|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
The Goff Hockles
Sam was looking out his kitchen window one evening when he saw a bird fall out of the tree at the end of the garden. It dropped to the long grass, then flew around in circles for a while before returning to the tree. He'd never seen a bird like it before. It was about the size of a robin. It was mostly brown. It had red and blue feathers around its neck.
He went outside, and he walked slowly towards the tree. The bird was perched on a branch, along with eight others who looked just like it. A few minutes later, another one fell to the ground. As soon as it landed it flew up again and returned to the tree.
He asked a friend of his called Jasper to look at the new tenants of his tree. Jasper was a bird-watcher and he was able to identify them straightaway. "These are Goff Hockles," he said. "They fall asleep every so often and fall to the ground. That's why they choose trees above soft ground. The long grass in your garden is perfect for them."
Sam hadn't cut the lawn in weeks, and the birds provided an excuse not to cut it at all. They provided him with a new past-time too. He often spent evenings catching them. He bought a net to make the job easier, but they seemed to enjoy landing in the net. He thought they were only pretending to fall asleep because their falls became much more frequent when he went outside with the net.
He had a party one evening, and many of the guests were in the back garden. His friend Vinnie was drinking brandy under the tree when one of the birds fell into his glass. It woke up suddenly and splashed about in the brandy before flying away. Vinnie screamed and dropped the glass.
On the day before this he had accidentally stood on a woman's toes. She was wearing sandals. He was wearing boots that had proved to be resistant to fire and a concrete gate post that fell off a trailer. His apology was half-hearted, and he seemed to suggest that she should be apologising for getting her toes in the way. This infuriated her, and she put a curse on him. He laughed at it, but that night he had a strange dream. He was walking across a barren wasteland and he saw huge footprints. Whoever made them must have been at least three times the size of Vinnie, and if this giant was anything like Vinnie he'd find it easy to be antagonistic towards people who were smaller than him. The footprints filled him with a sense of dread and he ran away. The sight of a chair filled him with dread too.
He was nervous on the following day. The dream was so vivid it had left a deep impression on him, and everything filled him with dread. All day long he had been on the lookout for something out of the ordinary. But he was starting to relax at the party, until the bird fell into his drink. He was convinced it was a sign of evil about to come his way.
So he decided to go. He ran through the hedge into the neighbours' garden. The guests at the party saw him disappear through the hedge at the other side of that garden. Sam wondered if he should follow him, but he thought that Vinnie would find his way home eventually.
Wisdom is something that comes slowly, like the melting waters of a glacier seeping into your head, little drops into the stream of consciousness. Knowledge that has been frozen for millennia is released once more. Of course, a certain wetness in the head area can have its disadvantages. Drops of wisdom are useless if they fall into a cardboard box. With some people, when the glacier water is added to the mix it results in theories that find expression in bizarre behaviour. This behaviour is examined by others and theories are formed: 'Josephine is going mad' or 'Joe has been drinking that stuff he found in the hole again'.
Most people at the party put Vinnie's behaviour down to a combination of both these theories. They forgot about him because the birds' behaviour was more interesting. The other birds must have been licking the one who fell into the brandy because they were falling much more frequently.
An hour after Vinnie's disappearance, Sam got a phone call from him. He said he had made his way through hedges and over fences, and finally he had climbed a wall with the help of a garden seat. But then he was stuck at the other side. There was nothing there to stand on to get back over the wall. He was going to look in the shed to see if he could find a ladder, but he decided to wait until the light faded before coming out of his hiding place behind a bush. As soon as it was dark enough, he made his way towards the shed, but he was distracted by the sight he saw through a window at the back of the house. A bizarre ritual was taking place inside. It involved seven women, and they were all dressed in white. It looked like a pagan ceremony. He didn't know if they were sacrificing an animal, but he wouldn't be surprised if they were. They were clearly intent on evil, he thought, and he had just jumped into their cage.
Sam said he'd go to the house and find out what was going on. He had met the woman who owned the house a few times before. When she opened the door he explained to her that his friend had gone a bit mental at a party and run through all the neighbours' gardens, and he was wondering if she had seen him. It felt a bit like asking about a missing dog.
"Let's have a look out back," she said, and she led him through the house. On the way she introduced him to the other six women in white. They were her yoga class.
When Vinnie heard the real reason for their behaviour it felt like a glacier melting and washing away all the detritus in his head. He had been led to something good, rather than something evil, and the agent of good was the bird who fell into his glass. He joined the yoga class. The whole class were fascinated by the birds. They often sat in the grass underneath Sam's tree and they caught the birds when they fell. The birds seemed to enjoy it too.
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.
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