|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Pros and Cons
Ronan lived alone in a house at the bottom of a valley. Sometimes he loved the peace and quiet of the place, but it could be lonely too. He had never married. He didn't know how to go about getting a wife. He had seen friends of his who'd been single for years, and then one day they'd no longer be single. He had never seen the transition from one state to the other, and he assumed it was something that happened by chance. And it could happen to him at any time, he thought. He could be walking down the road one evening, and the change would take place. Or he it could happen while he's asleep in bed at night. He might get a bit of a shock when he wakes up, but it'd be a pleasant shock.
But he was nearly forty and he'd never come anywhere near the state of marriage. He decided that if he didn't find a wife within the next year, he'd settle for bachelorhood, and he'd have to actively seek a wife, rather than just walking the roads and going to sleep. He put a lot of thought into it, and he came to the conclusion that if he wanted to find a wife, he'd need to find a woman. That's something he could come across while out for a walk, but probably not while sleeping in his bed. He spent weeks walking the roads and he never met an unmarried woman in all that time. If he was going to find someone within a year, he'd need another method. So he decided to visit a match maker.
The match maker was called Eileen, and she was recommended to Ronan by a man in the pub. It was the same man who recommended hitting yourself with nettles as a cure for falling out of a tree. Ronan went to see Eileen and he told her his problem.
"You've come to the right place," she said. "I just need to ask you a few simple questions to get a sense of the sort of person you are. Firstly, if you had a choice, would you go on holiday to Germany or France?"
"I'd never go to either place."
"If you had a choice."
"I don't know."
"Imagine you were someone who would go on holiday abroad. Which country would you go to?"
"How are you going to get a sense of who I am if I'm imagining I'm someone else?"
"I just will. Come on, fairly quickly now, which one would you choose?"
"Right. If you had to choose between jazz or funk, which type of music would you play if you had guests around to dinner?"
He had to answer another ten questions. "I've taken note of your answers," she said as she tapped the side of her head, "and the mental computer has analysed the results already. I know the perfect person for you. Her name is Alison."
"Right. When will I get to meet her?"
"I'll phone her right now and see what she says. You just wait outside for a while."
Ronan was waiting for less a minute. Eileen came out and said, "Good news. She's willing to have a go at you. You can meet her tomorrow at midday near the picnic tables by the river."
They both arrived early for their meeting. They introduced themselves, and they ran out of things to talk about when they finished talking about the weather. He said, "I suppose we should... what-do-you-call-it... get to know each other and all that."
"Good thinking," she said. "Why don't we go to your place?"
He took her to his house. They went to the living room, and he said, "You can only really judge the place after I light the fire."
"Allow me," she said. She took a small piece of paper out of her coat pocket. Then she rolled it up into a ball and threw it towards the fire. A ball of flame rose up the chimney and left a roaring fire in the fireplace.
"Where did you learn how to do that?" he said.
"My grandmother taught me."
"That's... That must come in handy."
"She taught me everything she knew. Do you want me to show you how she used to milk the cows?" She took another piece of paper from her pocket.
"No," he said. "That's alright. I got some milk in the shop earlier, so... I'll plug in the kettle and make some tea."
"Allow me. My grandmother showed me how to boil water too, but with electric kettles you're safer just turning the switch on."
He sat in the kitchen and watched her make the tea and some ham sandwiches. This was a big enough entry in the 'pro' column to cancel out the 'potential witch' entry on the 'con' side.
They went for a walk after the tea. It was a pleasant walk. They were never short of something to say, another point for the pro side. But she wasn't short of something to say to the neighbours' dog either, and she could understand his responses. Ronan crossed out the word 'potential' on the con side.
He went to see Eileen on the following day and he said, "Is she a witch or what is she?"
"Her grandmother wouldn't have called herself a witch. And no one else would call her that if they had any sense."
"So you knew about that?"
"She's perfect for you."
"What, in the name of God, I mean what in the name of God were you thinking?"
"You asked me to give my opinion, to use my skills, and I did. I've never been wrong before."
"What were you thinking at all? You thought she'd be ideal for the person I imagined. That's what you were thinking."
"I could see the sort of person you are from the sort of person you imagined."
"I don't even know what funk is."
"Do you think I don't know that? You went for the safe option when you chose jazz because at least you know what it is. And I know you don't have people to dinner either."
"If I went for the safe option, why did you put me with someone as unsafe as her?"
"I know what I'm doing. She'll make a fine wife. And you don't have much choice in the matter. By conducting this business through me, you've virtually promised to marry her. She could certainly interpret it that way. And you don't want to be breaking a promise to her, do you?"
Ronan went to the pub, where he told his tale of woe. The man who had recommended Eileen suggested that if he wanted to get out of their relationship, or whatever it was, he needed to make her decide there was too much of him in the con column and hardly any of him on the pro side.
"Wear the same clothes in your living room that you'd wear when you're slaughtering something," the bar man suggested. "From my experience of women, that's enough to put a murderous glint in their eyes."
"She could probably kill me with a newspaper, so I'd rather avoid the murderous glint. And I don't want to ruin the carpet."
"It sounds like she's put a spell on you already. I've heard that wives can do that. But you've got to do something strong if you want to get rid of her. Let the dog do something."
She was supposed to call around at two o' clock that afternoon. He'd never lit a fire that early in his life, but he made sure he had a roaring fire lighting because he didn't want her doing her trick with the paper again.
When she arrived he took her into the living room. The first thing she noticed was the dog eating bread on the ground. Ronan said, "I found a loaf of bread on the side of the road so I gave it to the dog."
She said, "Do you know your trousers are on fire?" Ronan was standing in front of the fireplace, a bit too close to it. He screamed and ran around the room, but she just calmly picked up some dust with her right hand and sprinkled it on the palm of her left hand. Then she blew the dust towards him and the fire in his trousers was extinguished immediately.
She wasn't bothered by the dog's meal on the carpet. She was able to clean it up in a few seconds with a broom. He didn't know where she got the broom from. He thought he was stuck with her after she had saved his life, or at least saved his trousers. But he was willing to accept a life with her. An ability to put out the flames every time he set his trousers on fire was a significant addition to the pro column.
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.
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.
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