|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Jenny had a dream in which she was standing in a huge room that was completely empty. There was a glass wall on one side and the evening sun was shining in. On the ground she saw long shadows of people, but the people themselves were missing.
She remembered the dream clearly when she woke up, and she often thought about it during the day. She had a feeling that it was meant for someone else. She remembered being told about a void, and that if you talk about the void you'll only make it wider. The not-Jenny would grow and the Jenny would get smaller. This is an imperceptible process, but over time the change would be significant. The not-Jenny would be bigger than the Jenny, but the not-Jenny wouldn't actually exist. It would be a blank space, an absence rather than a presence.
She wondered if the dream belonged to the not-Jenny, a non-entity like the shadows that signified the absence of people. She couldn't remember who had told her about the void, and she wondered if she had heard it in a dream.
On her uncle Noel's land there was a tree that had been struck by lightning. He believed that women were lured to it, and that when they touched it their understanding of the world was illuminated by thousands of candles. It only worked on women, he thought, because men wouldn't stand for such nonsense. Men could see that there was a certain dignity to going through life in the dark. Emotions were another activity that should only be practised by women. He was annoyed whenever he felt the presence of feelings in his mind. He'd have preferred if the birds of sadness or sympathy nested in someone else's head.
Jenny touched the tree to see if it would shed some light on the dream. Nothing lit up in her head, but she did hear a voice. It told her that the final act we perform in our lives is predetermined, and everything we do is done to set up this one act, like a story to set up a punch line. Some lives are shaggy dog stories with terrible punch lines, final acts such as plugging in a kettle, or saying 'Where did you get that spoon?'. Others are more dramatic, like a helicopter chase.
When the voice ceased she asked what her final act would be. She listened carefully, but all she heard was the sound of the birds singing.
She asked for my opinion on the dream and the voice. I said to her, "If a man spends all of his time making plates and he plans to do this for the rest of his life, then he knows that his final act will be to make a plate. It would be a very repetitive story. The only uncertainty would come from wondering what sort of plate he'd make at the end of his life, unless he made the same sort of plate over and over again. It might be tedious, but at least he'd have certainty."
This inspired her to take up pottery, and now she spends most of her time making vases.
I looked back on my past to see where this joke is heading, and these are some of the things that stand out:
I had a phone that was shaped like a fish. I was in Scotland once. When I was young I had a hat that I really liked. Spitting at poltergeists is a pastime that some people will enjoy immensely. When I most needed my trees I couldn't find them because I was lost in the woods. When I most needed my shoes I wasn't permitted to use them. I moved into an attic apartment and I found hundreds of songs written on pieces of paper. Some were written on the walls. There was a song called 'Everyone has their own lifeboat but they don't know it', and another called 'I broke my lifeboat'. Most of the songs dealt with the sea and fishing. Their writer was terrified of drowning at sea because it had happened to his father and to his grandfather. But they were fishermen and he was a song-writer. He died when he tried to play his electric guitar in the bath.
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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