|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
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.
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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