|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
The Priest's House
I've been working in the priest's house for seven years. Thirty-two people live and work here, including Father Murphy. The house is five storeys high. The staff sleep on the top two floors and in the attic. The kitchen staff get up at half-five every morning and they serve breakfast at seven. We begin work at eight. Father Murphy will walk across the lawn to the church for half-eight mass. Sometimes we'll find someone waiting at the door when we open it. On some days we won't see anyone until the end of mass. Many people insist on seeing Father Murphy in his office. They'll sit on wooden benches in the hall and wait for him to get back from the church. He always takes his time getting back because he likes to keep them waiting. It's a subtle way of suggesting that he has better things to be doing with his time. As they wait outside his office they talk about how he must have plenty time to kill if he takes so long getting back from the church.
Father Murphy will listen to them for about a minute and then send them onto someone else, but it often takes another half-hour to get them out of the office. They'll list out all the illnesses and misfortunes their family has been afflicted with, the crosses they have to bear from the moment they get up in the morning to the moment they go to bed on the following morning.
Most of the people I deal with have been sent to my office by Father Murphy, but sometimes people will come straight to me. At eight o' clock on a cold November morning a man asked if he could have a 'quick word' with me. When we were seated at either side of my desk I asked him what he wanted to discuss and he said, "It's about a murder I committed."
"Shouldn't you be talking to Father Murphy about this?" I said.
"If it was just a straightforward murder I'd go to him."
"So it's not a straightforward murder?"
"No. At first I thought it was. And I thought it was a good murder too. People were telling me it was the best they'd ever seen."
"Who was the victim?"
"Duck Leegan. I got into a fight with him because he said he'd describe my wife as a sheepdog but sheepdogs are much more faithful. I ended up hitting him over the head with a brick. He was definitely dead because lots of people checked his pulse to make sure before they started dancing. I lost count of the amount of people who congratulated me afterwards. He used to say it was his mission in life to sleep with as many wives as possible before he got married. It seemed to me that his mission was to make as many people as possible despise him. Moriarty didn't despise him at all after he slept with Moriarty's wife. 'You're a braver man than me' was all Moriarty said. So Duck tried to burn down Moriarty's house. Everyone wanted to buy me drink after I killed Duck, but on the following day when I was walking down the road outside Leary's farm I saw him walking towards me, alive and well. He didn't have a mark on him. He smiled when he saw me. I poked him with a stick to make sure he wasn't a ghost."
"He punched me in the face. See the bruise under my eye? I've never met a ghost who could do that."
"Neither have I."
"What I want to know is this: would there be any point in killing him again?"
"It doesn't matter if there's any point in killing him again. It's a matter of right and wrong. You shouldn't kill him again. You shouldn't have killed him in the first place."
"I couldn't agree more. Right-and-wrong is all important. But leaving aside right-and-wrong for a minute, if I killed him again would there be any chance it would stick this time?"
"I doubt it. It sounds as if you had him well and truly killed the last time and he emerged without so much as a scratch."
"I was sure he'd be unpacking his suitcase in hell."
"And if he is dead, you can't kill him again."
"If he's dead, he's a very good actor."
"Have you considered the possibility that he might have been dead long before you killed him?"
"If I thought he was dead before I killed him I wouldn't have bothered killing him, unless I was stuck for something to do."
"He appears to be alive now, even though you're sure you killed him, but perhaps he only had the appearance of being alive when you killed him. Someone could have killed him in the past."
"There'd be no shortage of people willing to kill Duck."
"It's quite possible that he only behaves the way he does because he knows he can't be killed. Again."
"I never thought of that. I don't know what to think of it. I don't know whether to apologise to him or try to kill him again... Maybe if I took him unawares."
"It would be wrong to kill him again."
"I know. Right-and-wrong. I know."
I was walking past Duck's house a few days later when I saw him digging a hole in his garden. He smiled at me when he saw me looking at him. I could tell that he knew I knew about his death. He walked towards me and he held out the shovel. "Hit me over the head with that shovel," he said. "Go on."
"I'd rather not," I said.
He shook his head at me, and he turned around to return to the hole. There were a few broken red bricks on the ground where his front wall had been hit by a car (probably his own car on his return from the pub one night). I was tempted to pick up one of the bricks and hit him when his back was turned, taking him unawares, as his murderer had suggested. But he seemed to know what I was thinking. "Go on," he said.
I walked away as quickly as I could. I didn't turn around, but I sensed he was shaking his head at me again.
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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