Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
Click here to buy the paperback or download the ebook for free.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007



   They didn't know why they called him 'Bongo' but they called him 'Bongo' anyway because they liked saying 'Bongo'. The people who played for 'they' had ordinary names like Kevin or Rachel. He didn't seem to mind the name. Very little bothered him. He didn't like getting things in his eyes, and he didn't see the point of toenails, but apart from that he strolled through life without a care, always whistling a tune.
   They didn't know why they called Mr. Clarke 'Pothole' but they called him 'Pothole' anyway because they didn't like him. But they were afraid of him too, so they never called him that to his face. He had made a fortune from his business, which, on the surface, was a tea room. Something else was obviously going on beneath the surface. Of the three tea room owners in the town, he was the only one who needed a bullet-proof limousine.
   Rachel, one of Bongo's friends and a valued member of 'they', had an unpleasant encounter with Mr. Clarke one day when he came into her book shop. He said he wanted to buy her shop and open a laundrette. He told her it was an offer she couldn't refuse, and in that sense, it wasn't really an offer at all -- it was just something she couldn't refuse.
   She went to Bongo and told him about it. "What am I going to do, Bongo?" she said. "I mean I really need to do something here, Bongo."
   He thought about the problem, and he consulted friends and relatives, who thought about the problem, watered plants, walked the dog, said 'It's in the bloody sink' to loved ones and consulted others, some of whom were climbing telephone poles. News of Rachel's difficulty spread, and it reached someone who had a photo of Mr. Clarke in a compromising pose with a woman who couldn't have been any more different to his wife, but even if she was his wife's identical twin he'd still have been in trouble. Actually, he'd have been in much more trouble if she was his wife's identical twin, and so would she.
   The photo was sent anonymously to Rachel, so all she had to do was to show it to Mr. Clarke and say, "You were wrong. There is a way of refusing it."
   He seemed to accept it with good grace, but a few days later she came home from an evening in the pub to find that her house had been broken into and the photo had been taken. She got a phonecall from Mr. Clarke to say he'd plugged the leak in the thing she can't refuse.
   But all was not lost. Rachel knew one of Mr. Clarke's maids, and she said she went into his study one day and she saw him smiling at a photo, which he put into a drawer in his desk when he saw her. Bongo came up with a plan. Mr. Clarke was having a party in his mansion, and this was the perfect chance to get the photo back.
   Rachel disguised herself as a maid to get into the mansion. Bongo was cunningly disguised as a professional tap dancer. Marco Van Basten, the great Dutch footballer, wouldn't have recognised him, although in fairness, he only met Marco Van Basten once. His mother would have recognised him, but she'd have avoided him in case he saw through her disguise as a charlady. He didn't know what a charlady was, but he knew his mother, so he'd almost certainly have said 'Hello Mum' rather than 'What's that charlady doing with the greyhound?'.
   Bongo kept watch outside the study while Rachel went in to look for the photo. Two of the waiters from Mr. Clarke's tea room saw him and they thought he was acting suspiciously. He imagined two bulls in a china shop when he pictured them as waiters in a tea room. They took him to their boss, who asked him to dance.
   Even Marco Van Basten would have said, "That doesn't look like tap dancing to me." But Marco Van Basten wouldn't have been bothered by that. He'd have walked away whistling. Mr. Clarke was bothered. Bongo would have appreciated the distraction of a great Dutch footballer in that situation, but all the attention was focussed on him.
   His own attention was diverted inward. He was knocked unconscious, and he woke up at home in his own bed. Rachel was able to get away with the photo. She left through the window in the study. All she knew about what happened to him was that he was rescued by a charlady with a greyhound.

'The Tree and the Horse' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
It's available in paperback or as an ebook.
Click here to read the first two chapters.
Click here to buy the book.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


The Tern-Lombards

   Eoin went to see the Tern-Lombard brothers about an owl. They were experts on local birds. Eoin thought he'd seen a barn owl and he wanted to ask them if they knew of any in the area. The brothers lived in an old manor house. Neither of them had married, yet. An aversion to marriage ran in the family, but it was an aversion that could easily be worn away by decades of bachelorhood. Their father had married in his fifties.
   They told Eoin it was quite possible he'd seen a barn owl, and they showed him various stuffed owls that had been in the family for generations. Being shot wasn't a necessary requirement to be part of the family, but at the very least it was a worrying trend.
   They showed him all the stuffed birds and animals, and on the way out they showed him the portraits in the hall. When he saw the portrait of their grandmother he couldn't help commenting on her eyebrows. He found it difficult to resist doing these things. If he saw a nest of wasps he'd look for a stick to poke it. If the Tern-Lombards saw a nest of wasps they'd just shoot it and have the wasps stuffed.
   They demanded an apology. He considered this, and he regretfully informed them that he was unable to comply with their request. He tried to sound as diplomatic and conciliatory as possible when refusing to apologise for asking if someone was breeding caterpillars on their face.
   They were the sort of people who in former times would have challenged men to duels because of insults or aspersions cast on the character of a lady. Lives would have been lost over careless remarks about curious walks. Nowadays no one will accept the challenge of a duel, so they just shoot people. When Eoin saw them loading their guns he did what he always did after disturbing wasps: he ran for the trees.
   It was a sound plan, with no foreseeable flaws. Snares, when used to greatest effect, are unforeseeable. Eoin didn't see the snare until after the voice in his head had said something unrepeatable, which was expressed by his mouth as a scream of pain. He looked down and saw the metal teeth biting into his leg.
   He could hear them approaching through the forest. They lacked the voice in their heads that says 'Don't pull the trigger' when they aim their guns at something that can look into their eyes and express a longing to go on living.
   In Eoin's telling of this story, he had to kill a bear with his bare hands. He's told it like this countless times since he told a version in which he shot the bear, but people had sympathy for the bear when he said he shot it. He thought it was odd that people would be upset by the cold, clinical, painless death of a screaming hot bullet to the head, but they didn't object when he said he choked it to death. But he thinks people are odd. He had told the death-by-bullet version once, and before this he once told a version in which he was rescued by a bear, but that didn't make any sense. It made much more sense to shoot the bear in the head.
   He's never told what really happened, which is that he was rescued by a man dressed up as a bear, who carried Eoin away in his arms. Eoin's embarrassment was heightened by the fact that the bear costume included a T-shirt and a straw hat. But no trousers -- that made things much worse. If the costume didn't include the T-shirt then the lack of trousers wouldn't have been noticeable, but as Eoin was being carried away in the arms of the man in the bear suit, all he could think was, "Oh God! He's naked from the waist down!" He has considered telling a version of the story that includes the man dressed as a bear, just so Eoin can shoot him. He thinks that people would understand. He wouldn't shoot him in the head. Maybe in the foot, just to teach him a lesson.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Your Presence

   You should practise presenting your presence at doors so that when the door is opened you'll immediately convey an air of superiority, and it won't be done with smell. Even when you open the door yourself, you should remain motionless there for a few seconds to let the air waft into the room, allowing all of the room's occupants a chance to inhale it (metaphorically speaking -- it's nothing to do with smell). There are many ways of arranging your appearance to convey the appropriate presence. If you have a nineteenth century military uniform, wear it. Always bring the sword with you. A sense of inferiority will immediately make the room's occupants feel a foot or two smaller than they are. If you don't have the uniform, you'll need to practise your stance and bearing.
   I spent a lot of time working on these areas with a man called Eugene, and after much practise he was able to control his presence like a puppet on a string. He made a very successful pause before entering a room at a party, and it left a deep impression on the other guests. He was with a friend of his called Dominic, who stood behind Eugene. Because of Dominic's continued presence in Eugene's shadow, and also because of his bearing (he always looked down, whereas Eugene kept his head held high), it was assumed that he was Eugene's valet or personal assistant.
   Eugene met a man called Jonathon, who'd been impressed by the presence at the door. He invited Eugene to spend the weekend at his beach house. 'Beach house' didn't do justice to the mansion with its own private beach. He took Eugene and Dominic out on his speed boat. He kept complaining about his wife and how she was always meeting stupid people and inviting them back to the penthouse or to the estate in the country. He'd get home and find them all sitting on the carpet because they weren't used to furniture. And all the pretty ones he wanted to have affairs with looked on him as no more than a holder for his eyebrows (he'd been to doctors in Switzerland in the hope of getting something done about his eyebrows).
   Jonathon hadn't realised that Gwen, his wife, was more interested in his attempted affairs than he expected her to be. She had followed him to see what he was getting up to. She wore sunglasses with huge lenses and a wig that turned her from a blonde into a brunette with long, straight hair. She loved the look. Part of her wished she could stay like that all the time and another part of her wanted to touch a deer, but that's a different story.
   She had seen him in the bar of a hotel. He was with another woman who couldn't stop looking in his eyes and laughing, or so it seemed to Gwen. She wanted to get revenge. When Jonathon was on the speed boat with Eugene and Dominic, they were chased by another speedboat. Jonathon didn't recognise the woman on board with the brown hair and dark glasses. They ducked to avoid the bullets, and they managed to get the grenade out of the boat before it went off.
   They made it to a small beach and they ran into some trees. They went to see a man. That man had a finger in the air, as if to say 'I am that man'. His name was Paul, and Jonathon thought he'd be the ideal person to help in this situation. Grenades would do their best to avoid Paul. He'd talk the hind legs off a thing that really likes its hind legs just out of spite. After taking note of the finger in the air, Jonathon nodded, as if to say 'Yes, I've taken note of that', and then he explained the situation. Paul retracted the statement of his finger to respond as follows: "Whoever is chasing you is about to hit a brick wall capable of operating a crossbow." He had his finger in his ear when he said that (he normally kept it there when it wasn't making statements in the air).
   Jonathon, Eugene and Dominic were able to relax. They made their way back to the beach house for a drink and a sound sleep to re-live the chase in their dreams, and say 'baa' if they're a sheep in their sleep. When Eugene woke up in the morning, he decided to rein in his presence. He wasn't ready for this level yet.
   Jonathon returned from work one evening and found Paul passionately kissing a woman with long brown hair and dark glasses. He had his finger in the air, as if to say 'I didn't know she was that woman'. But Jonathon just gave him a wad of cash, said, "Sorry to interrupt," and left them alone.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Eileen's Dogs

   Eileen has a sister in the army. She has twice as many feet as she has sisters -- this is the formula she uses to remember how many feet she has. She has twice as many dogs as she has feet.
   One day as she was looking at her dogs playing in the back garden, she realised that she had four times as many dogs as she had sisters. She had never thought of her dogs like this before, or her sister. She watched the dogs walking around outside, and she noticed a military-like march to the way they walked.
   She trained them to march in formation, and they enjoyed this. They were never keen on attacking other dogs or people, and Eileen had no interest in training them to do so, but they looked dangerous.
   She took her dogs to the park on a Saturday afternoon, and they marched in formation to her commands. Albert and Derek sat on a bench and watched the dogs. Most of their encounters with dogs came in the middle of the night, due to their choice of profession as burglars. Albert avoided houses with dogs that slept indoors. He said, "Can you imagine breaking into her house and coming up against those dogs, or against her?"
   "I could do it," Derek said.
   "You wouldn't stand a chance."
   "I have a way with dogs."
   "Those dogs look as if they've been trained to kill."
   "I've never come across a dog I haven't been able to control."
   "I bet you fifty quid you couldn't break into her house in the middle of the night and get out without being attacked by those dogs."
   "You're on."
   They followed Eileen back to her house on the edge of the town. Derek said he could break in and steal whatever he could fit in the pockets of his coat without so much as a growl from the dogs.
   They came back to the house at one o' clock in the morning, and Derek broke in through a front window. Albert was hiding behind the ditch at the other side of the road to make sure Derek did the job.
   The dogs were sound asleep in the kitchen. Derek listened at the door and he could hear them snoring. He went to the dining room and filled his pockets with silver cutlery.
   He didn't hear the sound of footsteps on the stairs. The owner of the feet had been trained in the art of stealth. It was Eileen's sister, Rose. She was staying with Eileen for the weekend. She'd been trained in the art of combat too, and she had every intention of practising this with the candlestick she held in her hand.
   She burst into the room and chased him around the table. He swore every time she hit him with the candlestick. Eileen woke up and she went downstairs. The dogs came into the dining room to see what was going on as well. They pushed open the door between the kitchen and the dining room, and Derek made his escape though this. He left the house through the back door, but Rose kept following him, and she kept hitting him until he dropped all of the cutlery. She picked up the knives and forks and returned them to their rightful owner. Eileen gave her sister a biscuit.
   The police were called. They found Derek's finger prints on the cutlery, but they were unable to catch him.
   But then a few months later, Eileen saw a photo of a man in the newspaper. He was wearing a beard of bees for a world record attempt, but she recognised Derek despite his elaborate facial garment. She could see the fear in his eyes. He looked just like that when Rose was chasing him around the table.
   She told the police, and they didn't believe her at first, but she insisted that he was the man, so they questioned him. He couldn't provide an alibi for the night of the burglary, and he couldn't explain why his finger prints were all over her cutlery. He eventually confessed to his crime. During his time in jail, he decided to give up burglary. His way with dogs was useless if he didn't have a way with women, especially those wielding candlesticks.

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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