Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, December 27, 2006


The Leprechauns

   Myself, Jimmy and Chadwick were walking down a quiet country road late one night when we saw a flickering light up ahead. We all stopped, but the light started moving. First it went from side to side, then around in circles, and finally it rose into the night sky and disappeared.
   "I have an awful feeling we're heading for trouble," Chadwick said, "and it's all because Jimmy kicked that fat leprechaun."
   Jimmy denied kicking the leprechaun just because he was fat.
   When you're faced with trouble, you can either face up to that trouble and do something about it, or else you can try to forget it. Seeing as we didn't know much about the trouble, the latter option seemed easier. So we went straight to the pub and started drinking.
   When he woke on the following morning, Jimmy's hands were Selotaped together. He wanted us to cut the tape, but Chadwick said, "If a leprechaun did this it could be dangerous to cut the tape."
   We went to see a man called Finnegan who knew some of the local leprechauns, and he said he'd talk to them about the tape. We met him again that evening and he said, "They have one simple request and they insist that the tape must remain around Jimmy's hands until their request is met. Basically, they want a wide screen TV."
   None of us had a wide screen TV or the money to get it, but we had the means to get the money. Jimmy had bought a horse and he'd entered it in a few races. The best it had finished was fifth, and its racing career seemed to be coming to a disappointing end, but a race for old horses was coming up and we decided to enter him in that. The horses had to be over twenty to enter it, and Jimmy's horse was only seven, but we thought if we could fool people into thinking that the horse was really ancient, then he'd have a huge advantage over the genuine senior citizens in the race.
   It was easy enough to convince the organisers of the race that the horse was old enough. Chadwick said, "He remembers where he was when he heard that JFK was shot."
   I had to be the jockey because of Jimmy's hands. I didn't have much experience with horses, but I didn't foresee any problems because the other jockeys were more concerned with keeping their horses alive.
   My horse had a seemingly unassailable lead after just two furlongs, but it all went wrong when he veered to the right and then left the course. He was following his nose, which led him to a doughnut stand. He ate every single doughnut there. We had to pay for all of them, and we still had to find the money for the TV.
   Our next stop was a casino. We lost everything we had at the roulette wheel, but before the wheel had even stopped spinning, Jimmy said, "Now I remember! A leprechaun didn't tape my hands together. A prostitute did it."
   I cut the tape and nothing happened. It was obvious that we were being conned by Finnegan. He just wanted a wide screen TV. Revenge was called for. We got him drunk and taped him to a gate post.
   We were just about to leave him there when one of the leprechauns arrived. It was the one that Jimmy had kicked. He was much taller then, and he didn't seem as fat because of his greater height. But as he approached us we could see that he was wearing stilts beneath his trousers. He had trouble keeping his balance.
   "So you think I'm fat, do you?" he said to Jimmy.
   Chadwick always has the coolest head in these situations. He caught the leprechaun and said, "Take us to your gold."
   The leprechaun led us through the fields. He couldn't move very fast because of the stilts, so we were walking for over an hour. He took us to the woods. He stopped in a clearing and said, "Here we are."
   We looked around, and we were surrounded by leprechauns, all carrying sticks or stones, all smiling menacingly at us.
   "Look at how fat they all are," Jimmy said.
   "Gentlemen," Chadwick said, "if this can be settled with a wide screen TV, just say the word."
   "We want the horse," one of the leprechauns said.
   Jimmy gladly agreed to give them the horse and they let us go.
   The horse couldn't lose a race with one of the leprechauns on board. They could talk to the horse, and they told him that if he won the race he could have all the doughnuts he could eat. They made a fortune in prize money. We always knew what horse to back, so we recouped what we lost in the casino.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


The Spirit of Christmas

   Ryan met his girlfriend, Kate, on Christmas Eve. He gave her a present with a card attached to it, and she said she'd open it in the morning.
   When he got home he got a phone call from a friend of his called Sharon. He had delivered her present earlier in the day. She said, "I've just been reading your card. You got my name wrong. You called me 'Kate'. And you also called me 'Bunny Wabbit'. 'See you soon, Bunny Wabbit.' I don't know which is more disturbing."
   Ryan was greatly disturbed when he realised what he'd done. If Sharon got Kate's card, then Kate would have Sharon's. It didn't take much to make Kate jealous. The presence of Sharon in Ryan's proximity normally did the trick. Kate would be furious when she reads the card and sees that he called her 'Sharon'. And he wouldn't be any better off if he convinced her that he just got the cards mixed up. She wouldn't like the idea of Sharon getting a card from him, and she'd hate to see that card end with the words 'with love, from Ryan'.
   He needed to get hold of the card before Kate opened it, and he had the perfect opportunity that evening. Kate and her family were going to visit relatives, and Ryan knew where they kept a spare key to the back door. He could be in and out of there in under a minute. Just in case they came back at the wrong time, he dressed up as Santa and he bought another present for Kate. He could say he wanted to surprise her with this one. He got the Santa suit from an uncle of his who had dressed as Santa for a Christmas party.
   The house was in darkness when he got there. He took the spare key from beneath the flower pot and he let himself in through the back door. Kate had left the present underneath the Christmas tree, and the envelope containing the card was taped to the wrapping paper. Ryan carefully removed the card and replaced it with another one that had a message for his Bunny Wabbit.
   But just as he was about to leave he heard a noise, and then a voice: "It must be a busy night for you."
   There was a man sitting on an armchair near the dying embers of the fire. He sounded drunk, and Ryan thought that this could be his salvation. "Very busy," Ryan said. "There's a lot of travelling in this job, and so forth... Ho ho ho."
   "I know. We share occupations. You'd appreciate a bit of rest after a long night."
   "So you're Santa, are you?"
   "You can drop the pretence. You and I are both anti-Santas. We're thieves. We take what Santa delivers. Not that Santa delivered this bottle of brandy."
   There wasn't much brandy left in the bottle. Ryan decided to play along. "I need to get going," he said. "The family could be back at any time."
   "I suppose you're right," the thief said as he got to his feet. "I better be off myself." He took a carriage clock from the mantelpiece and he put it into an inside pocket in his overcoat. The coat was full of pockets, and they were full of things he'd stolen.
   They left the house through the back door. Ryan wondered if he should just walk away and never mention this incident again. He was worried in case one of the neighbours saw a man dressed as Santa and this Santa was identified as him.
   He said to the thief, "You look like a man who appreciates a good drink."
   "Never a truer word."
   "I know where you can get the best drink in this part of the country, and maybe in all of Ireland, but we'll never know because anyone who drinks it has no desire to leave this part of the country."
   The man who made this drink was Christmas Steve. It was Christmas all year 'round in his house near the woods. Ryan took the thief there.
   There were a lot of people in the house and they all looked happy, but no one was saying very much. Steve's uncle sat on an armchair in the corner. He was known as The Ghost of Christmas Past because he was always covered in dust. This was a result of his habit of sitting still for long periods of time, which was due to Steve's drink. If you asked him what time it was he'd look at his wrist and he'd always say the same thing: "It's nine o' clock." He wouldn't even be wearing a watch.
   Ryan asked Steve for two glasses of his strongest stuff. The thief drank his in one go and fell asleep about two seconds later. Ryan removed all the stolen items from the pockets of the overcoat and he put them in his sack. "I'll explain tomorrow," he said to Steve.
   He went back to Kate's house, but she had returned with her family. He decided to wait in the bushes behind the house. He still had the spare key, so when they went to bed he'd go inside and replace everything the thief had stolen.
   The lights went out at eleven. He was going to wait for another half-hour to make sure they were asleep, but he'd only been waiting five minutes when he heard a noise behind him. It was the thief. Ryan was getting ready to run, but the thief said, "Are you going to break into this place as well?"
   "I... No."
   "Relax. There's no need to pretend you're Santa Claus."
   "I'm... What are you doing here?"
   "I'm going to break into this place."
   "Haven't you done that already?"
   "Why would I be here in the bushes if I'd done it already? I set out to break into this place earlier and then... I don't know what happened then. I woke up in a house near the woods. I was lucky I woke at nine because they'll be back at eleven. I heard the father complaining in the pub about having to visit the relatives. There's time to have a look around, pocket a few things, have a drink by the fire and be out of there before they come back. So is it going to be you or me? It's your call, seeing as you got here first."
   "I... No. No, this isn't the life for me anymore. I've realised that while I've been sitting here, wondering if I should go ahead with it. Maybe the spirit of Christmas has touched my heart. Here, you can have these." Ryan gave the sack to the thief. "I stole these from another house."
   "Even Santa remembered a thief like me."
   "You better get on with the job."
   "I will. I'll be going in through a back window. I've come to an understanding with windows. Good luck, Santa."
   The thief left the bushes and made his way into the house through a window. Ryan saw a light come on shortly afterwards, and shortly after that he caught a glimpse of the thief running from the front of the house. He'd dropped the bag to aid his getaway.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006



   Bertie used to carry a tin of paint around town with him. He wanted to look as if he was working, just in case his boss saw him. The tin of paint had its own stool at the bar. People started calling it Cyril, and they'd ask Bertie how Cyril was.
   One of his neighbour's, Lauren, started carrying a tin of paint too. One day she came into the pub and put her tin on a stool next to Cyril. "Her name is Sophie," Lauren said, "and she'd like to get to know Cyril."
   Bertie eventually figured out that Lauren was making a pass at him, and he was horrified by the thought. He thought she was mad because she believed that the plastic bags floating on the breeze were the ghosts of dead cats and dogs, playing in the air. She used to stand on the street and make various calls and whistles. She was trying to control the cats and dogs, like a farmer controlling his sheepdog. Sometimes she said things like 'good boy' or 'sit' or 'play dead'.
   In fairness, he thought most people were mad. He believed that his aunt was mad just because she had reading glasses. But he could make a stronger case for Lauren's madness because of the ghost cats and dogs. She once asked him if he'd get the ghost of a cat down from a tree. He said, "It looks happy there."
   "No, she's stuck. She wants to be playing with her friends on the street."
   He climbed the tree and removed the plastic bag, and she said the ghost cat looked much happier, but it just got stuck in the gate.
   He wanted to let her know that he wasn't interested, so he put a wooly hat on Cyril. When she came into the pub with Sophie she saw the hat and asked, "Is that Cyril?"
   "No," he said, "that's his cousin, Anthony. Cyril's gone away for a while."
   He thought that if her tin of paint showed an interest in Anthony after chasing Cyril then she'd look as if she'd chase anything in a tin.
   Lauren was silent for a few minutes, and then she said, "I miss Cyril already. Do you know when he'll be back."
   She left the pub, but they met again that evening. When he was walking down the street he saw her sitting on the wall in front of her house. She had another tin of paint. "This one is called Shirley," she said, "and she'd like to get to know Anthony."
   She told Anthony all about Shirley. Bertie couldn't get away from them.
   She was there again on the following evening, but this time Anthony was gone. Cyril had returned. She was delighted to see him. She said, "Wait here a minute." She went to the shed with Shirley and came back out with Sophie. "Sophie's been dying to meet you again," she said to Cyril.
   Bertie sat next to her on the wall, but he didn't feel a need to participate in this conversation. He just sat there and smoked, with as little on his mind as the ghost cats and dogs have on theirs. A thought eventually took shape in his head: that a relationship conducted through paint was ideal. It was the sort of relationship that suited his work ethic. Cyril bore the brunt of it. Shirley was left on the shelf after Anthony had to leave.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006



   Mabel had a whistle that she used to blow at people to get them to stop doing whatever they were doing. She once blew it at a man called Charlie because he dropped a Coke can on the ground. He got a trombone and he played it as loudly as he could, right behind her back. She kept blowing the whistle until he surrendered and ran away.
   She blew it at Jimmy because he was doing something with his hands in his pockets. He was furious. He said it was a private matter and she had no right to interfere, and no one but himself had any right to interfere with himself. He got a loan of a fog horn and he took it to the town hall where she was due to give a speech about the next Tidy Towns Competition. Myself and Chadwick were there too. Jimmy blew the fog horn just as she started to speak.
   His smile disappeared when she looked at him with those eyes that said 'you!'. He got the impression that he was as welcome as a shard of glass in her foot. She looked at myself and Chadwick in a similar way.
   We left as quickly as we could. We needed to avoid her for a while, and a neighbour of mine was able to provide expert advice on avoiding people. His name was Jack until he decided to be someone else because someone else decided he shouldn't be anyone, or so he believed. It was all because of a dispute over money, but this other person would have settled for throwing a pie in Jack's face.
   He showed us paths through gardens and behind houses, and all the back entrances to the pubs. Mabel would never go into a pub, so we were safe in there.
   But all the crouching and climbing walls took its toll. We were exhausted by the time we got to the pub. Jimmy fell off his bar stool in exhaustion after just half a pint.
   Then one evening in the pub a man called Raymond came over to us and said, "I was on a treadmill at the gym yesterday." I interpreted this as 'I was taking photos of women as they exercised'. He took an envelope from his coat pocket and said, "I think ye should have a look at these."
   The envelope contained photos of Mabel at the gym. She had three voodoo dolls, and they looked like the three of us. She was holding the one that looked like me on a treadmill and she was moving my feet. Chadwick's doll was hanging from a bar with weights on either end. His hands were taped to the bar. Jimmy's doll was face down on the ground, just like Jimmy had been in the pub on the previous night.
   We needed to get the dolls back, so we went to the gym ourselves. Mabel, being a woman, used the women's changing room, and the dolls, being in her possession, would be in the women's changing room with her. So that's why we, looking for the dolls, were arrested. An undercover policeman was exercising in the gym. He was investigating reports of a man taking photos.
   Before he was arrested, Jimmy poured a hip flask full of whiskey over the dolls. We couldn't stop laughing at the police station, and the laughter was infectious. The police joined in. Jimmy kept saying, "You're my best friend, all of ye are. Forget about dogs being man's best friend. You can't get a better friend than the police. Except maybe police dogs."
   They let us go with just a warning. It took three days for the dolls to dry out.

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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