Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, January 30, 2007



   Jimmy bought a surfboard last year. I don't know if he ever had any intention of taking it to the beach. When myself and Chadwick went to see it he said, "Her name is Mary-Lou."
   "You can't give a surfboard a name," Chadwick said.
   "Vinnie calls his wife 'Victoria'."
   "Yeah, but she's a woman."
   "I thought she was made out of cardboard."
   "That was his first wife."
   "Oh right. I was wondering how he got her to say hello to me."
   "Emily was the name of his first wife. I haven't seen her around in a while. I wonder what became of her."
   We went to see Vinnie to ask about Emily. He told us about a van he was thinking of buying, and then Chadwick said, "Do you ever hear from what's-her-name? Emily."
   Vinnie responded with the words 'get off my property', which he said just after picking up his shotgun and aiming it at us.
   This was something that needed further investigation. We went through the details of the case on the way home. Vinnie was someone who'd respond to a simple question by pointing his shotgun at you, and there must have been times when he looked at Emily and saw a target on a shooting range.
   We visited his neighbours and asked them questions. No one had seen Emily in months. One of the neighbours, Joyce, said that Victoria appeared on the scene at around about the same time Emily went missing. They weren't married yet, but she was living with him. Joyce told us that she met Emily with Vinnie one evening and they were talking about buying a puppy, but that was the last time she saw Emily.
   Another one of the neighbours, Denis, was able to tell us how Vinnie met Victoria. Her car broke down near Vinnie's house. He tried to look as if he knew what he was doing when he looked at the engine. It was a look he'd recently practised when he got his head stuck in a gate. In the end he just phoned his cousin, who was a mechanic. Vinnie spoke to her as the cousin worked on the car.
   Denis also said that a few weeks after this he was coming home from the pub late one night and he saw Vinnie digging a hole behind one of the sheds on his farm. This would have been about the time Joyce last saw Emily.
   We questioned a lot of people and they all had similar stories. Jimmy wanted to interview a woman who looked a bit like Sharon Stone. Reality was starting to merge with the version of 'Basic Instinct' playing in his head. We went to see her. She had never met Vinnie before, and the only thing she was able to tell us was that she found a funny-looking beetle.
   We came to the conclusion that Vinnie met Victoria and decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her instead of with Emily. And Emily did spend the rest of her life with him because he killed her and buried the body.
   We decided to dig behind the shed to get proof. We went to the shop to get batteries for a torch, and when darkness fell we went to Vinnie's farm. We only turned on the torch when we were behind the shed so he wouldn't see the light. We found a patch of ground that had recently been dug up, so we started digging there.
   After twenty mintues of digging we found a long metal box. We lifted it out of the hole. We held our breaths as Jimmy opened the box, but instead of finding the body, we found whiskey. Bottles and bottles of whiskey. At least thirty bottles.
   At this point Chadwick remembered something. "When we were in the shop," he said, "Greg was talking to a woman behind the counter, and I'm sure that woman was made out of cardboard. He was expressing his opinions on jazz."
   We went back to the shop. Greg was the shop-keeper, and he was just closing the place but he was still talking to a cardboard cut-out of a woman. It was Emily alright. She looked happy there. Greg said that Vinnie gave her to him in exchange for a DVD player.
   We were glad that Emily was okay, but our thoughts quickly turned to the whiskey. "He must have stolen it," Chadwick said.
   "What's stopping us from taking it," Jimmy said. "He's not going to go to the police and say that someone stole the whiskey he stole and buried behind a shed."
   We went back to the back of the shed, and we were just about to leave with the box full of whiskey when Vinnie appeared. He had his shotgun again. "I suspected ye had a taste for suicide," he said.
   "I suspected you had a taste for stolen whiskey," Chadwick said.
   "It's not stolen."
   "Then why did you bury it?"
   "Because Victoria is very anti-drink. I'm sweeping a few things under the carpet until after we're married."
   "It'd be a shame if we let it slip about the whiskey."
   "That's the sort of thing she'd forgive me for."
   "Maybe so, but she'll never marry you when she hears that you traded your last wife for a DVD player."
   "What would it take to keep ye quiet?"
   "That's one way of putting it. You could also have said, 'What would it take to make ye forget?'"
   "Ye want some of the whiskey?"
   "Ten bottles."
   Vinnie worked out in his head how much he'd have left. "Deal," he said.
   We took the whiskey and left. Jimmy got rid of the surfboard a few days later. 'Jaws' was starting to merge with the version of 'Basic Instinct' in his mind and it frightened him. He traded Mary-Lou for a pair of glasses.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


A Rose

   Eugene won a year's supply of cheese and he celebrated in the pub with four of his friends. They sang all through the afternoon and into the evening. They left at nine o' clock and they sang on their way to Eugene's house. They sang in a telephone booth when Eugene decided he needed to go into a telephone booth and the rest followed. He wanted to make a call just because he hadn't used a payphone in years. He put the coins into the phone and he tried to think of who to call. The others kept singing, but they stopped when a man called Andy reversed a car up against the door of the booth and they were trapped inside. Andy got out of the car and walked away.
   "This is like being buried alive," Dara said. "With people you hate."
   "Ten minutes ago you were saying you loved us," Eugene said. "Being stuck in a phone booth with a man who's just said he loves you is worse than being dead."
   Eugene decided to phone his brother, James. He asked James to go to Andy's house and convince him to remove the car.
   James went to the phone booth first. It was a sight he didn't want to miss. They were fighting when he got there, and a crowd had gathered to watch them.
   James walked to Andy's house. It was surrounded by trees, at the end of a long twisting driveway. Andy was sitting on a metal garden seat on the front lawn. James sat on another seat and they talked about a hurling match where the ref spent most of the second half trying to light his pipe, but Andy's mind seemed elsewhere.
   When James asked him if there was something on his mind he said he was in love with a woman called Rose. He knew she'd appreciate something artistic, so he wanted to write a poem or just a line about her name, but his efforts always paled in comparison to Shakespeare's 'A rose by any other name would smell as sweet', or the poem that started with the line 'Roses are red' and ended with 'That's why I sniff glue'.
   James said he knew a poet called Lenny who could help. Lenny was always being asked to compose poems for various occasions. He once wrote a 'get well' poem for a greyhound. So James and Andy went to see him.
   Lenny wanted Andy to write most of the poem himself because it would sound more heartfelt. At first he just offered hints and tips and encouragement, but after half an hour all Andy could come up with was 'I see a beautiful red rose. I'd love to handle one of those'. So Lenny wrote the whole thing for him.
   After they left Lenny's house Andy said he was going to see Rose straightaway. James reminded him of his car at the phone booth, and Andy said he just did it because he thought it might cheer him up, but it didn't. He had wondered how long he'd have to leave it there for before it started cheering him up, but he didn't need that when he had the poem.
   They went to the phone booth. Love had replaced hate on the inside. The people watching it wished they had a remote control to change channels until the fighting started again.
   Andy drove away in his car. It was just a short trip to Rose's house. He parked on the street outside. He rang the door bell and when she opened the door he started reading the poem. But he'd only read the first line when he heard the sound of people running down the street. It was the phone booth's former captives. They had followed the car, and all of the spectators were following them. Andy said to Rose, "Just excuse me a minute."
   He ran towards his car, but he wouldn't have made it there in time, so he jumped over the wall into the next garden.
   Eugene and his friends had clearly gotten over the love phase and they were hoping to get into violence again. Andy ran down the road. He knew there was an empty cattle shed in a field nearby, and he saw his chance to delay the chasing pack. He ran into the shed. Eugene and his friends followed him in, and they were followed by the spectators. Andy left the shed through a small door at the other side, and he was able to bar this door from the outside. He thought he'd gain a bit of time as they went back to the front door and ran around the shed.
   He ran on again, expecting to hear Eugene and the others following him, but that sound never came. He stopped and looked back. There was no one behind him. He walked back to the shed, and he met Rose at the front door. She had followed the spectators, and she had locked the front door after all the others ran into it. There were nearly forty people in the shed.
   "I wonder how long it'll take before they start fighting," she said with a smile. Andy got the impression that she was more keen on the prospect of violence than that of love, so he decided to scrap the poem Lenny had written. He used the 'Roses are red' poem instead and she loved that. They went back to her house. Andy thought it'd be safer to get someone else to open the shed. It took half an hour for the singing to start, and the fighting started shortly after that.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007



   Ronnie and Pete wondered how difficult it would be to stage an alien landing. Purely in the interests of determining how difficult it would be, they staged an alien landing.
   The conclusion they came to was that it wouldn't be difficult to stage an alien landing that would fool Ronnie's uncle Roger. When Roger saw it he told everyone that he'd seen a UFO and aliens that looked like hens.
   He claimed to have seen the UFO near an orchard. On the following evening, about thirty people gathered in the spot, all hoping to see the aliens. Ronnie and Pete were there too, and they wondered if they could make money from this.
   Purely in the interests of determining if they could make money from the aliens, they decided to make money from the aliens. If thirty people all saw an alien landing, then thousands of people would come to the site. Ronnie and Pete could sell T-shirts and other souvenirs.
   But it would be much more difficult to fool thirty people with cameras than it was to fool Roger. So instead of staging another landing, they decided to kidnap a cow from a farm a few miles away and take it to a field near where Roger said he saw the aliens. They'd shave some strange markings on the cow's back to add to the effect.
   They got a loan of a horse box from Pete's brother and they went to kidnap the cow at two o' clock in the morning. The plan went perfectly until they got to the field where they were going to leave the cow. There were eight people and two horses in the field. The people were participating in the wedding of the two horses (one of the horses wore a white veil and the other had a grey top hat).
   The horse wedding made perfect sense in the narrative those people had constructed to explain the hallucinations that resulted from the moonshine they'd made. 'It's the moonshine' would have been the obvious narrative, but they went for one that required a horse wedding. Ronnie and Pete didn't question it too closely because marrying horses was only slightly more suspicious than kidnapping a cow. Instead, they made the mistake of accepting a drink (they thought it'd be rude to refuse at a wedding).
   They woke up in the long grass next to a stream on the following morning. The cow was there too. Their heads had been shaved. A policeman came along and asked them to explain their presence in a field with a stolen cow. Ronnie knew he couldn't mention the moonshine and he never wanted to mention most of the other memories, most of which he hoped were just hallucinations, so he said, "We were kidnapped by aliens."
   They were amazed at the amount of press attention they got from this, and they were determined to cash in on it, even though they were ridiculed. The stories in the papers were all along the lines of 'morons claim alien abduction'.
   But a lot of people believed them. Thousands of people went to the site where Roger claimed to have seen the aliens. Ronnie and Pete were ready with their T-shirts, mugs, pens and hats. The T-shirts showed an alien shaking hands with a teddy bear.
   They made some money out of it, but the constant ridicule was starting to annoy Ronnie, and he wanted to be ridiculing the people who believed them. He finally snapped and he said they had faked the whole thing, but no one believed him. The simplest explanation was that Ronnie and Pete were just morons who had woken up in a field with a cow, and that was the one that was accepted.
   Ronnie came up with the idea of faking another landing, fooling people into thinking it's real, then saying 'up yours' to the people who doubted their ability to do it. This newspaper headline tells the story of their attempt: 'Morons Stuck on Pylon While Trying to Retrieve Fake UFO'.
   Ronnie didn't give up on his idea of faking a landing, but Pete came up with this explanation for the whole thing: "We're conceptual artists. This is a work of conceptual art."
   They still got ridiculed, but they had no desire to ridicule the people who respected them. They got to know some of those people, and they both found that the words 'I'm a conceptual artist' were much more effective as a chat-up line than 'I recently won twenty gallons of cider'.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


The Chase

   Bob went for a walk in the countryside. He walked for miles through fields and narrow lanes. A strong breeze blew white clouds through the blue sky above.
   He climbed a hill, and he stood amongst the grass and wild flowers on the top, admiring the view. He saw a woman climbing the hill from the other side and as she got closer he recognised her. Her name was Abigail. She sold vegetables and home-made food from a market stall in the town on Saturday mornings, and he had often met her there.
   She recognised him too. He said he loved the vegetable soup he had bought from her a few weeks earlier and she told him about a new soup recipe she was trying to perfect, but their conversation was interrupted by a dark cloud that brought a heavy shower of rain. She said she had just walked past an abandoned house and they could take shelter there.
   They ran to the house. It was hidden amongst the trees at the bottom of the hill. They went inside and looked out at the rain, but Bob felt slightly uncomfortable. He said, "Do you get the feeling we're not alone?"
   "Yes." A man standing in a doorway behind them said that, just as Abigail was about to say 'no'.
   Bob and Abigail both looked shocked, and he said he was sorry if he frightened them. Abigail said, "Are you taking shelter from the rain too?"
   "No. I live here. My name is John."
   "Sorry. We thought the place was abandoned."
   "I abandoned most of the house in 1972. Since then I've just been using the kitchen, one of the bedrooms and a study. I've been writing my memoirs in the study. I'll show ye."
   He took them into his study. There was a red carpet on the ground. Shelves covered two of the walls, and they were filled with books and trophies. Abigail asked about the trophies and he said, "I used to be a rally driver. I'll show ye my car."
   He took them to the garage. The car was in perfect condition, even though it was over thirty years old. He asked if they'd like to go for a drive and they said they would.
   They regretted this. It was a terrifying trip through the countryside, narrowly missing trees and stone walls. They went through a forest and when they came out the other side a police car chased them. This only made John go faster.
   Bob said, "Wouldn't you be better off stopping? Even if you get away, they'll have no trouble tracing the owner of the car. For one thing, your name is written across the back of it."
   "It's a bit late for that now," John said.
   He was driving on a dirt track through the forest, but he had to stop when the track disappeared into a stream. It re-appeared at the other side. He didn't want to risk driving through the water, so he gave up.
   The police car stopped next to them, and they saw that there were four teenagers in the car. The teenagers were laughing and giving single finger salutes to John, Abigail and Bob.
   "That's Sergeant Clearly's son in the driver's seat," John said. "He's only sixteen."
   The police car reversed back up the track and John followed them. He chased them back the way they had just come.
   Another police car joined the chase behind John. "Are they chasing us or the lads in front?" Bob said.
   "I don't know," John said. "We'll soon find out."
   As they drove through a field he swerved suddenly to one side and spun the car around. The police car went past them and kept chasing the other police car.
   "That was Sergeant Cleary's wife," John said. He re-joined the chase. He said he just wanted to see what would happen.
   As they drove through a field they saw a tractor pulling a trailer. The man on the tractor waved. "That's Sergeant Cleary," John said.
   The chase came to an end a few minutes later when Sergeant Cleary's son had to break hard on a narrow road to avoid hitting the tractor carrying his father. His mother stopped behind him, and then John stopped just behind her.
   Sergeant Cleary got off the tractor and went to his wife. When she rolled down the window he said, "Do you know how fast you were going?"
   "Don't think this will get you out of going to the theatre," she said.
   "I'm afraid I'm going to have to write you a ticket."
   "You're going to the bloody theatre!"
   "Can I have your name, please."
   "Shut up."
   John drove Abigail and Bob back to the house. Abigail finished what she was saying about the soup.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


The Circus

   In a seaside town on an August day, a brass band played on a band stand. Tommy and Kevin were amongst the crowd listening to them. Tommy thought he heard something slightly sisister in the music. He said, "Do you ever get the feeling that the circus has come to town, and it's an evil circus?"
   "No," Kevin said.
   In the afternoon they were walking along the seafront when they saw a bearded lady walking towards them. They stopped, and she stopped too. She stared at them. Tommy had that sense of evil again.
   They went to see Ebeneezer Handware. He ran a sweet shop, but no one ever bought sweets from him. His customers were only there for the room behind the shop, which was full of lucky charms, unlucky charms, keys to unlock invisible doors, numerous items he bought from the fairies, and bottles containing potions that had a wide variety of effects, from making people taller to making a goat sing.
   Tommy told him about the bearded lady, and he said he wanted something to overcome the sense of evil. Ebeneezer looked through his shelves and picked out a small glass bottle full of a red liquid. He gave it to Tommy and said, "Drink some of this the next time you see her. The sense of evil will vanish."
   They left the shop and they saw the bearded lady a few minutes later as they were walking towards Kevin's house. Tommy drank from the bottle, and within seconds the bearded lady started smiling at him.
   Tommy passed the bottle to Kevin, who read from the label before drinking it. "This is a love potion," he said. "It's 'guaranteed to make you more attractive'."
   Ebeneezer was right -- the evil had been banished, but it had been replaced by a look of love, and this terrified Tommy more than the evil.
   She started walking towards them, and they ran back to the shop. Ebeneezer was smiling at them too. Tommy was angry with him, but he knew that Ebenezeer was the only man who could help him, so he restrained himself. He said he preferred the evil. Ebenezeer gave him another glass bottle, and this one contained a black liquid. He said, "Think carefully before using this one. This one could bring all sorts of evil down on your head."
   "It can't be any more evil than the love of a bearded lady," Tommy said.
   They left the shop, and they didn't see the bearded lady again until after dark. She was in the park, and she was still smiling at Tommy. He drank some of the black liquid and the smile disappeared from her face. The evil returned, and Tommy felt much more comfortable. But then figures emerged from the bushes and shadows. There were terrifying freaks, clowns with hooks for hands and glass eyes, and a ring-master who had fangs.
   Tommy drank some of the love potion and they all smiled at him. He kept taking sips from both bottles until he got the balance right, until the desire to kill kept the desire to love in abeyance, and vice versa. They wanted to kill him, but they were also attracted to him.
   Kevin said, "You better hope that none of them are necrophiliacs. If you were faced with fifty nuns, you wouldn't need to worry about that, but if you were looking for a necrophiliac, you'd start your search amongst the vampires and evil freaks."
   "Nuns!" Tommy said. "That's it! We can go to the convent for protection."
   They ran away, and their evil friends followed. Tommy and Kevin both drank the love potion when they got to the convent. The nuns were attracted enough to protect them, but the smell from Tommy and Kevin stopped it from going any further. The nuns didn't need any potions to fight off the clowns and freaks and co. They had crosses and guns.

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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