|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
When Shane woke up on the floor of a friend's house on the morning after a party he noticed that the sleeves of his favourite jumper were about six inches longer than they used to be. He assumed that they must have been stretched during the party, but on the following day he looked at the jumper again and the sleeves were even longer. They were definitely growing. After a week they were down to his ankles.
When he looked at the jumper in the mirror he started crying. He had never cried before and he had no idea why he'd start crying then. This thought only made him cry more.
He told his friend Lucy about it, and he made her promise not to tell anyone. She was trying to forge a career as a singer-songwriter. She thought she sounded like Shirley Bassey, but she had a terrible voice. This didn't stop her from singing her songs in the pub. The owner of the pub didn't stop her because he was her father.
One night she sang a song about a man who cried because the sleeves of his jumper kept growing. She didn't mention Shane by name, but there was a reference to a man who once thought he could shake sugar out of a cat, and everyone knew who it was. They noticed that the sleeves of his jumper had been rolled up.
At the end of the song they all looked at him and laughed. The laughter died down when he started crying, and he desperately wanted them to laugh again.
People kept buying him drinks for the rest of the night. He got so drunk that he started to doze off. When the bar man rang the bell and said it was closing time, Shane noticed that the sleeves of his jumper had been tied together. This made him cry again.
A man called Hugh came over to him and said, "I'll straighten you out."
"I don't need straightening out."
"You need something."
"Maybe so, but it's not straightening out."
"You don't even know what I have in mind."
"I don't want to know what's in your mind. I wouldn't touch anything you held in your hands."
"I'm going to straighten you out whether you like it or not."
Shane started crying again. Hugh shook his head, and then he dragged Shane away. "I'm doing this for your own good," Hugh said.
Hugh lived on top of a wooden tower about a mile outside the town. He'd built the tower himself. He called it a spiritual lighthouse. He was the light.
He tied Shane's sleeves to a fence post outside the tower and then he went inside. Shane saw a light come on at the top of the tower. It went off again a few seconds later, and Hugh emerged from the door shortly afterwards.
Hugh led Shane into the woods nearby. They stopped at a clearing. In the centre of the clearing there was a pile of broken branches. Hugh took out a match and lit a fire. He took a small glass bottle out of his coat pocket. He removed the cork and poured the contents onto the fire. The flames turned blue. "My grandmother taught me everything I know," he said. "This has been created using a recipe she learnt from her mother. All you have to do is stare into the flames."
Shane did as he was told, and after a few minutes he started to see the figure of a man emerging from the flames. The fire man started talking, but he struggled to find things to say, and then he started singing a song about making a scarf out of an old shirt and making scones out of an old cat he was no longer using.
This is when Hugh's grandmother arrived. "You're doing it all wrong," she said to Hugh.
She took out another bottle and poured its contents onto the fire. The man in the fire started shivering. He looked as if he was freezing. He tried to say something, but he couldn't get a word in. Hugh's grandmother kept talking for hours, hardly pausing for breath. Shane focussed on the flames, but bits of what she said stuck in his mind. He remembered her saying, "I found that I could speak Russian and I had to clippety-clop a horse to the next town where we could all fall over and laugh because that's what people do there."
As time went by, the man in the flames stopped trying to talk and he started to warm up. After a few hours he looked as if he was comfortably warm in the flames.
Dawn arrived and the flames died down. When Hugh's grandmother finally stopped talking, Shane was cold, and he realised that he wasn't wearing his jumper. It was nowhere to be seen. His favourite jumper was gone, but he didn't cry, and this made him smile.
He hasn't cried since then, and the sleeves of his new favourite jumper haven't grown. Every time he lights a fire he can see the figure of a man emerge from the flames. This man looks comfortably warm in his jumper, with the sleeves wrapped all around him.
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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