Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, November 28, 2006


The Devil

   Myself, Jimmy and Chadwick went to a party one evening, but as soon as we stepped inside the front door we got stuck with a woman called Amanda who told us about a moped she was going to buy. "It'll be great to be able to get around the place so quickly. Tracey says I'm just going to end up sitting on it and making engine noises. I told her she had something stuck in her brain that she put up her nose. I was going to say something about her foot but she wouldn't have liked that."
   Then she told us about some bread that tasted funny. She never stopped talking. She followed us around the place, and the only way to get away from her was to leave the party and go to the pub.
   We decided to go back to the party at closing time. We thought that Amanda would surely have worn herself out by then. We took a shortcut through the woods. There was a full moon in a cloudless sky, and we all got the impression that we were being watched.
   The three of us stopped when we saw a man dressed all in black trying to hide behind a bush. "This sounds a lot like what happened to Jinky Sheehan," Jimmy said. "I think the man behind the bush is the devil."
   Chadwick said, "Why would he be hiding from us if he's the devil?"
   "I don't know. The smell?"
   The man stepped out from behind the bush and said, "Actually you're right. I'm the devil."
   "Prove it," Chadwick said.
   "I could tell ye a story about a vampire."
   "Go on then."
   "There was this vampire, and he got a job in a biscuit factory, making biscuits, and... I forget how it ends."
   "You should know everything if you're the devil."
   "No, you're thinking of God. I'm the opposite of God. I shouldn't know anything at all."
   "What's the capital of France?"
   "I don't know."
   We all took a step back. Running away was the most tempting option, but we needed to humour the devil. Chadwick came up with a way of killing two birds with one stone. He invited the devil to the party and introduced him to Amanda. "This is Alexander," Chadwick said to her. "He's a business man."
   When we left them she was telling the devil about the improvements she'd make to crisps.
   The next time we saw them was nearly an hour later. They were kissing then, which was one way of stopping her from talking, but not an advisable way. We felt guilty about getting Amanda involved with the devil. We needed to separate them somehow, and there was an obvious way of doing that. Amanda once got drunk on her aunt's homemade wine and she tried to get a cat to marry a hamster. She had a very narrow view of what marriage involved. The last time Jimmy reminded her of this she kneed him in the groin.
   The devil and Amanda parted briefly while she went to get another drink. Chadwick told the devil about the cat and the hamster, and he said, "She loves being reminded of that."
   When she returned we heard the devil say, "I hear you have a taste for homemade wine."
   But she just laughed and told him the whole story.
   We needed another way of bringing about a split. Chadwick came up with a plan where a goat would be sacrificed, but there was no need to enact it. It turned out that he wasn't the devil at all. He was the brother of one of Amanda's friends. When she found out who he was she slapped him across the face and ran away in tears. It was worse than ever then, listening to a tearful semi-drunk Amanda. "He told me he was the devil," she said.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Designing Worlds

   Phil had a pub and a wife, but not necessarily in that order of importance. He had a wife and a pub. No, 'pub and wife' sounds better. She had a sports car. Their son, Keith, shared a pair of eyes with his sister, Jane. When he gave her the eyes, she gave him a pair of binoculars. When he had the eyes he looked at stamps and wondered what the ghosts who lived in the stamps were up to. For some it was always Christmas. Others were stuck with birds. He always wanted to see a stamp with a Martian on it. It'd be like The Odd Couple: a ghost and a Martian. The ghosts in the house often looked over his shoulder and wondered what he was thinking.
   When he didn't have the eyes he built things with Lego. He often tried to build the scenes he saw in the stamps, but when he saw these things later with the eyes he couldn't tell what he had made. The little Lego people thought they should be able to get an insight into their world's designer by looking at his designs, but they could read nothing into Keith's creations, and this scared them. They couldn't understand the mind behind the binoculars. They talked to the ghosts about it, and the ghosts were scared too but they pretended it didn't bother them.
   Jane discovered by chance that the binoculars were much more effective when you used them with the eyes. She saw things she never saw before, like red roses made of glass, and a road sign with a pig on it. She'd go around the place looking at things through the binoculars, and when she got home she'd tell Keith about all the interesting things she saw. Then he'd go out with the eyes and the binoculars and look at those things. They made Lego models of the things they saw. They normally used one eye each when they worked on the Lego, and the models looked a lot like the things they were meant to look like. They made the roses, a road sign, a cat on a wall and a magpie.
   The Lego people could identify these worlds (sometimes incorrectly -- they believed the cat on the wall was a fat horse on a stone bridge) but they were more frightened than ever. They couldn't see any connection between these things. The ghosts were scared too. The models looked terrifying to them, and they were afraid that these things were waiting for them in the outside world.
   The Lego people came up with a story to explain the connections between the models. One of them said to the ghosts, "There was a couple who spoke to each other from either side of a stream with a stone bridge over it. There were signs at either side that said the bridge was unsafe, so they could never meet. They fell in love anyway, and he threw roses over to her. When he was proposing he gave the ring to a pigeon to take it across, but the pigeon was really a magpie in disguise, and the bird flew away with the ring. He wondered if the bridge was really unsafe, so he sent a fat horse across to test it, but the horse got scared half-way over and got stuck there. So they knew the bridge was safe, but they couldn't get past the horse."
   The ghosts thought this was a plausible theory but they needed to test it. One of them would have to go out into the outside world. They were all scared, and no one volunteered to go, so they decided by choosing straws. Felix chose the short straw, and he was sent outside.
   He went out the back door and saw Phil washing his wife's sports car. His wife was there too. There was a black and white cat sleeping on a chair on the patio. Felix was too scared to go any further. He went back inside and said, "It's all true! They got the horse off the bridge and they're both on the same side now. He's washing the horse. She was wearing the ring. They must have drugged the magpie. He was asleep."
   This put the minds of the Lego people and the ghosts at rest. Even Felix convinced himself it was true. Keith and Jane kept making things out of Lego, and the Lego people were able to explain all of these things with their story of the man and the woman and the horse. They could account for most things by assuming it's a wedding present.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006



   Colin liked subtracting numbers from other numbers to create entirely new numbers. This is how he discovered 3158.
   He counted all the lights on a hillside on a winter afternoon and subtracted the number from the amount of birds on a telephone wire. This is how he found eight. He showed it to Chloe when the stars were coming out above. He tried to ignore those lights.
   She was impressed with his eight, but she said she could show him a nine. She took him to the local community hall, where a band were rehearsing on the stage. Her nine involved subtracting the band from some biscuits. He would have been impressed with this, but she had to eat some of the biscuits to get the nine.
   Halfway through the song, the band stopped. The lead singer, Greg, turned to the backing singer, Liz, and said, "You keep coming in at the wrong time."
   She said, "The only time you should start singing is after everyone has left the building."
   "If you can write some decent lyrics, you can sing them on your own. But all you come up with is songs about how to get an ostrich into a bikini."
   "I was making a comment."
   "Yeah, and a very useful one. Don't kiss an ostrich."
   "There was nothing about kissing an ostrich in it. What does that say about your mind if you listen to a song and the message you get from it is that you shouldn't kiss an ostrich?"
   "If I was listening to 'Wind Beneath My Wings' or 'Uptown Girl' and I got that message, then I'd say there was something wrong with my head, but I was listening to 'Miss Ostrich'."
   "Fine. I take back the suggestion that there's something wrong with your mind because that would imply that you have a mind. There are birds nesting in your head because they found a hollow space there and they've blocked off your ears because they can't stand the sound that comes from your mouth, and they've blocked your nose as well, and that's why you smell."
   "Every day I thank God I have those birds in my head and not that bloody ostrich."
   This was the point at which Liz announced her departure from the band. Colin and Chloe were left with a ten. Chloe could have eaten another biscuit, but this would have felt like cheating. They went outside and tried to convince Liz to return to the band.
   They had to go back and forth between Liz and Greg as they tried to resolve the dispute. Liz had many issues. She wanted to be closer to the front, or do a dance, or at least sneeze. And Greg had banned her from talking to the audience after the time the guitarist had to change a string on his guitar, and she passed the time by telling the audience about her theory that when people play tennis they're just throwing lemons at each other. She wanted to be able to talk to the audience too.
   Greg agreed that she should be allowed talk to the audience between songs, and he let her stand closer to the front, but further to the side. Liz was still unsure about returning, so Chloe gave her the biscuits to swing the deal.
   She joined the rest of the band on the stage, and they started playing again. As she was waiting for her part, she ate a biscuit. At first Colin and Chloe tried to stop her, and then they tried to convince her to leave the band again, but they gave up when she ate another biscuit.
   "Let's go to the shop and get some more biscuits," Chloe said.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Mrs. String-Darlington and her Pony

   Mrs. String-Darlington had a pony. She walked back and forth with the pony, and they often went up a hill. When she got to the top she always realised that the only thing to do was to go down again, which was a bit of an anti-climax.
   Hugh lived next door. He spent his evenings developing an attachment to Mrs. String-Darlington. By day he wore black and stood in the shadow of the gable end of his house. He was writing his memoirs in his head, but he'd already written them there. Events provided the first draft, and then his brain re-worked the events' version when it recorded them. It edited out a lot of details, and re-arranged things so they'd make sense. As he stood in the shadow of the gable, he was re-working them again in a third draft.
   One day he sat at the back of a red bus. It left the town and went out into the country. There were only four other people on the bus. It was winter, but he felt warm in the sun through the glass.
   He got off the bus on a quiet country road. He had reached the point in his mental memoirs where he was looking at small green animals with ice for eyes. He couldn't remember seeing them before. He thought that the bus journey, or the sun on the bus, or both, had affected his head. Some of the sentences in the second draft had been melted, and he was left with animals whose eyes would melt if they looked at the sun.
   He stood at the side of the road and looked out over long flat fields. He didn't know where he was, and he didn't know how to get home. He knew he should have stayed in the shade of the gable.
   He explained how he got out of this situation in the fourth draft, which he wrote on paper. Mrs. String-Darlington helped him write this bit, and this is what he wrote:
   I was stranded in the middle of nowhere and I found myself surrounded by little green animals with ice for eyes. Needless to say, I feared for my safety. But the fear disappeared and I saw only the continued health of my safety when I heard the familiar sound of hooves. It was Mrs. String-Darlington and her pony. The green animals showed no fear, but she knew exactly what to do to get rid of them. She got the pony to run from side to side, and the animals' eyes started to melt because they were moving from side to side so quickly as they followed Mrs. String-Darlington and her pony. They ran away. Mrs. String-Darlington and her pony then led me home to the shelter of my gable.

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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