Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, September 25, 2007



   The sea was calm. The sky remained un-scarred by clouds. Roger kept saying the word 'neeeesh', which was like a black cloud on a beautiful blue dome of silence. Olivia wrote a letter of complaint, and she got a postman to deliver it to Roger. She thought he'd read something into the fact that she made her complaint in writing, and that the postman only had to travel twenty-eight inches to deliver it, but Roger read it out loud and then he said 'whoooooosh', which made her say, "Was that the sound of my complaint going over your head?"
   "I knew you'd say something eventually," he said.
   She carefully considered her response to this. She delivered it herself, and it took the form of these words: "Can I shoot an apple off your head? With a crossbow."
   He didn't know what to say at first. A small part of his mind suggested responding with a simple 'no'. Another part offered a wide variety of words that ended with 'sh'. But he had been trying to cultivate her interest in crossbows for a long time, so he responded with a smile and he said, "Absolutely," which was one of the it-words that lit up the nightlife in his head, like the it-girls in the nightclubs he went to.
   But as she aimed the crossbow at the apple on his head, another it-word came to his mind. This one started with 'sh'. He hadn't been this scared since Buttress, one of his friends, made his own jet-ski and tested it in a field.
   "Maybe an apple is too small a target for a beginner," he said. "Why don't we use a pineapple instead."
   On their way to get the pineapple he spoke about all the good times they had in the past. He was hoping that shooting him with a crossbow wouldn't count amongst her good times, but as he recounted their past he could see how it would be good for her. So many of the good times he recalled involved her waiting for hours at a hospital, or resulted in her having to get her clothes dry-cleaned.
   They got the pineapple and he put it on his head. "Aim for the top of it," he said.
   She took aim, but before she could shoot she noticed Emma and Niall, who were staring out over the sea. Emma was Olivia's best friend and Niall was Emma's boyfriend. Emma was holding flowers. Olivia asked if they'd been sight-seeing. "In a manner of speaking," Niall said without taking his eyes off the horizon.
   Emma said, "In a manner of not speaking..."
   "Yes," Niall said.
   After a few seconds of silence she said, "Not in a manner of speaking."
   "In a manner of silence." A long period of silence followed before Emma said, "We just got married."
   "Ye what!" Olivia said.
   "It was an impulse thing. We met a priest and he married us."
   The priest was a man who once heard a robin say, "I think I'll wear the blue one today." This is why he believed he was divine, or at least more divine than those who'd never heard a robin talk.
   Emma and Niall were regretting their wedding. Emma mentioned throwing the bouquet, and Olivia was horrified when she saw that Emma was aiming at her. Roger looked at Olivia with the crossbow and he wasn't too keen on the prospect of marriage either. He took control of the situation. "Take me to the priest," he said.
   They went to the man who had married Emma and Niall. Roger demanded that he un-do whatever he did, but the priest claimed that it was legally binding. Roger said, "How much would it take for you to legally forget?"
   They haggled for nearly twenty minutes, and Roger eventually got a good price out of him. They paid the money and the priest said, "I now un-pronounce you man and wife."
   Emma and Niall started kissing, and then they rushed back to their hotel room. Olivia said to Roger, "I was very impressed with the way you broke up my best friend's marriage."
   "Thanks. I was very impressed with the way you handled the crossbow."
   "I wasn't really going to shoot the pineapple."
   "I didn't really want you to go through with it. To be honest, I was scared."
   "I'm glad you said that," she said. "Because only someone like Buttress could stand anywhere near me when I've got a crossbow and not be scared."
   This conversation ended shortly afterwards when the priest said, "You may now kiss the bride."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


The Crow

   Keith often imagined himself wearing a disguise. He'd remember having conversations with people, and his contributions to the conversation would be delivered from behind a fake beard, or from beneath a hat with a wide brim. He wondered if this was because he didn't really believe the things he was saying. He saw himself as a Prussian infantry officer when he remembered telling his girlfriend, Isobel, that he liked her new hair style. When he said she looked good in black he imagined himself as a crow. And not just dressed as a crow -- he was an actual crow. He liked the idea of being a crow. He started wearing black, and he often pictured himself standing against white backgrounds. When it snowed, he dressed entirely in black and he went for a walk through the white countryside. A photographer saw him and took a photo. The photo appeared in a local paper, and Keith became a minor local celebrity for a while.
   A band called 'The Ancient Little Spies' wanted to use the photo on the cover of their album. He agreed to this, but the album wasn't what he expected. He expected a soundtrack to his walk in the snow, but they wrote songs about famous cartoon characters sniffing glue, or killing aliens with pencils. He decided it was time for a change of image, so he started wearing bright colours. But the band became popular, and people associated that album with him, even when he dressed as a Prussian infantry officer. People were always asking him if it was really possible to kill an alien with a pencil. He'd say it would depend on the alien. The only way he could disassociate himself from The Ancient Little Spies was to start his own band. He called the band 'The Pig-Like Wolves' because of a dream he had in which he killed a pig-like wolf with a silver pen. But the band didn't turn out exactly as he had hoped. There were five members and they all wanted to contribute to the band. One of them wrote derivative songs about cartoon characters vandalising bus shelters. The lead singer was a woman who could never decide what her hair should be doing. She was constantly changing its style, and the image of the band changed with it because she was the face of the band. Keith imagined himself in a turtle costume when they performed some songs. Being a turtle would have been bad enough, but wearing a turtle costume was much worse. It was nowhere near as good as being a crow, or being himself.
   He wondered how he could actually be himself. He knew when he wasn't being himself, and he knew what he didn't want to be. The other band members didn't seem to know who they were either, but they weren't bothered by it. When he met a woman called Mrs. Headcrust he knew he wanted to be Mr. Headcrust. A few obstacles stood in his way. One was Isobel. Another was the real Mr. Headcrust. Keith met this man, who proved to be nothing at all like Keith's impression of an ideal Mr. Headcrust (the one Keith wanted to be). This altered Keith's impression of Mrs. Headcrust. He no longer wanted to marry her if her ideal husband was someone who listened to Bon Jovi.
   He tried to forget about Mr. Headcrust and to focus on his first impression of Mrs. Headcrust, but he saw himself as a sponge when he tried to do this. He decided to define himself in relation to Isobel instead, and he paid more attention to her, but his problem in the first place was that he didn't feel he was being truthful to himself when he said things to her. The band were having trouble deciding who they wanted to be too. The drummer wrote a song called 'Wisdom is a bird'. The singer sang it in a depressing monotone, but it was meant to be a happy song.
   They went on tour with a band called 'The Shared Skittles', who communicated with each other through their own sign language. Using words always proved to be as antagonistic as holding a broken bottle in a threatening manner. But they always put on a brilliant performance at their gigs, and they all seemed happy, even when they were hitting a fellow band member's head off a door frame (the owner of the head was possibly less happy than the one holding it, but there was something touching in this basic human contact). This suggested to Keith that appearances were more important than what was going on beneath the surface. A good appearance could give you the freedom to let anything at all go on beneath the surface, from fighting in pubs to dressing as Prussian infantry (fighting in pubs is one of the few remaining outlets for violence if you're a Prussian infantry officer). It didn't matter if he saw himself as a crow or as Jim Morrison or as The Pink Panther when he told Isobel he liked her hair or her shoes or that she was right to tell a waiter that being served by him was like asking Stalin for a favour. With his new-found freedom he often imagined himself as a crow, and he liked that. He started dressing in black again, and he didn't care if it reminded people of cartoon characters sniffing glue.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Weekend Cowboys

   The Weekend cowboys sit at bars and drink all day. They get smaller and smaller until they can fit into the bottles they empty, and they wait in the bottles until someone throws them into the sea, to be taken away to some other land. Some are taken to places where people tower above them like giants. When Darren's bottle came to rest on a shore he was in a land of tiny people, and he was like a giant to them. The trees had green trunks and golden leaves, and he was taller than any of them. The little people revered him because he protected them from the trees. He was like a god to them. The chief of the little people was small and thin. He had a huge feather on his hat. To Darren, the chief looked like a quill writing on the ground as he walked.
   Darren was their only god until another cowboy arrived. His name was Paul. He used to drink with Darren before they shrank and were thrown into the sea.
   He said to Darren, "You made fun of my cake." He said those words with the menace of a cowboy accusing a man of killing his brother. They both felt a need to play this like a Western just to impress the little people, even though the little people had never seen a Western and they would have found an argument about a cake just as exciting. They wrote down everything that happened.
   If they were going to play it like a Western, there was only one way of settling their argument: a gunfight. Darren and Paul stood twenty yards away from each other. Neither moved. Their hands were poised near their guns.
   In an unforeseeable act of digression, Paul said, "Would you do a bungee jump just to impress a woman?"
   "I don't know," Darren said. "It would depend on the woman."
   "Let's say she's a woman you want to impress and you know she'd be impressed by a bungee jump."
   "I'd wonder why she'd be impressed by seeing me trying to kill myself. She wouldn't be my type. And I obviously wouldn't be her type if I could only impress her by trying to kill myself."
   "You never hear of people dying on bungee jumps. It's safer than riding a bike."
   "Why would she be impressed by that?"
   "It still takes a certain amount of bravery to do it."
   "She'd be more impressed if you rode your bike. Now there's the sort of woman I'd like to impress. If I could make her say 'ooh' by riding my bike, she'd be the sort of woman for me."
   "If only it were that easy."
   "It doesn't matter if she's impressed by a bungee jump. It's whether or not she's glad to see you come back up again -- that's what you need to be looking out for. If you successfully complete a bungee jump and it's an anti-climax for her, then she's not your type."
   "I've got to do something to impress her."
   "Who is she?"
   "Her name is Joan. When we first met I said she had a beautiful name and she wasn't even faintly impressed by that. I knew then I'd have a job on my hands."
   "And now you're considering tying an elastic to your feet and jumping off a bridge?"
   "She says she's done it lots of times."
   "You should have told her you've ridden a bike lots of times."
   "I told her about the time I fell and hit my head off a radiator, but that didn't get any reaction."
   "That's what we said about you after you hit your head off the radiator. If she's done lots of bungee jumps, how is your single jump going to impress her?"
   "It's not so much that it would impress her, but she'd be very unimpressed if I refused."
   "If you're struggling not to unimpress her, you've got to ask yourself what chance do you have with this woman."
   "And if the answer is 'none', what chance do I have of happiness?"
   "Maybe you just need to hit your head off the radiator again."
   "I've got to do something. Because doing nothing clearly isn't working."
   "You should stop thinking in terms of stunts like bungee jumps. Think of something that would show you in a different light, and that could be something small. Or try to see her in a different light. You only know her as someone who'd be impressed by a bungee jump, and that's a very limited view."
   "That's because she hardly says a word when I meet her. But I like this idea of showing myself in a different light. I've always wanted to be like Tiger Woods."
   "Any sort of light isn't going to help you there. You've got to forget about trying to be like someone else. You need to highlight some aspect of yourself that would appeal to her."
   They stood there and tried to think of something Paul could do to show himself in a different light. Neither of them had any intention of going for their guns. The little people didn't see the digression as a digression, and they didn't feel a sense of anti-climax. They thought it was all extraordinary, and they wrote down everything. They debated every line. The chief was so excited he did a dance and it looked as if he was writing again.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


Boy in Box Meets Girl in Wheelbarrow

Boy in box...

...meets girl in wheelbarrow.

Boy dreams of going for walks in the country with her.

But he's afraid of aliens in a red bus, so he hides in his box.

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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