|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Diarmuid was always known as 'Shiny'. It proved to be a very effective brand name in his political career. Everyone seemed to enjoy calling him 'Shiny'. Everywhere he went, people would shake his hand and say 'Hello, Shiny' or 'How are you, Shiny?'. His surname was a more significant factor in his success. His father and grandfather had both been members of parliament, and Shiny topped the poll in his constituency in his first election.
After topping the poll again in his fifth election he decided it was time to get his portrait painted so he could hang it on the wall of his office, next to the portraits of his father and grandfather. He hired an artist called Jonathon to paint it. Jonathon didn't say much when he arrived at Shiny's office. He didn't say a word while he worked on the painting, and he glared in response to anything Shiny said.
What he lacked in amiability, he made up for in artistic ability. Shiny was delighted with the portrait. He hung it in his office, but a few days later he noticed something odd. The windows were in the background of the painting, and there was a face in one of the windows. A man was looking in, smiling and waving.
Shiny went to see Jonathon. He said, "Why did you paint a man at the window?"
"I paint what I see."
"And you saw a man at the window?"
"What else would he be doing at the window?"
"How long was he there for?"
"All the time."
"There was a man looking in the window all the time you were painting?"
"Am I going to have to keep explaining this to you over and over again?"
"Why didn't you say something?"
"I paint what I see."
"It was supposed to be a portrait of me, and you painted a man at the window."
"I paint what I see."
He tried to get another artist to paint over the man in the window, but no one would dare alter one of Jonathon's paintings. He was famous for getting revenge. Revenge was the one thing that separated him from the animals, according to a journalist in a local newspaper.
Shiny hired a woman called Grace to do another portrait. She was much more friendly than Jonathon, and she was a very talented artist too, judging by some of her past work.
He wanted to find out more about the man at the window. He spoke to a woman who worked in a shop at the other side of the street. She said she saw a man on a step-ladder outside the window, looking in. At first she thought he was cleaning the window, but he was there for a very long time.
He cut the window out of the first painting and he showed it to people around the town. He asked if they knew who this man was. A few people thought he looked familiar, and one woman said she saw someone like him getting off the bus on a street at the edge of town.
Shiny went to this street. He met a man who said, "It's Shiny! Hello, Shiny. Is it yourself, Shiny?"
"It is. How are you?"
"Will you come in for a cup of tea, Shiny?"
"I'd love to, but I'm in a bit of a rush. I'm trying to locate someone."
Shiny showed the man the extract from the painting. He put on his glasses to look at it, and he said, "That looks like Mark. He lives at the end of the street. Are you sure you won't have a cup of tea, Shiny?"
"Some other time. Thanks a million for your help."
"It's no problem at all, Shiny."
Shiny went to the house at the end of the street and he rang the doorbell. He saw a familiar face when the door opened. He held up the extract of the painting and said, "You have some explaining to do."
"Not half as much explaining as you'll be doing, Dad."
Shiny had been canvassing since he was ten and he was used to hearing abuse on people's doorsteps. He always retained his composure no matter how bad the language, but the word 'Dad' left him speechless.
He had met Mark's mother when he was twenty, and he'd only known her for five months. When she became pregnant, his father paid her ten thousand pounds to leave the country. He wanted to protect his son's future political career. She left because it was a lot of money, and Ireland at that time wasn't the best place to be if you were a single mother.
All of these memories came flooding back as Shiny stood on the doorstep, looking at his son, who was smiling and waving at him. But the only thing Shiny could think of saying was, "Why did you have to ruin my portrait?"
"I heard you were having it done so you could hang it on the wall next to your father and grandfather, and I thought it was only right that the next generation be included too."
"This is what became of that portrait." He held up the bit he cut out. "I'm getting another one done."
"You can't take a scissors to this problem and cut me out of your life. The press would love to hear my story. You could try cutting my picture out of the newspapers, but it won't do you much good at the next election."
Shiny said, "Thank you for your time," and he walked away.
At first he found it difficult to keep the smile in place while he sat for the latest portrait, but Grace kept talking, and she helped him relax.
As she walked away from his office that evening, Mark approached her on the street. He told her his story, and he asked her to include him in the portrait. He said he'd pay whatever she asked.
"I'm sorry, but I can't do that," she said. "It just wouldn't be right."
"Do you think it was right of him to cut me out of his life?"
"Obviously that's wrong too, but that's none of my business.
"You have a chance to right a wrong, or partially right it. You can include me in his life."
"You just want to annoy him."
"I suppose that's one way of looking at it. If I can't annoy him by appearing in his portrait and reminding him of his neglect, then I'll have to annoy him by going to the press."
Shiny was delighted with Grace's portrait. He hung it on the wall in his office, and he didn't notice anything odd about it until a few days later when his wife looked at it and said, "That was very clever of her to include this very painting on the wall in this painting."
Shiny looked at it. There were three portraits on the wall in the background of the painting. He looked closely at the third one. He knew that despite the resemblance, it wasn't his own face.
He went to see Mark and said, "How did you manage to weasel your way into this one?"
"I presented her with a simple choice: either include me in the portrait or I'll go to the press. And it's symbolic of the choice you're faced with. Either include me in your life or I'll include myself."
Shiny remembered what his grandfather always said: "Keep your friends close and your enemies on a boat to Australia." This reminded him of the alternative version of that saying: "Keep your friends close and your enemies even closer." He said to Mark, "How would you like to be my new assistant."
"Yeah. I used to have the same assistant who worked for my father, but she retired two years ago. I didn't get anyone else because I was hoping one of my own kids would fill the post. But they're showing no interest in politics. And of course, you're one of my own kids too, so you'd be the next best thing. Or the equal best thing. I've always wanted to be able to pass the baton down to the next generation. I don't know if you'll be able to use the family name, but..."
A vast array of future problems opened up in Shiny's mind, and they were beginning to outweigh the benefits, but Mark said, "I'll do it."
After a long pause, Shiny said, "That's grand," and he shook Mark's hand. Whatever problems lay ahead, he'd cross those bridges when he comes to them, or sweep them under the carpet again.
The Tree and the Horse
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.
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Debbie was sick of people mistaking her for a man.
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She was sick of people asking her that too.
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