm asleep. The vinegar is sleeping in the cupboard. The salt is trying to wake the vinegar by reading its poetry.

Page Three: An illustration of a dog running away through the snow with a stethoscope in his mouth, followed by a partridge.

Yes... I don't know... She wouldn't tell me about that... Yes, she did throw a bottle of whiskey at it. (A phone call on page four). They gave a car to charity but that fell off a cliff. She had a lovely photo of the sunlight through the orchard, annnnnd... and that fell off a cliff too.

The Ghost of Christmas Sunday is underneath the stairs and he's listening in to the phone call, but he can't concentrate on it for long. In his mind he sees someone skiing down a snow-covered mountain, stopping at a chalet for a cocktail with a woman, then an explosion and a helicopter chase, being held prisoner with the woman in an ice house, meeting a man with a hook for a shoulder who wants to take over the world. "Was that me or was it James Bond?" the ghost says to himself. He remembers the phone call, and when he listens in again he can't make head nor tail of it. He says he can hear something about the family of robins who live under the hedge, but that fell off a cliff too.

Page Five: A photo of a sad looking duck walking away.

"He won't break your harp."


Page six.
Louise will now perform her one act play about the traditional band she shot when she was on holiday and the... (Louise coughs to attract our attention) her play about the blue flowers, a September day, a voice on the radio reading out numbers. She took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. She's lost her keys again.

Look, Louise, towards the west, to where the sun sets. A star appears in the pale blue sky. It's time to bring the clothes in off the line. She looks at the sky and tries to remember what she was thinkig of earlier. A greyhound coughs to attract her attention. She looks at him, but he hasn't thought about what he was going to say, so he runs away.

Pages Seven to Ten.
A red hat on the door, a brass door knob. Is that you, Santa? No, it's Tina Turner; who do you think it is?

A black book on the floor, silver tinsel on the brass door knob. Louise irons the clothes on the ironing board, her brain falling asleep as her arms go on. Her legs have gone to the kitchen to see what's in the fridge, but when they get there they see a flaw in their plan and they don't know what to do.

The old phone is talking to the ceiling in its own language. The ceiling has been asleep for a long time now. The table lamp has trouble understanding the phone, and it's falling asleep to the sound. The Ghost of Christmas Sunday says, "The thing about skiing is... whatever you do... if there's a tree in your way... the thing about skiing..."

Louise's legs wonder if he's talking to them. Santa has a glass in his hand and tinsel on his head. "Look, it's Tina Turner."

Pages Eleven to Twenty-Eight: George talking about his stamp collection.
Page Twenty-Six: "I got this one when I was visiting some relatives out in the country. I was talking to my aunt, and she was looking for a battery. I have a cousin who played the oboe in a youth orchestra, and she played the flute as well, I think, but there was something wrong with the oboe anyway, and I was outside talking to her while my aunt was looking for the battery. She was looking for that outside too, but I remember seeing a robin and a hen, and the robin was looking at the hen. I was looking at them, and I wasn't listening to what my cousin was saying at all, and then she wanted to know if she should paint her finger nails for a performance, and I said to her, 'Do you see that robin now...' And then she said they were trying to think of a name for the hen. And it's just as well she said that because I didn't know what I was going to say. She mentioned something about calling the hen 'Speed Bump'. The hen looked at me, and I didn't know what to say to the hen. So I looked over at the robin then. But anyway, she found this stamp. She couldn't find the battery at all, but she found this stamp. And this one I found in a box..."

Page Twenty-Nine: An illustration of Mozart trying to fix an electric heater with a fountain pen.

Page Thirty, Mr. Spock, with these chocolates you are really spoiling us. Ow!

Spock is pretending to be one of Santa's elves, one who's just had a growth spurt. Outside the front door, Louise stares into the clouds of breath, listening to the sound of carol singers in the distance, and the ghosts of a traditional band dragging their instruments through the snow nearby.

Anne is upstairs, thirty-one. She sighs when she hears the sound of a suitcase falling open. It's pointless running away - that's what the suitcase is telling her.

Suitcase: Well, I mean... ah...

She sits down on the bed as the light fades.

Page Thirty-Two: A photo of Louise standing in the garden in the morning, frost on the ground, hands in coat pockets.

Page Thirty-Three: Another photo of Louise in the garden on that frosty morning. She looks behind her at Steve. He's looking for somewhere to put a box. He stops and smiles when he sees her.

Page Thirty-Four: A photo of Steve walking back the other way.

Page Thirty-Five: Steve stops.

Page Thirty-Six: He turns around and walks the other way.

Page Thirty-Seven: A photo of Louise answering her phone. Steve runs away behind her.

Page Thirty-Eight: A photo of a man teaching a skiing class for pirates with wooden legs.

Page Thirty-Nine.
A Christmas log on the ground, tears and silence and a sigh. Knees want to play on the floor with the soft carpet and look up at the red curtains. The coffee pot is on the table; the punch bowl is in the kitchen. It's making a barely audible humming sound. It reminds Anne of the car engine, the windshield wipers in the snow. She spent most of the time looking down at her diamond ring. She remembers seeing a painting that a cousin of hers did of his boat, with daisies too, and the daisies were all wearing blue uniforms, like sailors. She wishes she could remember the snow and the diamond ring without remembering the blue daisies too.

Page Forty.
Creeping along a corridor, shh. I can't hear anything, and I think I left my glasses in the thing, and now there's nothing at all, just silence, but to her the silence is everything. In the hall everything is the phone dialling away in its own language, a phone with an actual dial that never stops going around and back to its resting place, where it never rests.

Page Forty-One: A photo of Santa with glue in one hand and a piece of cake in the other. He's looking at the cake.

Page Forty-Two: In this photo he's looking at the glue.

Page Forty-Three: Now he's looking at the cake again.

Page Forty-Four: Santa on a boat with women in a bikini. "I don't know how that one got in there."

Page Forty-Five: Santa looking at the glue.

Page Forty-Six.
The ghosts of the traditional band follow the footprints and hoof prints through the snow. The flautist is reading some of his poetry to a tree. The poem is really just going through the letters of the alphabet, hoping to help the tree remember which letter it saw robbing the off-licence. "Was it L? Does that ring any bells? L? Or M? Have you ever seen M before?"

Page Forty-Seven.
Santa fills his glass again and says, "Now don't forget. Don't forget... They all forget. That's all I ever say: don't forget. But they all forget. I forget things too. I walk by railings and I'm in another world. Draw the curtains and forget about everything outside the room. The room is gone at night when there's just a church steeple, one side covered in snow, bare trees at the edges of the fields, and silence. Please don't forget... I always forget the rainy days, water dripping from the rusting padlock on the shed door. It dreams of playing beach volleyball on a long golden strand, a clear blue sky above. It wouldn't even need to be a beach. A car park would do. I get so many letters from padlocks and clocks. I've completely forgotten about the mp3 player I got last Christmas. I got an mp3 player and a Banzai tree, and I thought I could use the mp3 player thousands and thousands of times before it would ever break or wear out, but if I made thousands of cuts to the Banzai tree there'd be no Banzai tree left. So I decided to just make one small cut to the tree every day. And I thought very carefully about where to make each cut. After a few weeks of making small cuts to the tree, it still looked nothing at all like what I wanted it to look like, even though I had pictured it very carefully in my mind. The bloody thing was growing."

Silence. The phone is trying to say, "Will you do 'Steamy Windows'?"

Page Forty-Eight: An illustration of what Spock would look like if he had just killed a turkey.

Pages Forty-Nine to Fifty-Two.
Please don't forget me, she'll forget. A Christmas hat; the hat I found in the room with the Christmas tree and the box. She won a beauty contest, primarily because she fell into a fountain. I'm sure she's forgotten the fountain too. But remember, the silly bears are in the trees. They don't like the flautist's poetry.

Louise's play is being made into a film, and in the film version, Sylverter Stallone is trying to hide a reindeer. He thought he had accidentally killed one of the reindeer, so he bought a new one in the pet shop and hoped that no one would notice the difference. But he hadn't killed the reindeer at all - he'd actually shot the ground. He wanted to keep the reindeer he bought in the shop. There's a car chase too, even though Louise can't remember ever being in a car chase, but then The Ghost of Christmas Sunday can remember being chased down a mountain by assassains, and he's fairly sure it's never happened to him.

She doesn't know who's trying to hide the reindeer in real life, and she doesn't know why she's standing in the hall, pretending to ski. She talks to her shoes. They say it's snowing again, but they're wrong. They once said that the world had gone away because they tried to call it on the phone but they couldn't get through. They were wrong about that too.

Pages Fifty-Three to Seventy-Five are a list of numbers that the telephone dials as it tells The Ghost of Christmas Sunday about wallpaper.

Page Seventy-Six: "It was a Labrador, was it?" the ghost says in response.

Page Seventy-Seven.
Anne is trying to hide the presents from the kids, alone in the attic. The air is cold. She looks around at the bare floorboards. They tried to hypnotise her into thinking she was a table lamp, but she wished they'd make her into an empty box, forgotten in the attic. In her mind all she can see is blue water flying by beneath her, reflecting the sun.

The kids ask the fridge if Einstein and Newton are more or less the same person, but the fridge always responds in the same way: "I'm Humpty Dumpty. I fell off a wall."

They know it's not Humpty Dumpty. They don't know if it fell off a wall. They always ask it about Einstein or Newton, or both.

Pages Seventy-Eight to Eighty.
The ghosts of the traditional band have gone to the pub with some of the elves. Spock has stayed behind with the reindeer.

A jazz band are playing in the pub, and the band's shoes are glued to the floor so they won't run away. The man on tenor sax went missing and they got an ostrich to take his place. That's a genuine reason to run away. The ghosts laugh at them because their days of being stuck to things are long gone, but the elves don't see what's funny.

Page Eighty-One: An illustration of the ostrich chasing an elf after the elf laughed at what it did to the saxophone.

Pages Eighty-Two to Eighty-Five.
Louise has forgotten the next line in her one-act play, and the Ghost of Christmas Sunday is trying to convince her that it's about a squirrel, but she doesn't even know the ghost is there. And a line about a squirrel doesn't seem appropriate now that the film contains car chases and Sylvester Stallone trying to hide a reindeer.

In the garden, Spock talks to the reindeer in Vulcan. He thinks they understand, but they just stare back at him. He tells them about the time he lost his glasses. "They were really just reading glasses, and I only noticed they were lost when I saw a fish on a stamp, and I said, 'Why is that fish wearing glasses?' Then I looked for my own glasses and they weren't there. I thought I had them with me, but no. Then I remembered seeing a magician who could remove the sleeves of accordian players while they played without them noticing. They said they could get the magician to cover himself in fake snow without him noticing."

Page Eighty-Four contains a photo of accordian players taking the glasses off a magician and covering him in fake snow. The caption is: I know ye're covering me in fake snow.

While Spock talks to the reindeer, someone goes by behind him with another reindeer. The reindeer look at this instead of listening to Spock. "So all I had to do to get my glasses back was to tell the accordian player that his car was on fire. Simple as that."

Page Eighty-Six.
The formerly barely there ghosts are now fully present, and they think Spock is just repeating what the phone told the ceiling, but the reindeer don't know what he's saying anyway, and none of them know what the phone said.

Page Eighty-Seven, the sound of a voice on the breeze: The match box is in the garden looking at the lights on the tree. A long way away from the long wave voice that tells us about the white trees and the cough cough that's not a pencil.

Pages Eighty-Eight to One-Hundred-And-One: The reindeer look at a rabbit. One of the reindeer is wearing Spock's glasses. The rabbit looks behind him on page ninety-three.

Page One-Hundred-And-Two.
Louise is painting a still life of apples in a bowl. She's trying to forget about the play, but that's all she can see in her mind. She only forgets about it when she notices something odd in the background of the painting, and she can't remember painting it. It looks like someone trying to hide a reindeer by disguising it as an elf.

Pages One-Hundred-And-Three to One-Hundred-And-Seven.
The ghosts of the band and the elves are back from the pub. One of the elves is eating match sticks until he gets sick, and then he blames the match sticks for it, but it wasn't the match sticks who were telling him to eat them. If anything they were saying the opposite.

George stops on the stairs. He thought he heard the sound of hooves on floorboards somewhere in the house. When Louise goes back to her painting she notices that someone has stuck a drawing of Einstein over the face of the person trying to hide the reindeer.

Match Sticks: Actually, we were telling him to eat the phone book.

Firelighter: It was me who told him to eat the match sticks.

Page One-Hundred-And-Eight: A photo of Santa hiding under the stairs.

Page One-Hundred-And-Nine to One-Hundred-And-Nineteen: A game of chess between Spock and the kids.

Page One-Hundred-And-Twenty.
The fire is lit, the squirrel is fighting with the brush. What's that, Mr. Brush? Yes, he does have sharp teeth. A colour chart of all the different shades of varnish on all the different doors. The traditional band play on the landing, a faint sound inspired by the doors and the carpet. Yes, he has glued you to the carpet.

Anne has all the hats she needs for this time of year but she's still short an ironing board and a paraffin lamp. 'The way that we dress'. These are the words uppermost in her mind, but she can't quite grasp them.

Page One-Hundred-And-Twenty-One.
The nightlight says goodbye to the matches and hello to everyone else. Hello, nightlight. Please put down that squirrel, Mr. Parker. Yes, the squirrel is smiling. Now put it down and just put your head in this bucket for a minute. "That's how we beat Spock at chess."

Page One-Hundred-And-Twenty-Two: A photo of a winter morning, freshly cut logs, the smell of the timber, saw dust on the moss, ice on the ground, Steve smiling and holding a bottle under his coat.

Page One-Hundred-And-Twenty-Three: A photo of a man in a black coat with a duck.

"You let the squirrel play your harp."

"Only in the play, not in real life."

Page One-Hundred-And-Twenty-Four.
They tip-toe down a corridor in the dark. They stop in unison, and George turns on the light. There's someone trying to hide a reindeer behind his back. George points at Spock and says, "It was you who robbed the off-licence."

"I... It was..."

He's rescued by Santa, who starts singing 'Steamy Windows' with a bottle of port in his hand. The others sing along or clap their hands.

Page One-Hundred-And-Twenty-Five: They all pose for a photo with the caption 'Happy Christmas'.

The Tree and the Horse
Henry Seaward-Shannon
A Walk in the Rain
The East Cork Patents Office
Words are my favourite noises




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very slight stories

They Met a Bear
  They stopped in a small seaside town and they went for a walk. They met a bear.
  This is one version of the story. In another version, they met a sailor, and in this one they ended up being held at gunpoint on a speedboat and becoming unwilling participants in a diamond robbery while disguised as a cow, and sharing in the proceeds of that crime.
  So when they tell the story they just say, "We met a bear. He waved at us."

The Story of the Fortune Teller and the Alarm Clock
  A fortune teller threw an alarm clock at me. This story is deliberately lacking in details to mock the predictions of the fortune teller. Although she was right when she said she'd throw an alarm clock at me.

  One. Two. Three, the study. Four, a candle stick. Five. Six...
  Seven is missing, presumed dead. One has taken up the case, and two is helping him in his investigations. They both suspect six. Seven was last seen next to six in the garden.
  But seven isn't really dead. He's consumed half a bottle of whiskey and he's currently in the orchard, talking to a rabbit. "One of us is as boring as a gate post," he says, "and it's not..." He stops to count on his fingers. "No, actually it is me."
  Eight nine ten.

Debbie and his dog
  Debbie was sick of people mistaking her for a man.
  "Is your dog my parole officer?"
  She was sick of people asking her that too.

Very Slight Stories: like short stories, only shorter

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