|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I was looking at a dog collar in a museum one day when a man came up to me and said, "How much for one of your eyes?"
I thought about how best to respond to this. In retrospect, I should have just told him where to go straightaway, instead of pausing to think about how to give him directions. Despite the thought I put into it, this was all I could come up with: "They're not for sale."
The pause must have convinced him that I was interested. He said, "I'll give you a diamond that you couldn't fit into a mouse's mouth."
I paused again, this time to consider a witty response, something about why you'd want to put a diamond into a mouse's mouth, or why a mouse would want to consume it, and if he was able to fit it into his mouth, would he be able to get it out the other end. But I'd grown out of the phase when I thought that a witty response could include a reference to an animal's rear end, so all I said was, "No, thanks."
He must have thought I'd been seriously considering the offer. He said I was more than welcome to get an expert to value the diamond. I told him I wasn't interested and I walked away, but he followed me out of the museum. He kept pestering me about my eye until I threatened to call the police.
I was horrified when he turned up at my front door that evening. He told me his name was Frank and he asked me what my name was. I refused to tell him, but he said he already knew it was Hugh. I insisted that I had no interest in selling either of my eyes and I slammed the door in his face.
He called to my house again on the following morning. I told him to get off my property and he did, but as he was walking away he said he'd be back again in the evening.
I met Karen later that day and I told her about Frank. She said, "I know just the man who could help you. At least I think it's a man. It once helped me get rid of someone. Its name is Keegan."
She took me to Keegan's house, which was an old thatched cottage. He was a huge man (I'm fairly sure he was a man) who had to bend down to get through his front door. I explained the problem I was having with Frank and he nodded. "I'll get him this evening," he said.
This was about all he said to me. On the walk back to my house I tried to make small talk, but he didn't say a word.
We drank whiskey as we waited for Frank to arrive. I needed the drink to allow me to talk for over an hour and not be in the least bit bothered by the fact that Keegan obviously wasn't listening.
The doorbell rang at nine o' clock. It was Frank. He was in the middle of saying something about a diamond that a rat would choke on when Keegan emerged from the house and dragged Frank away. I went back inside and poured myself another glass of whiskey to celebrate.
I was still drinking at midnight when the doorbell rang again. It was Keegan, and he was on his own. When I asked him if he'd done the job he took my hand and put two eyes into it. "This is all that's left of him," he said, and then he walked away.
I was too shocked to say anything. I couldn't sleep that night, no matter how much I drank. In the morning I went to see Karen. I said to her, "Did Keegan kill that person you wanted to get rid of?"
"I don't know," she said. "I never asked him that."
"I don't know."
"How could you not know something like that?"
"Now that I think about it, I do know: I don't care."
"How could you not care?"
"I don't know."
I got little sleep that night. Every time I started to dream I saw the two eyes staring down at me and I woke up again. I knew I had to get rid of the eyes and I thought that the only decent thing to do would be to give them a proper Christian burial.
On the following night I went to the graveyard after midnight. I buried the eyes near an oak tree in the old part of the graveyard. Their coffin was a cigar box. I went home, and I was able to sleep for a few hours despite the nightmares, but I was woken by the sound of a voice in my room. When I opened my eyes I saw something more nightmarish than anything in my head. It was the ghost of Frank.
"It was you," he said to me. "You did this to me. That 'thing' you used was just an instrument to do this to me."
"I didn't know," I said. "I thought he was just... I didn't know what he was going to do."
"He took my eyes and he threw me into a dump. Give me back my eyes."
I started to realise what had actually happened. Frank was still alive. The eyes that Keegan had given to me had been in Frank's pocket.
I laughed. I told Frank what I'd done with his eyes, hoping he'd laugh as well, but he didn't. He said, "I'm going to have two eyes before dawn. If they're not mine, they'll be yours."
We went to the graveyard. I dug up the cigar box and I opened it to show him the eyes. He seemed relieved to have them back. He was just about to say something when we heard a sound behind us. We turned around and saw two men with shovels. They were holding the shovels in the air, as if they were just about to hit us, but as soon as we turned around they put the shovels down and tried to act casual, like two men going for a walk with their shovels at night, two men who were definitely not digging up bodies in the graveyard.
Frank said to them, "These eyes were owned by a man who saw the insides of brothels in every major European city in the late nineteenth century. Make me an offer."
The two men had four eyes that lit up. They emptied their pockets of gold watches, diamond rings and necklaces. They gave everything they had to Frank in exchange for the eyes, and then they walked away happily with the cigar box. Frank turned to me and said, "I'll give you a diamond that a horse would spit out."
I told him I'd rather see my eye in the other end of a horse. "That can be arranged," he said.
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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