Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Myles and Eugene

   Myles and Eugene...

   ...both fell in love with Chloe.

   Myles said to Eugene, "She'd only go out with you if she was hypnotised into thinking that you don't eat flies."
   Eugene said 'plod, plod, plod' as he walked towards Myles, and then 'bangngngngng' as he hit Myles with a frying pangngngngng.
   This made Myles dance.

   Chloe was very impressed by the dance. She asked Myles if he'd like to meet her in the park later that evening, and he said he would. After she left, Myles and Eugene started fighting. They rolled to the bottom of a hill and when they stood up they realised they were being chased by Nazis. They had no idea why.
   They ran to the top of another hill, where they met a man who worked as a question mark by standing on a boulder while wearing a curved hat.

   He had a trolley to carry the boulder. Myles wanted to steal it so they could roll down the hill. He told Eugene to distract the question mark while he took it.
   Eugene told the question mark about his uncle Simon's trip to Kerry. If you listen closely, you can hear Simon's liver. The question mark was so surprised that his hat straightened out, which provided an appropriate exclamation mark for the end of Eugene's story: "She told him the dog had been dead for a week."

   Eugene went into the trolley with Myles and they rolled away down the hill while the question mark was still frozen in surprise. When his hat regained its curve he noticed that his trolley was missing, and he saw where it had gone. He rolled the boulder down the hill after Myles and Eugene. When they saw the boulder bearing down on them it all made perfect sense. "This is like 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'," Myles said. "That's why we're being chased by Nazis."
   This put their minds at rest. They came to a halt at the bottom of the hill. The boulder rolled past them and hit a tree. The Nazis arrived shortly afterwards. They were also joined by a woman with a cat on her head. No one said anything because they couldn't make sense of the woman with the cat on her head. The man who worked as a question mark arrived and stood on his boulder, and this seemed to suggest that the situation was meant to be a mystery. This resolved the issue of the woman with the cat, and it put their minds at ease again.
   The woman asked Eugene if he'd like to go out with her. He said he'd been there, done that and bought the T-shirt, but his T-shirt said he'd been to Carlow and fallen out of a tree. She said she had something else in mind for 'there' and 'that'.
   Myles remembered that he was supposed to meet Chloe in the park.

   In the early hours of the following morning, Eugene and the woman with the cat met a man selling T-shirts that outlined everything that had happened since they met after being chased by the Nazis, but it left out the bit about the wolf who escaped from a zoo and chased them through the woods, and the man who captured the wolf with a pineapple and a blanket.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The Giant

   Dara used to travel all around the country on foot. On the outskirts of a town in the midlands he came across people pulling on a rope, like a tug-of-war, but they couldn't see what was on the other end of the rope because that was in a cave. Dara asked them what they were pulling.
   "We'll soon find out," one of the men said. "We found the rope near the entrance to the cave and we started pulling on it."
   "Didn't ye go into the cave to see what was on the other end?"
   "No. We were afraid of what we might find in there."
   "But ye're not afraid of pulling it out?"
   "It can't be as bad in daylight as it is in the dark depths of the cave."
   It was much worse in daylight. The rope was attached to the foot of a sleeping giant. They wished he was still in the dark depths of the cave, but as long as he remained sleeping, they'd be okay. They tip-toed away, but one of them dropped a button and the giant woke up. They ran back to the town. When they got there, one of the men, whose name was Joe, said, "Let's ask Betty if she has any ideas on what to do about the giant."
   Betty normally only had ideas about flowers, but she was so knowledgeable about flowers that it made her the most intelligent person in the town, despite the fact that she knew so little about other things. There was no point in asking anyone else. It was either Betty or the man who knew a lot about snails. He learnt everything he knew from hammering snails.
   When they told Betty about the giant she said, "Ye could give him some flowers."
   "What good would that do?"
   "It would take him by surprise."
   "Yeah. And then we could stab him in the eye."
   "I wouldn't recommend that at all. All I'm saying is that ye should give him flowers. It'd be the last thing he'd expect ye to do."
   "You're assuming he's made a list of everything we could possibly do to him, and that giving him flowers is on the bottom of that list. Even if he did make that list, pulling him out of a cave with a rope would be the last thing on it."
   "He'd have crossed that off now, and giving him flowers would be on the bottom."
   "But now that we've done the thing he least expected, the second last thing he expects us to do wouldn't be all that unexpected. That might be the very thing he expects us to do. He might be waiting for us somewhere, saying, 'Would they ever hurry on and give me the flowers.'"
   "Invert the list so. What would be the thing he most expects ye to do?"
   "Stab him in the eye."
   "Well do that so."
   "You were very much against that a minute ago."
   "I know ye're not actually going to do it. Ye're too scared."
   They remained silent for a while as they thought about this. One of them said, "Is there anything we could do with snails?"
   Dara said, "Last year I was in a town where they had a problem with dead people. They wouldn't stay in their graves. Everyone wanted to either stab them in the eye or shoot them in the ear. But if that wasn't enough to keep them in their graves the first time it would hardly work the second time. Some people were itching to do something violent. Some people were just itching. I suppose that's to be expected. Others were intent on solving the problem through peaceful methods. They started a petition against the dead people, but the dead people signed the petition themselves to show how little it mattered. The people who started the petition tried to claim this as a victory. It turned into a battle between those who wanted to solve it violently and the pacifists, with the people who were itching just standing on the sidelines, scratching themselves. The two sides became obsessed with defeating each other, and they forgot about the dead people. The dead people were disappointed. They wanted to be noticed. They started fires and broke windows, and got drunk and shouted at people, but even the itcy people were more interesting in scratching. A lot of the dead people returned to their graves of their own accord because they had more to do down there. Some stayed up above and got jobs. So just ignore the giant. Pretend ye're more interested in fighting each other. If he wants a fight, he'll just go to some other town."
   "So we can stab each other in the eye?"
   "No. Ye can pretend to stab each other in the eye."
   "There's someone I've always wanted to start a fight with," Joe said. This person was a man with a big head and a gun, and he used to say, "I couldn't be any happier with my big head and my gun. That's all I need. As long as I've got my big head and my gun, I'll be perfectly content with myself, so I will." And then he'd do a little dance.
   Joe went to his house and said to him, "Who do you think you are with your big head and your gun?" Joe poked him in the shoulder. "Who do you think you are?"
   This was the start of the pretend fight. Three days later, the giant stood on a hill overlooking the town, surveying the destruction at his feet. Buildings were on fire, and some had been torn down. Injured people limped through the streets, trying to avoid the unconscious people on the ground. The giant had played no part in this. The pretend fight had very quickly descended into a real fight, and three days of destruction followed. The giant was really just a donkey who had once been owned by a magician. A rival magician cursed the donkey so that he'd sleep all the time. The donkey's owner turned him into a giant so he'd kill the rival magician. The donkey changed into the form of a giant and stood up with a roar that was louder than thunder. He advanced on the rival magician, but after three paces he got tired and fell asleep.
   The destruction of the town meant nothing to him. As he looked down on it he yawned and fell asleep again. The town's people cheered and began to celebrate their victory over the giant.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


The President of the If Club

   I've been called a lot of things during my years as president of the If Club, and I've written down every one of those names. I have a list of all the name-callers. When my term as president ends, I'll be calling around to these people and demanding explanations for why they called me a bother-pot or a whit-bucket or whatever they called me. If satisfactory explanations aren't forthcoming, I'll demand an apology. If a sincere apology isn't delivered, I'll explain my plan for retribution. This will involve calling them a carefully chosen name. I will hire a professional name-caller for this purpose. When the name has been decided upon, I will send the recipient a letter informing them of the name they are to be called. Then all of the names will appear in a full-page ad in a national newspaper, along with the real names.
   I have often stated my plan prior to speaking at public engagements in my capacity as president of the If club, and this only seems to encourage the name callers, rather than put them off.
   When I began my list I decided not to include fellow members of the If club. Meetings sometimes get heated and words are used that are later regretted. Most of the names I've been called by fellow members have been retracted, and apologies have been forthcoming. There are some instances where I've forgiven the name-caller without receiving an apology because the name was used in response to names I used. Nevertheless, one member of the If club is on the list.
   Why do actors think of themselves as actors, rather than think of themselves as beachcombers? This question took up weeks of our time in the If club. It was during one of these meetings that I was called a rud-clopper. I was able to laugh this off at the time, though I was slightly annoyed. I forgot about the incident until the following week. I was looking through the club's dictionary in search of the term 'rufter-hood' when I came across the term 'rud-clopper'. It had been written on the top of the page, along with the following definition: someone who dances like a gorilla suffering from diarrhoea, has a head like a red balloon about to burst and talks like an animal being stabbed.
   At the start of the next meeting I issued the following ultimatum: either the person who called me a rud-clopper retract this name he threw at me like a poison dart, or else the definition of 'rud-clopper' be erased from the club's dictionary. This was to be done before the next meeting, otherwise the name of the individual responsible for throwing the dart would be added to my list. An awed hush fell over the group. No club member had ever been added to my list before. No one could have missed the significance of my statement.
   The retraction was not forthcoming. I was hoping that this meant the other option had been followed. When I looked up 'rud-clopper' in the dictionary I found the following line appended to the definition: 'and smells like a gorilla with diarrhoea'.
   At the start of the meeting, I got out my list and added the name of the guilty party, who remained smiling throughout what must have been a painful procedure for him.
   My opening remarks were as follows: "I often have to ask myself why I'm doing this. I often have to ask myself what 'this' is too. Sometimes I'll be holding a frying pan and I'll ask myself why I'm doing this, and then I'll ask what I'm doing with the frying pan, and when that has been satisfactorily answered I'll continue doing what I'm doing, whether it be hitting a cretin over the head or catching falling rabbits. When I've finished doing what I'm doing I'll remember the question I asked myself: 'Why am I doing this?'. At this stage it will be irrelevant because what's done is done. The act of doing it is reason enough for doing it. People often ask me why I took up the role as president of the If club. It's a position with a heavy burden responsibility, and it makes you a target for metaphorical, physical, and metaphysical darts. I say to them, 'But ahhh.' And then I walk away. The act of doing this job is reason enough for doing it, and doing it to the best of my ability provides immense inner rewards. It's a source of pride to be a guiding light and a helping hand to my fellow members, and to see the benefit we provide to the wider community. Does this pride and the inner rewards outweigh the slings and arrows and the darts of the job? I haven't the faintest idea and it doesn't matter. I do it because I do it, and no amount of name-calling will deflect me from my mission."
   This was greeted with a warm round of applause. Even the man who called me a rud-clopper joined in. The apology still remained hidden in its kennel, but the entry in the dictionary was altered again. This line was appended to it: 'And someone who hit my brother over the head with a frying pan just because my brother called him a hat-bucker'. I smiled at this. I read an inherent apology in it. At the very least it was an explanation of an action, and this explanation verged on an apology. Then I looked up 'hat-bucker' in the dictionary. This also had been added in, along with this definition: 'Someone with the intelligence of a square peg in a round hole'.
   The name of my fellow club member remains on the list. I've also added on the name of his brother.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007



   Niall liked machines, especially big ones, especially big ones with impressive statistics, like 'This machine has enough power to knock over fifteen cows'. He liked things that could incapacitate cows or horses in theory. He'd drink anything that was guaranteed to make a horse unconscious. His friend, Lenny, once got a drink that was guaranteed to incapacitate a Nordic skier, but Niall didn't want to drink that because he didn't like the idea of doing something to a Nordic skier. He was happier with the thought of doing something to a horse. Lenny said that a Nordic skier would be like two horses, or like Duracell bunnies, the way they keep going. Niall really wanted to punch a Duracell bunny. In his mind they were big enough to punch. He'd punch a Nordic skier too, if the skier did something to deserve it. But he still wouldn't try the drink. Drinking something guaranteed to incapacitate a Nordic skier felt too intimate, much more intimate than punching the skier.
   Lenny said, "Everyone thinks you're too scared to drink the drink and there's something wrong with you if you want to punch a Duracell bunny."
   "Who's everyone?" Niall said.
   Lenny listed out names. Niall doubted that everyone really thought that, so he asked them individually. Most of them knew nothing of his desire to punch the Duracell bunny, but when he told them about it they agreed that there was something wrong with him.
   Heather was the last person on the list. When he got to her, she showed him her new boots. He'd never seen anything like them before. He started talking about machines because he didn't know what else to say. He never took his eyes off the boots as she modelled them, and she never stopped modelling them. She kept moving and looking down, admiring the boots. She couldn't care less about Niall punching the Duracell bunny.
   The boots gave her the same feeling that Niall got from a machine that could kill a giraffe. When he saw that she had no interest in machines he said he could picture her wearing those boots in an apartment where someone's been stabbed with an ice pick. She smiled and he was happy because he'd said the right thing about a woman's black leather boots for once in his life. This gave him a warm feeling. He left her house with a smile on his face. He was going to say to Lenny that he'd checked the list and that not everyone agreed he was scared and there was something wrong with him, but then Lenny would have asked for a list of the people who didn't agree, and it would have got messy. Niall just drank the drink and hoped they'd forget about the bunny. About ten seconds after drinking it he swung a punch at Lenny, but he missed. Then he left the pub and tried to go as far as he could across the country, like a Nordic skier, only without the skis or the snow. He couldn't get very far with his trousers around his ankles. But everyone in the pub respected him for trying the drink.
   At the time he didn't consider the possibility that the Duracell bunny in their minds might be much smaller than the one in his. If they knew how big his one was they probably wouldn't think there was something wrong with him for wanting to punch it, assuming there was a good reason for wanting to punch it, other than just jealousy. They might think there's something wrong with him for picturing it so big. He thought about this years later, but when he explained it to his friends they thought there was something wrong with him.

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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