Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, February 20, 2007


The Budgie

   Barry and Keith were actors. Or at least they were in theory, but rarely in practise. Keith normally got the sort of roles where all he had to do was get shot. To avoid being evicted from their apartment, they needed another source of income. They could have got jobs in the fast-food place opposite their apartment, but that would have felt like taking one of those roles where they get shot without saying a word, and Barry wasn't prepared to stoop to that level. They'd get lines with the fast-food job, but 'do you want fries with that?' wasn't the sort of thing Barry imagined he'd be saying when he decided to become an actor, unless he got to shoot someone as well, and he wouldn't get to do that in the fast-food job.
   There was only one thing Barry was qualified for and prepared to stoop to, and that was crime. They got fake guns and disguises from a friend of theirs who worked in the costume department at a TV station. Their first job was a small off-licence, where they stole a few hundred euros and a bottle of whiskey to celebrate. They did a similar job on a supermarket, but Barry was on the lookout for something bigger. He found it one evening when he was watching a TV show that looked at the lives of one of the richest families in the country. Their lavish mansion was shown, but the only thing Barry took much notice of was the budgie. He thought of a plan, and he explained it to Keith. "We'll kidnap the budgie and demand a ransom. They'll pay because it'll be like small change to them, but to us it'll be a fortune. This would be like kidnapping the wife of a carpenter or a plumber, or the dog of a barrister. It's much easier to handle a budgie than a wife, and no one will think you're weird if you keep them in a cage."
   With the help of their friend in the costume department they disguised themselves as two old men. When he saw the TV show, Barry had noticed a piano in the room where the budgie was, so when they called to the house they told the maid that they were there to tune the piano. She knew that it shouldn't take two men to tune a piano, but she thought they were so old that opening doors would be a two man job. Barry pretended to tune the piano while Keith took the budgie and replaced it with a stuffed bird.
   Later that day they sent the family a letter demanding a ransom of ten thousand euros. They said not to go to the police or to the press, but the kidnap was all over the news because the family had gone to the police as soon as they found the stuffed bird where the real one should be. The police were looking for two old men posing as piano tuners. Barry and Keith were hiding the bird at an old house owned by Barry's aunt. She had recently inherited the place, and it was badly in need of renovation. They kept the bird in a room at the back of the house. Keith had a habit of leaving doors and windows open, so Barry nailed the window down just in case the bird escaped.
   They went out to the back garden to smoke and to think about how they were going to collect the money with all this attention on the case. They had locked the door to the budgie's room before they went out. The lock was old, and the key was too big to fit in their pockets. All of the keys for the house were attached to a horse shoe with pieces of string. They kept the keys in a toolbox in the shed.
   When they went back inside, Barry opened the door to the room and saw that the bidgie was no longer in his cage. "You forgot to close the cage again," he said to Keith.
   As they looked around the room, neither of them noticed the budgie leaving through the open door. "And close the door so he doesn't get out," Barry said.
   Keith closed the door. Barry had left the key in the lock. The key was horizontal, with the string at the right side of the bit sticking out. The mechanism of the lock was just about able to resist the downward pressure of the horse shoe and the other keys, until the budgie decided to perch on the horse shoe and provide the additional pressure.
   The door locked. Barry and Keith thought there must be someone outside. Keith looked under the door and saw the budgie. He had left the back door open, and the next time they saw the bird it was perched on a branch outside the window, looking in on them. They tried to lift the window but they couldn't get the nails out, and they were afraid to break the glass in case they scared the bird away.
   "Now we're trapped and he's looking in on us," Keith said. "He's probably thinking 'ha!'."
   "Let's hope the only justice we face is poetic."
   That didn't look likely when the police arrived. A bird-watcher had spotted the bird and recognised its distinctive markings from the photos in the newspapers (or at least he said he was photographing birds with his zoom lens focussed on windows). Barry and Keith claimed that they were just trying to rescue the bird. They had supposedly come to check on the house for Barry's aunt, and they found the bird. They were just about to take it to the police when one of the kidnappers returned. In the ensuing struggle the bird got away and the kinapper locked them in. He went to look for the bird.
   The police didn't seem entirely convinced of the story, but as Barry said, "Who else could have locked us in? The budgie?"
   So they got away with it, but they gave up on their life of crime. They went back to acting, and they got a few good parts out of their appearance in the press, where they were portrayed as the men who saved the budgie. Keith finally got to say something before being shot.

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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