Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, February 06, 2007


The Table Quiz

   Miriam often tried to give up smoking, but it was difficult because she kept thinking about cigarettes. As her uncle used to say, "If you keep thinking about writing your name on a bull's back, it's only a matter of time before you do it." He had the scars to prove it, and the bull had the first letter of his name.
   So she needed something to take her mind off the cigarettes. A friend of hers, Sonia, suggested a table quiz in the local pub. She wouldn't see anyone smoking there.
   They formed a team with two of their friends and they entered the quiz. The bar man, Owen, was the quiz master. He had come up with the questions himself, and most of them required little or no thought. 'How many fingers am I holding up?' would have been difficult if it had been asked later in the night after a few rounds of drinks, but it was asked in the first round of questions. The answer was five and only one team got it wrong.
   Two teams got all of the questions right. One was Miriam's, and the other was led by a man called Eddie. Twenty-two tie breaker questions were asked, but these failed to separate the teams. The questions were either so easy that they were impossible to get wrong, or so difficult that the teams could only guess at the answer. An example of the latter type would be 'I have ten toes, but how many toenails do I have?'.
   Owen used to have buzzers for this situation. He made the buzzers himself. The team who buzzed in first with the right answer would win. That was the theory anyway, but in practise, the person who buzzed in first wouldn't be able to answer anything for a few days. One of them answered the question months later in the middle of a wedding. He would have won a foot spa if he had got it right.
   So they needed some other way of deciding the winner, and Owen suggested going to see Gordon and getting him to come up with a question. Gordon had a reputation for being the smartest man in the area. Whenever people wanted to know something they went to see him, whether it was the capital of Poland or why fate keeps dropping metaphorical empty beer cans on their heads. He was stronger on captial cities than on the vagaries of fate, although there was often a simple answer to the questions of fate, like 'It's because you're not wearing trousers'.
   Owen, the two teams and most of the people in the pub went to Gordon's house. He got a shock when he opened the door and saw everyone there, but he relaxed when Owen told him they just needed a question.
   But the questions he came up with were too difficult for the teams. He tried a few easy ones (like 'What is the capital of Poland?') but they both answered those questions correctly. As he was trying to think of a question with the appropriate level of difficulty, they heard a woman's voice from inside the house. She said, "Gordon, will I open another bottle of wine?"
   A man called Larry stepped out of the crowd and said, "Was that my wife?"
   "Now there's a question," Owen said.
   Both teams looked at Gordon's face to see if they could get a clue to the answer in his expression. Miriam conferred with her team, and she wrote 'yes' on the answer sheet. Eddie's team went for 'no'. When Owen looked at the two answer sheets he said, "Right. It'll all be decided on this. Is it Larry's wife?"
   "No it's not," Gordon said.
   "So who is it?"
   "Leave me alone." Gordon went inside and closed the door.
   "I think he's lying," Owen said.
   Larry started pounding on the door, and demanding to know if his wife was inside. The crowd stayed where they were. Under normal circumstances they'd realise that it wasn't their business and leave, but this was their business with the outcome of the quiz still hanging in the balance. Even if it wasn't their business they'd just wait on the footpath outside.
   Someone from the crowd said, "Look, they're getting away around the back."
   The crowd ran around the house. They chased Gordon and the woman down a narrow road, and Larry caught up with them at the top of a hill. He was delighted to see that it wasn't his wife at all. It was Owen's wife.
   Owen said to her, "What were you doing with him?"
   She said, "I was just... helping him rehearse for a part in a play."
   "Fair enough. Well, we have a winner, and it's Eddie's team."
   Miriam was disappointed at first, but the prize was four-hundred cigarettes, so she felt as if she'd won.

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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