Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, October 31, 2006


The Butler and the Maid

   The butler and the maid often stood in the kitchen. Sometimes they sat at the table. Occasionally one of them sat while the other one stood, but they couldn't see each other then.
   One day while they were sitting at the table they saw a glass bowl full of strawberries, and they wondered where it came from. The uncertainty made them feel uncomfortable. They tried to forget about the strawberries, but the bowl was obscuring their view of each other.
   They went to the coast to look at the waves, hoping to forget about the strawberries. They stood on the beach and looked. When they left the beach they walked along the seafront. They saw a bowl full of red marbles in a shop window.
   "What are we going to look at now?" the maid said.
   "I don't know."
   They were reminded of the strawberries when they saw the marbles. They met a friend of theirs called Kevin, and he was able to divert their attention.
   He told them about a woman he was in love with, but she was more interested in something she wrote on her hand than in him. He'd grown a beard since they last saw him. It happened by chance -- he'd been looking at a bird for too long.
   He was on his way to a party at his friend's house, and he invited them. The woman he loved, Annabel, would be there, and he was determined to impress her. He had come up with an act that involved two glove puppets, and he was sure it was more interesting than anything you could write on your hand. He got the idea after he wrote things on his own hands, to see what the attraction was. When he was reading out what he had written it was almost like a dialogue between his two hands, so he added the puppets.
   When they arrived at the party, the other guests were just standing or sitting in silence. The maid and the butler thought they could stand or sit at home. The party's host, Harry, had built a robot to help with everyday tasks, like sweeping the floor. The robot kept walking into a wall. "He'll be alright as soon as he finds his eyes," Harry said.
   Kevin thought this would be the perfect time for his act. He got out the two puppets and he introduced them as Smithwick and Beamish. They began their act.
   Smithwick: Would Tarzan try to kill you if you bought Jane dinner?
   Beamish: You could wear a dress and pretend you're one of Jane's friends.
   Smithwick: What if Tarzan fell in love with you?
   Beamish: You'd be free to have a go at Jane if he left her for you.
   Smithwick: What if you enjoy wearing women's clothes but you don't enjoy the company of Tarzan?
   Beamish: You should probably go to see a doctor about that. Or ask Jesus.
   Smithwick: What would Jesus say?
   Beamish: He'd probably tell you to go to a doctor.
   Smithwick: Wouldn't he be qualified to act as a doctor himself?
   Beamish: Yeah, but he'd probably just want to get rid of you.
   Smithwick: How could Tarzan be attracted to you if Jesus wants to get rid of you?
   Beamish: Because Jesus would see through the dress. Not literally.
   Kevin forgot the next line. It was written on his hand, and he had to remove one of the puppets to see it. He had to make up a story about Smithwick undressing. Smithwick said, "If Jesus can see everything, would he close his eyes when you undress, and can he not see something even when his eyes are closed?" Beamish suggested to Smithwick that he undress and see if he gets struck down by lightning. Beamish had to help Smithwick out of his clothes.
   According to his hand the next line was 'I shot a seagull', and this is where Kevin's act ended. He didn't see much point in going on. People were just staring at him, and not in a good way. The robot seemed to like it, but then he went back to walking into a wall.
   The butler and the maid saw the robot's eyes on a shelf. The eyes were like two red marbles. They remembered the strawberries.
   "Is there anything else we could look at?" the maid said.
   "I don't think so."
   "We could close our eyes."
   They closed their eyes, and they listened to the sounds all around them. When they opened their eyes an hour later, the robot had found his eyes, but he was still walking into the wall. He found it more enjoyable when he could see what he was doing.
   Kevin had lost his beard, and he was kissing Annabel. The thing she had written on her hand was 'Where's Kevin?'. When he saw those words he realised that she just didn't recognise him in the beard, so he went home and shaved it.
   The butler and the maid left the party. When they got home the strawberries were gone. It was easier to pretend that the bowl didn't exist when it was empty.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


The Red Thread

   Some people are shop keepers. Some are not. Some wear newspapers. Some are Sylvester Stallone, or one of them is. I read that in a newspaper someone was wearing. She hated small talk, and she got around it by letting people read her. Her name was Laura. We had some very interesting conversations without saying a word.
   She was having her portrait painted in a conservatory once, with the garden in the background. She sat there for two hours and tried to remain still as the artist worked. She came back on the following day for another sitting, but she was wearing different newspapers. The artist had already started painting some of the stories in the previous day's papers.
   As he tried to figure out how to integrate the stories, Laura went out into the garden. She found a red thread on a stone path. To cut a long story short (you can read the edited bits on Laura's back) she ended up in a red room on a Russian boat. There were paintings of the sea on the walls. There was a long table set for dinner. The boat was haunted, and the ghost was worried that his head was getting bigger.
   When she met the ghost he mentioned the weather, and she pointed to an interesting article about Germany on her knee, but you can't believe everything you read on Laura's knees. The ghost said he couldn't read it because he'd lost his reading glasses. She doubted that a ghost would need reading glasses, but she spoke to him anyway. "Mr. Bunratty insisted he knew nothing of the snail," she read from her arm.
   The ghost said, "I keep finding safety pins wherever I go. Choose anywhere on this boat where we could go, and I bet we'll find a safety pin there."
   She chose to go two feet to her left. There was a safety pin on the table in front of her. "Does that worry you at all?" she said.
   "No. Not really. I'm more worried about my head getting bigger. Should I be worried?"
   "About the safety pins or your head?"
   "I'd be worried. I'd wonder if the two were somehow connected."
   "How could there be a connection?"
   "I don't know. Where do you put the safety pins when you find them?"
   "In my head."
   "That's probably the connection."
   She threw pepper at him to make him sneeze, and when he did, all of the safety pins fell out of his head. His reading glasses fell out too.
   She was rescued by a man in a speedboat who was wearing a tuxedo. He had lost his trousers. He let her think that he was there to rescue her, but he was really there to find his trousers. She let him think that she needed to be rescued. She wouldn't be so happy if she could read her own back, where she's portrayed as a hysterical woman who was rescued by a fearless, sophisticated man who was always in full control of the situation and of his own trousers. The explosion mentioned in the article was really just the ghost's sneeze, and the bullets were the safety pins. She'd be horrified if she knew the things people were reading about her behind her back.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


The River is Grey

   The river is grey. The watch is red. It's worth remembering these things in case you ever need to confuse aliens.
   Siegfried, Vincent and Leonard lived on the same street. When Emma became their new neighbour they all did their best to impress her. They combed their hair and wore their best shoes. They smiled. But none of these things seemed enough to impress Emma.
   They found that they could grow very ornamental moustaches if they wore very ornamental hats. They had to wear ornamental trousers to go with the hats. Vincent ended up dressed as a nineteenth century mountain climber. Leonard had to stand next to a Dalmatian called Ignatius to complete his look.
   Siegfried's moustache plaited itself as it grew. Leonord's was shaped like a trumpet at one side and a pointy stick at the other.
   Vincent and Leonard wore hats with bells and lights. Moths were attracted to Siegfried, and Emma was very unimpressed by this. His hat was full of holes where his hair was free to grow. An owl nested in his hat and scared away the moths. Emma was very impressed, but also slightly scared. He thought that she wouldn't be scared of a stuffed owl, but she'd be less impressed. He came up with a compromise solution: get the owl drunk.
   He gave up trying to impress Emma when the owl fell out of his head. This left Vincent and Leonard to compete for her affections. Vincent told Leonard that the pointy stick on his face would only impress her if she wanted something killed.
   "There's already been a death on your face," Leonard said.
   "The only way you'll impress her is if you fall into something you can't get out of."
   "I'm sure she was impressed by the way I confused those aliens."
   "Anyone could do that."
   "Well how are you going to impress her?"
   "Through my piercing blue eyes."
   Leonard laughed at this, but the next time they met Emma, Vincent stared at her with wide eyes, and it was clearly having some effect on her. He decided it was time to set them to full power. He dressed all in white. He wore a coat with a fur-lined hood, and fur-lined boots. He bought a sled and a team of huskies. The next time he met her, the effect of the white, the huskies, the moustache and the constant blue stare from beneath the white hood was over-powering. She fainted. Leonard knew he couldn't compete with this. He shook Vincent's hand and conceded defeat.
   She always tried to avoid Vincent after this, but he was proud of the way he won her heart. She spent a lot more time with Siegfried and Leonard. She was always interested in what Siegfried's owl was up to.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


The Blue Flag

   This story was written by Agnes. Agnes was written by a group of teachers. The teachers formed huddles when they had important decisions to make. Some of them just liked the huddling because it veered into cuddling, and there was a lack of that in their lives outside of the decision-making process. They invented important decisions just for the huddle. It took them two hours to decide that Agnes should have a hat. They made her go on a long train journey, and they left her at her destination for just ten minutes before she had to go back because she'd forgotten to do something to her cat.
   She found a spoon once, and on another day she met a man. He was an Eskimo. The teachers considered hundreds of different professions before settling on Eskimo. Neither Agnes nor the Eskimo had much to say. She showed him the spoon.
   The teachers had a lot to drink once, and one of their huddles went way beyond cuddling. They couldn't look each other in the eyes after this, and Agnes was left unfinished, looking at a blue flag. She was happy just looking at a blue flag with her hat. 'It's a flag and it's blue' is Agnes's story, and she gets a sense of completeness from that, despite the fact that she's unfinished herself, or maybe because of it.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


The Cuckoo Clock

   Cynthia had a cuckoo clock. Every hour the cuckoo came out of its house and sang its song. She noticed that the sound it made was slightly flat, so she decided to tune it.
   The next time it came out, she was there to catch it. She made a few adjustments before letting it back in. She waited an hour for its next appearance, but it still sounded out of tune.
   She waited another hour so she could have another go at tuning it, but the cuckoo saw what she was up to. It came out ten minutes early and she missed it. After this, it was impossible to predict when it would emerge from its house, and it always came out very quietly, before singing its song very quickly and going back inside.
   She couldn't watch it all the time, so she trained her dog to sit in front of the clock and bark every time the cuckoo appeared. She was able to catch the bird again, and she made another attempt to tune it. The sound still wasn't quite right, so she kept the dog at his lookout post.
   But the cuckoo started looking behind the dog, as if there was something there, so the dog turned around. The cuckoo managed to train the dog to turn around every time the doors opened.
   Cynthia found the solution in a dream...

   in a dream...

      in a dream...

         in a dream...

She had a smoke machine. She used it when she had important announcements to make or when she didn't want to see her feet.
(It was a dream about not wanting to see her feet).
She was with some friends. They were happy to focus on the drinks in their hands when they couldn't see their feet. They left themselves for a while, and when they came back there were robins nesting on their heads. They didn't know whether to ask them to leave or just try to ignore them. But the problem was solved for them when a falcon came along and scared the robins away.

   Cynthia woke up and said, "Ben's falcon!"
   On the following day she went to see Ben, who had a falcon. He was training the falcon to be a mime artist. Cynthia saw the bird's act and said, "He looks as if he's banging his head against a wall."
   "No," Ben said, "he's... nodding in agreement."
   "He's nodding in agreement with what I said about banging his head against a wall."
   "No, he's..."
   Cynthia's plan was the use the falcon to scare the cuckoo into submitting to being tuned, and the cuckoo looked terrified when it emerged from its house to see a falcon right in front of it. But the next time it came out it looked more curious than afraid, and eventually it just seemed to be thinking, "That falcon looks as if he's banging his head against a wall."
   Cynthia found the solution in another dream: build a robot to sort the whole thing out. She hasn't actually built it yet, but she's confident it will work. In her dream, the robot scared the falcon from her head.

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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