Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, July 10, 2007



   Agnew spends his evenings sitting by the fireplace, drinking brandy and talking. Neighbours and friends drop in to listen to his stories. There are so many digressions and diversions that it's impossible to identify where the stories start and end. They're all part of his life story, or his life story up to the point at which he started telling it. One evening he was talking about fishing at sea with a group of men who all wore red socks for some reason, or at least he assumed there was some reason, but he didn't ask because he considered questions about socks to be too personal. A woman called Melissa asked them about the socks when she met them later. This is what Agnew had to say about her:

   I think I met her in an art gallery. I really should be able to say that sentence without the words 'I think', given the fact that we got engaged so soon after meeting. But I can't be certain that I met her for the first time in a gallery because there was a lot on my mind at the time, and things from the outside world wouldn't get into my head if they just politely knocked on the door or rang the doorbell. I was having a spot of bother with a man who was known as Santa Claus because he once said, 'Who do you think I am, Santa Claus?' when someone asked him to stop hammering a car with a sledge hammer. I don't know what his real name was. This spot of bother came about because of a woman's dungarees, of all things. She was wearing them one summer day, and I thought they looked very fetching, but Santa told her they made her look as if she was having a nervous breakdown. I told him it wasn't the sort of thing you should say to a woman. He kept annoying me for months, until I eventually snapped and punched him.
   He was determined to inflict revenge, and something about the way he said 'inflict' made me want to grow a beard and change my name. But his attention was diverted when he fell in love with a woman called Sally. She was strange, needless to say, but not talking-to-her-toes strange. It was more that she'd taken a slightly different path through life, and she was left slightly different. She saw people like Santa in a different light to the rest of us. She taught him how to dance, and she told him she wanted to see him dance in the snow. Someone said, "It'll be just like Christmas. Except the real Santa won't be trying to get his reindeer drunk." She kicked that person on the shins. Santa liked that. He never had to punch or kick anyone anymore because she'd do it for him, and she had no desire to kick or punch me because I was merely defending a woman's right to wear dungarees, and she was all in favour of a woman's right to wear whatever she wanted, or to wear nothing at all if that's what she wanted. Santa was all in favour of that too.
   But she left him because he refused to give up smoking. Santa returned to his old antagonistic self, so we did our best to re-unite him with Sally. She made it difficult when she went on a date with a man called Gavin. His verdict of the date was that he enjoyed himself immensely. Enjoyment is relative, he explained. In the past he was able to say he enjoyed himself while playing football, while drinking, while rolling down a hill and while touching a champion greyhound. His date was more enjoyable than these occasions.
   To reconcile Sally with Santa we had to split up the newly-formed union between herself and Gavin, and to convince Santa to give up smoking. He said he'd try to give up, but he took up drinking large amounts of whiskey to compensate for the lack of cigarettes, and in the process he contradicted the saying 'There's no smoke without fire'. There was a fire. He was faced with a black, smouldering kitchen on the morning after he gave up smoking. Melissa interpreted it as a sign that he was right to give up smoking, because the kitchen was a demonstration of what the cigarettes were doing to his lungs.
   He said, "I think it's a demonstration of what they're doing to my head."
   "That's what the whiskey is doing to your head. You probably have a headache right now. Scenes constructed by your senses are shown in a black room, where they wither and die."
   "Are you saying I should give up whiskey as well?"
   "You could cut down on it."
   "What would I take up to compensate for that?"
   "A hobby of some sort. Like bird-watching."
   He agreed to try bird-watching because he assumed that it was like deer-stalking. The birds would get a restraining order if they knew what he had planned for them.
   When myself and Melissa met Sally and Gavin we mentioned Santa's new hobby. Sally said, "I shudder to think what he's going to do to the birds after he's seen them. Gavin could never hurt a living creature."
   Gavin shuffled his feet, looked up at the sky and whistled a tune. He might as well have had a neon arrow pointing at his head, with the words 'I hurt living creatures' in neon letters. It would have been a flashing sign, and it only lit up when Sally's back was turned. All we had to do was to make her see those orange neon words. In other words, get her to witness him hurting a living creature.
   We found out that he was into shooting ducks at a pond on Saturday mornings. So on the following Saturday morning, Melissa took Santa out bird-watching. I convinced Sally to go for a walk to appreciate the local wildlife. The plan was that we'd all meet near the pond, where Gavin was hurting living creatures. Sally spent most of the time on our walk complaining about Santa, which suggested that he was a more prominent figure in her mind than Gavin was. At the same time, it was beginning to dawn on Santa that bird-watching was no more than watching birds. There were so many other things he'd rather watch.
   We met near the pond. Santa and Sally were shocked to see each other, but their attention was diverted by the sound of a gunshot. Gavin was happily shooting ducks. He had a cigar in his mouth.
   Santa took the shotgun from him and threw it in the pond. He said, "And I don't like smokers either." He took the cigar from Gavin's mouth, dropped it on the ground and stood on it.
   Gavin was too shocked to say anything. Sally smiled. Santa had a tear in his eye. He might as well have been standing beneath a neon sign that said 'I deeply regret injuring that shotgun and killing that cigar'. But she saw it in a different light. She read the words 'I deeply care about living creatures'.
   Santa would have wanted to hurt himself if he knew he was advertising this in neon letters. Now that he had given up smoking and taken up bird-watching, he had plenty of anger that needed venting, so he developed an irrational hatred of jockeys. She bore a grudge against jockeys too, so that was a hobby they could practise together.

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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