Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Monday, December 24, 2007


Moriarty on Christmas Day

   At eight o' clock on Christmas Eve, Benny and Nora were walking to Nora's aunt's house when they saw a man who had a briefcase in one hand and a Martini in the other. He was wearing a black suit, and he had a white scarf around his neck. He was leaning to one side, and he was about to fall over into a hole, but Benny stopped him. When the man realised what Benny had done he said, "That was really very, very kind of you."
   "Not at all."
   "No, it really was awfully kind."
   "Think nothing of it."
   "If only there was some way I could repay you. Let me see if I have anything in my briefcase."
   He opened the briefcase and took out a watch. He gave it to Benny and he said, "This watch is impossible to lose. Throw it down the hole and see what happens."
   Benny reluctantly threw it into the hole and he looked down after it. "I can't see it," he said.
   "What time is it?"
   Benny looked at his watch to see the time, and there was a second watch on his wrist, the one he'd just thrown down the hole.
   "Do you normally carry them around in your briefcase?" Nora said.
   "I have about a hundred of them. I'll be delivering these and many other gifts until dawn."
   "Right. So in effect you're Santa."
   "In effect, I'm Santa, but I only deliver gifts to people whose surname begins with X. It might sound like an easy job, but it's not, especially if you're partial to the odd Martini, and when I say 'odd' I mean... I've forgotten how many I've had. It makes me prone to falling in holes and so forth. And when I say 'so forth' I don't know what I mean."
   "Don't Santas normally wear red."
   "Most of them don't bother with red because they want to escape the influence of the original one. He doesn't do very much these days. The only reason they hired me was because I could do a passable impersonation of James Bond. That's Roger Moore's James Bond. I could never do this new chap. This new chap frightens me."
   "Won't someone whose surname starts with X miss out on a present because of the watch you gave to me?" Benny said.
   "There should be enough to go around. Just pretend that there's a silent X at the start of your name. Well, I must be off. Thanks again."
   Benny put a hand on his shoulder to stop him from walking into the hole. "Oh right," the Santa said. "I forgot about the hole. Goodbye."
   He waved to them as he walked away. They waved back, and then they rushed to Nora's aunt's house. Many cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles had gathered there, and they were all spellbound by Benny and Nora's story.
   No one noticed Moriarty leaving the house before Benny finished demonstrating how it was impossible to lose the watch. People rarely took much notice when he entered or exited rooms. He'd been very quiet since he got struck by lightning because ever since then he'd been hearing what another man was hearing. It was fascinating at first, but then he started hearing things he didn't want to hear, intimate relationship details and so forth. As a man who kept all of his feelings unexpressed and vented his frustrations by shooting trees, some of these things were difficult to listen to. Every evening he had to endure hours of the man talking to a woman.
   He spent the night trying to find this Santa because he thought that a man with a briefcase full of magical gifts could give him something to keep out the voices. He looked down every hole he came across, and he dug a few of his own. He wrote his name on a plank and added an X to the start, and he hung the plank over his front door, but no one came to call. He finally gave up hope at dawn, but the sight of the morning sky brought an inner calm and quiet that he hadn't felt in years. He realised that Christmas wasn't about gifts and food. It was about something inside him, something that couldn't be satisfied by material things, and the voices were inside him.
   As soon as he made this realisation he heard the voice of the woman. She said, "We thought you knew that."
   That day was Moriarty's best Christmas ever. He let his feelings out to play and run around in the garden, and it felt great. He said more in that day than he had said in the entire year leading up to it. Most people put this change down to a delayed reaction after being struck by the lightning.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Andy's Arms

   Andy had very long arms. They nearly reached his feet, and they often made him feel awkward. At times he didn't know what to do with them. Sometimes he'd fold them or wrap them around his neck or tie them in a bow. One day he tied the knot too tightly and he couldn't un-tie it. He needed help, so he went to one of his neighbours, a woman called Deirdre. She was a very capable woman. She could replace the broken slates on the roof of her house and push over Bingo Casey, a man who was said to be un-push-overable when he was launched from Dolan's pub every evening.
   She failed to un-tie Andy's arms. He thanked her for having a go at it, and he said he'd find someone else, but she couldn't bear the thought of someone else succeeding where she had failed. She didn't like accepting defeat. She told him to wait while she thought about the problem. Andy wanted to get away because he was afraid. If she was having trouble solving a problem, it wouldn't take long before she'd get out a hammer.
   After thinking about it for a while she said, "My cousin Alison is an expert with knots. She's into sailing. She might be able to un-tie your arms."
   They went to see Alison, but she was very shy. She couldn't look Andy in the eye, let alone touch his arms. She mumbled instructions, like 'Try dropping your left shoulder', but the knot remained as tight as ever. Deirdre said, "Why not try putting butter on your arms, and then use a crowbar to prise them apart?"
   Andy was afraid of the crowbar, especially one in the hands of Deirdre. He said, "No, I think Alison is really making headway here. I can feel them loosening. Any minute now I'll be free again."
   "That's good," Deirdre said. "I'll leave ye to it so."
   After Deirdre left, Andy said to Alison, "Actually, the butter wasn't a bad idea, but not the bit about the crowbar."
   Alison got some butter from the fridge. She managed to overcome her nerves and put some of it on Andy's arms, and she found that she actually enjoyed it. He enjoyed it too, but he still wasn't able to free his arms.
   He came back on the following day, and she put margarine on his arms, but that didn't work either. He couldn't understand why the knot was so unwilling to be un-done. Someone suggested to him that his arms were cursed. He tried to think of anyone he had offended recently, and he remembered Sarah.
   A few months earlier, a crow had landed on Sarah's hat at a wedding. She was normally very composed and she never used bad language, but she had a fear of birds on her head, and when the crow landed on her hat she started waving her arms about and shouting obscenities.
   Andy had been in the pub one evening when one of his friends, Ray, did an impression of Sarah taking on the crow. Andy thought it was hilarious. He laughed at it, and he wondered why no one else was laughing. He looked around and he saw a lot of people trying to hold back laughter and one person whose well of laughter was well and truly dry. That person was Sarah.
   But if Sarah was responsible for the knot on his arms, then something must have happened to Ray too. Andy went to see him and asked if anything out of the ordinary had happened to him recently. Ray said, "I wanted to ask what's-her-name out on a date. I can never remember her name. I have a sort of a mental block. I keep thinking it's Grainne, but that's not it. I wrote her name on my hand so I wouldn't forget it, but she saw that, and the fact that I couldn't remember her name more-or-less blew my chances. I asked her out anyway, and she wrote her response on my other hand. She used an ordinary ball-point pen, but I couldn't wash the ink off. It's been there for two weeks and it hasn't faded at all in that time. But it doesn't matter, because with the addition of just a few little lines I've been able to alter the letters so no one will every know what she wrote."
   He showed Andy his hand. It said 'BOOK ORP'. Ray didn't seem in the least bit bothered by having 'BOOK ORP' written on his hand, but Andy was very concerned about his arms. He needed to apologise to Sarah, and he thought that the best way to do this would be through a Christmas present. He bought her a tin of biscuits. He left it on her doorstep on Christmas Eve, along with a card wishing her a happy Christmas and apologising for laughing at her misfortune. He was too nervous to apologise in person, so he rang the doorbell and ran away.
   His arms were still knotted when he went to bed that night. He was hoping that he'd wake up in the morning and find the best possible present from Santa: un-knotted arms. But on Christmas morning he woke to find his wish hadn't come true.
   At nine o' clock the doorbell rang. When he opened the door there was no one there, but there was a box on the doorstep. It was wrapped in wrapping paper and a ribbon that was tied in a bow. There was a card on top of the box -- it said the present was from Sarah. He didn't know if this was revenge for laughing at her or a sign that she had forgiven him, so he un-tied ribbon very carefully just in case something would explode in his face. He opened the box. It was full of small pieces of paper. He thought that this was just the packaging, and he searched through the papers, but he couldn't find anything. It seemed as if Sarah was playing a trick on him, but then he realised that his arms were un-tied. He put his arms in the air and said, "Hooray!"
   He went back inside, and shortly afterwards the doorbell rang again. He looked out and saw Alison. She had brought some home-made butter that her aunt gave her. Andy tied his arms up as tightly as he could before opening the door.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


The Adventures of Dog and Banus

   There once was a woman who played the harp and she often put people to sleep because the music she played was so uninteresting. One day a bee flew around her head and distracted her from her playing. She produced a beautiful sound that drew people out of their sleep and made them smile. As soon as the bee flew away, she was able to concentrate on the harp again, and the smiles faded as the beautiful sound was replaced by a lifeless drone.
   They started distracting her while she played so she'd produce the beautiful music again. A man called Banus agreed to distract her at a party next to a pond one night. He danced around her and he used puppets and did magic tricks. This went on for three hours, and he struggled to keep her in a state of distraction. He was mentally and physically exhausted from the effort. He started a conversation between two puppets and it ended with Banus losing his mental faculties and running away into the woods. His scream distracted the harpist until the sound faded to silence.
   He lived in the woods for months. He often used the puppets to act out scenes in his head. He came up with new dances and songs, and he made sculptures. A puppy wandered into the woods one day and watched Banus dancing with the puppets. The dance became more frenzied when he realised he had an audience, but there was nothing Banus could do to make the puppy react, and eventually his will power failed him. He stopped dancing and sat on the stump of a tree. He threw the puppets away.
   The puppy stayed with Banus in the woods. A few months later, after the puppy had become a dog, they were fishing at a stream one day when the dog said, "Do you not think you'd be better off using a bait?"
   Banus followed Dog's suggestion, and it worked. Dog provided good advice on many issues, from gathering firewood to bewildering squirrels.
   There was a famous healer who used to travel around the country, healing people with leaves and potions and the eyes of fish. He was at a nearby village one day, and Banus went to see him because of a pain in his neck. The healer was in a house. His assistant was taking the names of the people who had gathered outside. Banus had to wait until his name was called before going inside. He was waiting for two hours before the assistant came out and said, "Mr. Banus is next."
   Banus said to him, "It's pronounced Baa-nus, not Ban-us."
   "What did I say?"
   Dog and Banus went inside. The healer gave Banus some fish eyes for his neck (he had also given fish eyes to a woman who had something on her foot -- neither her nor the healer could say what it was).
   As they were leaving, the assistant said, "Goodbye, Mr. Baa-nus."
   "You're putting too much emphasis on the 'baa' now."
   "What did I say that time?"
   "No. That's even further away."
   As they were walking home, Dog said, "Have you ever considered changing your name to something simpler?"
   "Like what?"
   "'Man'. I've found many advantages to being known as 'Dog', so I'd recommend 'Man'. 'Dog and Man'."
   "What advantages?"
   "The one thing I don't do is make lists. I'll find an advantage and I'll examine it and say, 'Yes, that's an advantage.' And I won't add it onto a list. All I know is that I've found many of them during my lifetime."
   "I've compiled a list of all the things you don't do, and there's many more than one item on the list."
   "Can I see the list?"
   "No. I must have lost it."
   "If I had made a list of all the things you said without thinking, then realised that you shouldn't have said what you said and made up an excuse to justify what you said, I'd need more than one page."
   "You can't even write. You didn't think at all about what you said."
   "I was speaking metaphorically. You'd be over-reaching yourself if you chose the name 'Man'. You might be able to stand on your hind legs and have opposable digits, but you're incapable of understanding metaphor."
   "I don't like the sound of 'Dog and Man' anyway. It should be 'Man and Dog'. One man and his dog, out in the fields, herding sheep."
   "You're definitely over-reaching yourself if you think you're one man. I've been counting you and I think the figure is closer to five eights. Have you ever considered the name 'Sheep'. It's a natural progression from 'Baanus."
   "No. I think I'll stick with Banus."
   "Fair enough. The Adventures of Dog and Banus."
   "What sort of adventures are we going to have?"
   "I don't know. Admittedly I didn't put any thought into that before saying it."
   After thinking about it for a few days they decided to have the following adventure: They rescued a man who had been left on a ledge on a cliff by the fairies. Banus used a combination of smoke and honey to distract the fairies while Dog descended to the ledge and led the man to safety.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Unseen Films

   A group of Irish film-makers have recently started working on films that can't be seen. Nothing will be filmed and nothing will be performed. This is a difficult task for the actors. Their names will be known, but not their faces. They'll be defined by a series of letters rather than their features. Vague impressions of films will be suggested. Actors will project the faintest impressions of themselves. Directors, actors, producers, soundtrack composers and editors will collaborate to create the impression of a film out their somewhere, but you'll never see it. The vague impressions will become more substantial over time through reviews of the films and the reactions of audiences. So far, reviewers have been very enthusiastic about these films.
   Some directors have been experimenting with a variation on the unseen films. They were inspired by a film-maker in Leitrim whose films consisted of a single still image. He claimed that if you looked at it very closely you'd see the image moving. Some audience members had to look at it for days until they started hallucinating from the lack of sleep. These short films inspired a variation on the unseen films: unseen paintings. The directors say that not making a painting is much cheaper than not making a film.
   A group of contemporary artists in Tipperary have been inspired by the unseen painting-films. They bought an old warehouse in which to make their own films. They're using people who spent so long on trains they forgot where they were going to, where they came from and who they are. These people used to be kept in a room at the train station, until the artists took them to their warehouse and trained them as actors. The artists wrote scripts for the train people. These scripts were designed to help assimilate the train people back into day-to-day life. The stories featured unscrupulous gallery owners and some interesting discussions on the philosophy of art. Some of these train people have been arranged into collections by editors and guest editors. These collections have been compiled using a wide variety of means. Some editors will look for a common theme through all of the train people, such as a common view on the use of metaphor in unseen films. Other editors seek disparate views, or views that challenge accepted beliefs. These collections are always treated humanely, and charges of cruelty are always fully investigated.
   Many makers of unseen films have constructed sets of glasses through which to see their films, or not see them. Some glasses are designed to obscure the work, and some will magnify it. Some glasses have coloured lenses, and some lenses would distort the images on the screen, if there were any images on the screen. Some contain plain glass, and in these the frames are normally more important. Frames have been built that are so heavy, they rest on the shoulders of the wearer, and some have to be held in place by assistants.
   Some unseen directors claim to have been deeply influenced by religious films. They can't say what films these are because they've never seen them. They've been inspired to not make films about people striving for a deeper truth. Script writers have been devoting their time to not writing films with devotional themes. Some have focussed on religious-like beliefs in the secular world, and they've been doing their best to limit their thinking in this area to an absolute minimum.
   A panel has been implemented to examine the cultural impact of unseen films. 'Implemented' is the word they chose to represent the often painful process of their 'implementation'. The process of choosing this word was also a painful process. 'Nailed to the wall' was a phrase they considered, before settling on 'implemented'. 'Fired out of a canon' is a phrase they considered to represent the process of choosing the word 'implemented'. One member of the panel was in labour for over twenty hours during this process. She refused to leave their meeting room and she refused to back down from her position. She gave birth to a boy, who was declared a member of the panel, having been born into it, thereby automatically gaining membership according to the panel's constitution, which was drawn up by a committee. This committee has never been seen, and this is why they were chosen to construct the panel's constitution. A director from Cork has started work on a film about his attempt to find the committee. This film is intended to be seen. In it, he will be represented by a secret agent whose wife has been kidnapped by international terrorists and the committee will be represented by the terrorists.

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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