|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
When I was young there were always lots of things for myself, my brother and my sisters to do during the summer holidays. On rainy days we'd remove the contents of the kitchen shelves: the antique plates and jars and jugs, the glasses, the vases, the figurines of dogs or of saints, the candle holders that held candles, used batteries, coins, key rings, old keys and paper clips, the pens and pencils, the knitting needles, the plastic flowers, the maps and the single cornflake that always found its way onto one of the shelves. We'd wash the plates, the jars, the jugs, the glasses, the vases and the figurines. The contents of the candle holders would be removed and the holders would be dusted. The pens and pencils would be placed into a jar. The cornflake would be disposed of. After it was sent on its way we'd wonder what adventures it would have, and would it find its way back to the shelf again.
It always gave me a sense of satisfaction to see the clean, shiny surfaces of the plates, jars, jugs and so forth. Their year's worth of dirt and dust had been removed. The shelves themselves would be dusted, and all of the items would be carefully replaced in the places they had occupied before. We'd argue about where certain things should go. Someone would claim that the one-eared dog belonged on the top shelf, next to the jug for Paddy whiskey. Someone else would insist that the dog's home was at the end of the middle shelf, where he could guard the knitting needles, and that the Paddy jug should go at the other end of the middle shelf.
One year my older sister produced a sheet of paper and she said, "I've taken the liberty of writing down where each item belongs. That way I can tell ye when ye're wrong." She often made records like these, and she also made illustrations of us doing the wrong thing, such as poking a sleeping lion with a stick. We'd be represented by match stick people. The match stick man who played the part of me always wore a hat to distinguish me from the others. My brother's match stick man carried a lamp shade. In real life he often spent days carrying things when he didn't know what to do with them.
Every summer we'd spend a week in a caravan by the sea. One day myself, my brother and my sisters were exploring the countryside around the caravan park. We came to a green door in a wall. I gave my brother a leg-up so he could see what was on the other side. He could just about see over the wall, and all he saw was an empty field. I opened the door and a hen came out. As we were trying to convince it to go back inside, another hen came out, and then another one. After the tenth hen had made its bid for freedom we ran away. We all went in different directions. I hid behind a tree for half an hour, until I realised that I'd only be hidden from the view of people who were at the opposite side of the tree. I'd be perfectly visible to anyone behind me.
I walked back towards the caravan park, and I met my younger sister on the way. We saw my older sister outside the caravan. She was drawing something, but she stopped drawing when she saw us. She showed me a piece of paper and she said, "You should have paid attention to this drawing I did last month." The drawing showed a match stick man (I could tell it was meant to be me because of the hat), and he, or I, was opening a green door in a wall. A match stick version of my sister was wagging a finger at me and saying in a speech bubble, "Don't open doors if you don't know what's on the other side." A giant squirrel was nodding his head to indicate his approval of her advice. She had drawn arrows to indicate the movement of his head.
I turned around when I heard footsteps behind me. My brother was running towards us. He was holding the cornflake. "I found it in my hair," he said.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I went to see the leaning tower of Pisa, but it was much smaller than I expected, and I wondered if this was the real leaning tower. The fact that it was in Tipperary only added to my doubts. A woman asked me if I'd like to buy some flowers to remember my visit. The flowers came with a free bear, which wasn't optional. I thought he looked too small to be a bear. He looked more like a Labrador to me, and I didn't think there were any bears in Tipperary. I declined the flowers, but she persisted. She said the bear was smarter than the average bear. He could guide blind people. He seemed to like me, so I bought the flowers. I led the bear away on a lead.
We came to an old stone bridge, but before I'd even set foot on it, a strange creature emerged from underneath it and blocked my path. He looked more like a bear than the bear did, but he was probably human beneath all the hair and dirt. He started telling me his life story. For an hour I listened as he spoke about the long summer days of his youth when he started his own jazz club in a tree house, or the time he got a wasp stuck up his nose and another wasp tried to pull it out, but that one got stuck up there too, or the time he was expelled from a school of music for using a deflating blow-up doll to play a trumpet in a one-man-and-his-blow-up-doll show.
"For years I've struggled to find an appropriate outlet for my music," he said. "If I keep it in, I'll explode, like a blow-up doll that's been inflated too much. I know what that looks like. I've played everything from spoons to pylons. Sometimes I'd play something and I'd find it completely fulfilling, but this feeling would never last. In the past few years I've devoted all my time to searching for a piece of music that the woman I love would love. I've looked everywhere, in every bucket, behind every wall, up every tree, but I haven't found it yet. She still regards my music as if it's something the cat killed and left on her doorstep."
"Why don't you just give her these flowers," I said. I was really just looking for an excuse to get away.
"What sort of music can you play with flowers?"
"You don't have to make music for her. Some women would be deeply impressed by a man playing a pylon, but most women would rather get flowers."
"It's worth a try, I suppose."
I gave him the flowers and I walked on. It wasn't long before I was lost, so I let the bear guide me. He seemed to know where he was going, but after an hour of walking we came to a narrow road and the man I'd met at the bridge was sitting in the grass at the side, with the flowers on the ground next to him. I asked him how it went and he said, "She'll never see the real me if I just give her flowers."
I said, "Perhaps the problem is that she can see the real you all too clearly."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Most women would appreciate a man who knows when it's time to have a bath. They might allow an hour or two after that time, but not a year or two."
"Why should I listen to you? You were wrong about the flowers."
"The effect of the flowers would be undermined by the other plants growing on you."
"I still think the only way I'm going to win her heart is through my music. One of my former classmates met his wife when he was performing a musical act that involved trying to break out of a metal bin with a hammer."
"Well why don't you just try that then?"
"I have. It would have sounded much better if I'd taken the rubbish out of the bin first."
"Winning her heart might well involve music, but your appearance is important as well. Emerging from a bin is the last thing you should be doing."
"Maybe you're right. I've tried just about everything else."
I walked on again. The bear clearly didn't know where he was going. We were still lost as the sun went down that evening. I was walking down a lane at the edge of a forest when I met a smiling man in a suit. I asked him for directions and he said, "Don't you recognise me?"
I only recognised him when he spoke. This was the man I'd met earlier. He'd cut his hair, shaved his beard, put on a suit and he'd obviously had a bath. He said, "When I was taking my clothes off I found a harmonica that I'd lost years ago. It was my grandfather's lucky harmonica. It saved his life in the war when it took a bullet for him. I don't know what war it was. He was fighting the French. There was a Dutch man involved in it as well, and a dog. The French surrendered and drove away in a van. When I found the harmonica I thought it must be an omen. Some higher power was telling me that this harmonica would stop the bullet heading for my heart after another one of her rejections. So I played her a song I composed myself. It's called 'I smell a rat, the one who ate my cornflakes'. The bullet that's lodged in the harmonica made it sound a bit squeaky, but she could hear my heart bleeding through it. She said she'd go out to dinner with me."
"Do you not think that the radical change in your appearance might have something to do with the radical change in your fortunes?"
"No, it was definitely the music. It's a very emotional song."
He gave me directions to the nearest town. I went there and I was able to get a bus home. I didn't think I'd be allowed take the bear on the bus, but I pretended I was blind and that the bear was my guide dog. The driver fell for it.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Conn would get drunk nearly every night and stagger through the main street after the pubs closed, singing scandalous songs and shooting anything that didn't move. He threatened anyone who complained about him, and he insulted everyone else. He also shot at the arrows in the sky that the weather forecasters predicted.
He shot rainbows as well.
Something needed to be done about Conn, but the men were all afraid of him. The women decided that they'd have to take matters into their own hands, so they organised a petition. Most people signed it under an assumed name because they were afraid that Conn would take revenge. This is why Mousey F. Crayonville and Harplet O'Toole signed it.
The women presented the petition to Conn, and it had a powerful effect on him. He started crying, and he hated crying. He considered it to be worse than leprosy, and he hated leprosy.
The women saw him in a different light. They could see that he was really a sensitive soul beneath the rough exterior. They forgave him for all of his past misdemeanours. They made him meals and cakes, and they even cleaned his house.
This change didn't go down well amongst the town's men. When Conn went to the pub in the evenings he spent a lot of time pointing and laughing at them, so they paid Benny to point at him. Benny had been taught how to point by a man who lived in a cave. This man was so good at pointing that he once made another man's soul evacuate its body through the rear exit. When Conn came into the pub one evening, Benny pointed at him. Conn ran away screaming. He kept running and screaming until he was in the woods, and he stayed there for three days. Some of the women had seen him running away through the town. Cowardice was a real turn-off, and when he returned, all of the women ignored him.
He went back to his old ways, and he was worse than ever. He was always getting into fights in the pub, and he started shooting clouds. The men needed to do something about him. The bar man in the pub, whose name was George, said, "Twenty women is too many for one man, and zero women is too few. One would be the ideal number, or possibly two. Find him one woman and it'll quieten him down. Or possibly two. Joe would be the man to ask for advice in this area."
Joe had a way with women. He once put washing powder down his trousers and jumped into a river. When he came out of the river he went to a woman on the bank. He said to her, "Do you want to go to the dance with me?"
She said yes and they went straight to the dance.
George told Joe about the problem they were having with Conn, and how they planned to solve it. Joe said, "I know just the woman for him. Martha wouldn't be long sorting him out. She wouldn't stand for any nonsense. I've seen her make an inebriated pig hang his head in shame."
"How would we bring them together?"
"You're always better off going for the simplest solution. Just lock the two of them in a room for a few hours. When she's stuck in a room with a man there are only two possible outcomes. Either she'll fall in love with him or she'll kill him. And either outcome will solve your problem."
They took bets on the outcome. Death was the favourite, but love won the day. After this, Conn was always in bed long before closing time, so the men in the pub were able to point and laugh at him behind his back.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Fred and Kevin had nothing to do one long weekend so they built a huge tower. They went to the pub and they told the bar man about it. He said it couldn't be all that big if they built it in a weekend, but Fred insisted that it really was all that big. So the bar man left the pub for a while to go and see it, and he had a heart attack because it was even bigger than all-that-big. While he was in hospital Fred and Kevin had to look after the pub. They told people about their tower and how it was so big that it made Harry, the bar man, have a heart attack. Everyone went to see the tower and they were all disappointed because they thought that a heart-attack-inducing tower would be bigger. So Fred started telling people that it was big enough to give Harry a heart attack, but he'd probably have had a heart attack the next time someone kicked him in the balls, if he hadn't had the heart attack at the tower first. The tower met with people's expectations after this. For some it exceeded expectations (these people equated it with a kick in the balls).
But then someone came back and said they couldn't see the tower at all. Fred and Kevin went to investigate, and they found that their tower had been stolen. Another customer in the pub said they saw the tower behind Colin's house. So they went to see Colin. He was living in the tower so no one would steal it from him. He threw things at Fred and Kevin if they got too near. He said he'd assembled a vast store of things to throw just in case someone attacked his tower.
They needed to lure him out of the tower, so they borrowed a mannequin from a man who collected mannequins, and they dressed her up like Colin's ex wife, Nicole. They attached the mannequin to a wooden base that could be moved on wheels. After the sun went down they crouched in the long grass in the field behind Colin's house. They pushed the mannequin towards the tower. Kevin did his best impression of Nicole's voice. He said, "Colin, it's me, Nicole, your ex wife. I'm sorry I left you for that man from the asylum, but I'm back now. Take me."
They ran away from the mannequin when they heard the door of the tower opening. As Colin was crying and telling the mannequin what loneliness had made him do, Fred and Kevin were climbing the stairs of their tower. When Colin realised what was going on he ran back towards the tower, but they started throwing things at him. He went into his house. Fred and Kevin came out of the tower in the middle of the night, but as soon as they set foot outside, Colin started throwing things at them. They went back into the tower. Colin said to them, "Ye'll be stuck in that tower until I run out of things, and I have thousands of things in my house."
They thought that their best hope would be to wait until he fell asleep. They had to sleep themselves. When they woke in the morning they noticed that the mannequin was gone. They assumed that Colin had taken it inside. They were correct in this assumption, and they showed prudence in not spending much time imagining what loneliness was making him do to it. Whatever it was, he was so engrossed in it that they were able to dismantle the tower without him noticing. They built it again in its original site. Shortly after they finished it they got a visit from the man who owned the mannequin. He was holding a baseball bat. He said, "Ye told me that Belinda would only be gone for an hour. Where is she?"
Fred responded with an 'Ahhh'. Kevin opted for an 'Ummm'. And then they ran away. The man followed them, and he eventually cornered them at a river. Fred decided to come clean about what had happened to Belinda. The man had a heart attack. They carried him to Kevin's car and they drove him to the hospital. This probably saved his life, so he was able to forgive them for what had happened to the mannequin.
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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