|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Bernard took a walk through the fields. He stood on a hilltop with his hands behind his back. He took a deep breath and he surveyed the scene before him. He listened to the songs of the birds and the sounds of bees, flies and a distant tractor. The sound of the tractor got louder, and the sight of it ruined the evening for him. The driver was his cousin, Paudie. Paudie would talk for hours without ever making sense. He'd spit out spit and words as he spoke. It was possible to say that most of the sounds he made were words, but it was impossible to identify them. You could study them very closely and take note of all their characteristics but you still wouldn't be able to put a name to them. The tractor stopped behind Bernard. He didn't turn around because he wanted to let Paudie know that he was there to admire the view and the birds, not the rare words that Paudie was planning on releasing into the wild.
He heard Paudie get down from the tractor and take something out of the trailer. He put something on the ground right behind Bernard. From the sound of steps that followed, Bernard guessed that this thing was a step-ladder and that Paudie had climbed it. He pictured Paudie standing over him, looking down at the top of his head, but this mental picture lacked one important detail: the huge wooden mallet in Paudie's hand.
This detail entered Bernard's mental picture when he was hit on the head with it. He was surprised to hear a 'boing' sound rather than the cracking of his skull. It was as if his head was made of rubber. His attention was focussed on the sound during subsequent blows to the head, and he didn't notice that his feet were sinking into the ground. Paudie stopped hammering when Bernard's knees had reached ground level.
Paudie descended from the step ladder and he walked around to the front of Bernard. He released a flow of words that Bernard identified as follows: "How are y' there now Bern' the owl basket window for the last rudder grand day for the socks."
"It is," Bernard said. "How's Eileen?"
"Ah sure y' know the way with the glass mountie they're all half lost and spiders."
"They are, they are. It's a grand evening, isn't it?"
"Ah sure yeah, yeah, the way the polar bears go I don't know. C' mere, would you hold this wire for me?"
"I will of course."
Paudie picked up a piece of wire from the ground and he gave it to Bernard, who held it in his hands.
"I'll see y' anyway with the sand castles and they're only ponies I don't know how many they'll have if they're sandwiches," Paudie said.
"Good luck, Paudie."
Paudie got into the tractor and drove away. It was only then that Bernard made this realisation: "This is a fence! I'm a fence post!"
He was furious. He was almost certain that the words 'fence post' were not amongst the words used by Paudie. He felt like releasing a word that would have to wear the trench coat of a bleep if young people were around, and only flashing in front of adults. But he thought of a more constructive way of expressing his anger. He remembered a conversation he'd had with his neighbour, Toby, a few weeks earlier. It was on a Sunday afternoon when he was walking the dog. Toby was trimming the hedge in his garden as Bernard was walking by. Toby asked him if he'd seen the letters section in The Sunday Independent. Bernard said he hadn't, and Toby said, "It's on page thirty-seven. I have a letter in it about litter. Complaining about litter."
He spent the next ten minutes complaining about litter. When Bernard got home he remembered the words Toby had used before the complaint began: 'It's on page thirty-seven'. This would imply that Toby believed that Bernard bought The Sunday Independent, and he just hadn't got around to reading the letters yet. Bernard cursed himself for not saying that he didn't read it, that he wouldn't be seen dead reading it, that he'd rather be found dead with prostitutes than be found dead with The Sunday Independent, although he'd surely be featured in that paper if he was found dead with prostitutes.
This was why he decided to complain about the fence in a letter to The Irish Times. He could kill two birds with one stone. He'd be able to express his anger about being a fence post and he'd also let Toby know that The Sunday Independent is litter from the moment it's printed.
He had a pen and a letter from the golf club in his pocket. He crossed out the writing on the sheet of paper and he wrote on the back of it. He expressed his disapproval of the practise of ordinary, hard-working people being used as fence posts. He said it was an indictment of the society we live in, and once again demonstrated the complete lack of standards that permeates life in the modern Ireland.
He crossed out the address on the envelope and he wrote the address of The Irish Times on it. There was a road about fifty yards away from where Bernard was situated. When he saw a boy on a bike struggling to cycle up the hill he shouted something about having a little job. The boy showed no intention of going to Bernard until the word 'money' was sent out.
"I have a very important job for you," Bernard said to the boy. "I need you to post this letter. It's to The Irish Times." Bernard paused to let the importance of those words sink in, but the boy just stared blankly back. "You'll need to buy a stamp first. And put the stamp on the envelope. And put it in the post box. Do you think you can manage that?" Still no reaction from the boy. "Here's two euros. Use this to buy the stamp, and you can keep the change to buy an ice cream for yourself." The boy took the money and the letter. He looked at both, and then he looked back at Bernard. He shrugged his shoulders and walked away.
Bernard smiled. "A job well done," he said, but only the birds heard it. He tried not to disturb the birds, especially the crows. He remained completely still every time the crows were around because he didn't want to be a scarecrow. At least being a fence post was a more honourable profession than being a scarecrow.
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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