Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, May 22, 2007


The Background

   Karen had a thing about a magician. This can be expressed another way: she threw a dart at him, but she missed.
   He looked behind him at the dart stuck in the wall. It was next to an old black payphone. He dialled a number on the phone and said, "I'd like to make a complaint about a woman... Yeah... Yeah, her... Yeah, a dart."
   She put on a pair of dark sunglasses with big lenses and she slowly backed away. She left the building, and she tried not to look conspicuous. She walked down a busy street lit up by the afternoon sun. She stayed at the shady side of the street, and she went into a shop through glass doors. Some of the customers made ringing noises as they went around the shop, and others buzzed. The shop assistants wore black clothes and they remained completely silent. They blended in with the background. They were very difficult to spot. You'd need a keen eye if you had to shoot one of them with a tranquiliser dart.
   She only noticed the shop assistants when she bumped into one of them. She told them she had to lay low for a while, and they said they'd help her blend into the background. They took her to the motorbike races in the suburbs, where the people spoke to each other via postcards. The postman who delivered the cards only had to travel three or four yards for each delivery. He liked to live in the background, where he had affairs with the women who hid there. They broke into museums and art galleries at night. They loved being able to spend time together in the background layer without ever being noticed.
   Karen and the shop assistants noticed him. She loved being invisible too. She was free to travel to other points in the background and look out into the foreground. She thought it was like going down into a tunnel and emerging in a completely different place.
   Neil was in a restaurant overlooking the mouth of a river. The shutters were open to let the sun and the sight of the river flow in. People sat at tables outside and read newspapers. All the conversations emanated from the same world and he had to go home and put his head in a hole for a much smaller but different world. When Karen saw Neil with his head in the hole she told him there was no need to do this, unless the hole was a tunnel. He just had to enter the background.
   The press photographers dress in moody browns or black and create worlds and works of art. They don't talk to people who are mere furniture, unless that furniture would match the decor of the world they're creating on that particular day, a very carefully designed modern world. They spend most of their time discussing the artistic merits of these worlds.
   Karen, Neil and the shop assistants met the photographers in the background. The shop assistants in black and Karen, with her dark glasses, fitted into the world the photographers were designing. They weren't too keen on Neil, but they took photos of Karen and her new friends anyway.
   Neil saw a path he had never noticed when he was in the foreground. They followed it, and it led them to a garden, where a woman sat at a white table and drank tea. Her name was Eva, and she told them she wished she had a cook who had her own head instead of borrowing one from a friend who used it as a rolling pin. A man lived in the background of this background world. He came out of his layer and played a small keyboard whenever Eva wanted to fill some time. He emerged from the hedge and played a song while she drank tea.
   A man entered the garden from the path. He was a hunter with a gun that was loaded with a tranquiliser dart. Karen wondered if it had anything to do with the complaint made against her, but he was really hunting down the shop assistants to return them to the shop. They all stayed still, like statues in the gallery, but he saw them. He had been hired because of his knowledge of the background.
   The hunter hit a photographer with the dart. As he was re-loading the gun, the keyboard player took the others into the background of the background. To blend in, he got them to wear anoraks. The shop assistants and photographers said they'd rather die than wear an anorak. But the thought of wearing something as unfashionable as a tranquiliser dart made them change their minds.
   They wanted to make a complaint about what the hunter did to the photographer. One of the other photographers wrote the complaint on a postcard. They needed to find the postman and get him to deliver it, so they went to the art gallery. They were completely invisible in their green anoraks and blue jeans. No one noticed them on the way, and the security guards in the gallery looked right through them. Only the statues saw them. They posed as statues themselves, and they waited until the gallery had closed. The postman arrived with a woman after dark, and they gave him the postcard.
   They spent the night in the gallery, talking to the statues and to the other people hiding there. They forgot about the complaint until the following day when they were following the lost man of the mountains who'd lost all of his clothes. He wore a fur coat that he'd found, and his life was like pinball, with him starring as the ball, bouncing from one drama to another, with treks through the mountains in between.
   They followed him up the side of a mountain. When they looked back they saw the hunter. He was being chased by men who wore black suits and carried guns. They felt guilty about their complaint against the hunter, so they gave him an anorak and they helped him hide in their background layer. The men in the suits wondered where he went to, but they didn't wonder for very long. They shot the lost man instead, although they thought he was an animal. The bullet hit a coin in the pocket of his coat. He slipped out of the coat and ran in circles, screaming as he ran. As the ball in the pinball machine, this was typical of the sort of thing that happened to him, but it still came as a shock. It came as more of a shock to the men in the suits. They were frightened by the screaming naked man who emerged from the animal they killed, and they ran away.

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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