Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008


A Black Christmas

   Arnold started putting up his Christmas decorations on the first of December each year. It normally took about ten days to complete the job. All of the decorations were kept in the attic. He'd begin by bringing down a painting of the house and hanging it on a nail in the hall. His grandfather had paid someone to paint this picture one Christmas when the decorations were up. The ground was covered in snow at the time, so it made for a perfect Christmas scene. On the following year he tried to make the house look exactly like it did in the painting. As the years went by, this practise became a tradition, and he also developed a fear that if he didn't get the decorations to look like they did in the painting, something terrible would happen.
   Arnold inherited both the tradition and the fear. It would have been easy to get the decorations right if the painting had remained the same, but every December when he got it out of the attic he was convinced that it had changed slightly since the previous year.
   One year there was a smiling leprechaun in the painting, and he was sure he'd never seen that before. The leprechaun was wearing a Santa suit that was too big for him, as if he'd stolen it. The look on his face seemed to suggest that an unfortunate fate had befallen the former owner of the suit.
   Arnold was afraid that someone was living in the attic, an artist who was altering the painting. He searched the attic, but he found no evidence of habitation by an artist or by a smiling leprechaun. He knew he needed to find the leprechaun somewhere. Something terrible would surely happen if he didn't. He spent weeks searching shops, but he couldn't find anything that looked like the leprechaun.
   He finally found it just a few hundred yards from his house. It was in the window of a house owned by a woman called Denise. He thought about offering to buy it from her. But she might say no, and then he'd have to steal it. If the leprechaun turned up amongst his decorations shortly after it was stolen from her house shortly after he offered to buy it, it wouldn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out who the culprit was. But if he just stole it and put it on his house he could claim that this particular leprechaun has been in his family since his grandfather's time. He could show her the painting with the leprechaun in it.
   That night he left his house shortly after midnight and he walked to Denise's house. He was dressed all in black, and he felt safe in this attire until he realised that black would stand out in the snow-covered landscape. He needed to get into Denise's house as quickly as possible.
   He prized open a window at the back of the house and stepped inside. He made his way to the front room where the leprechaun was. He saw the leprechaun looking out the window at the snow, and he smiled, but then a light came on and he saw Denise sitting on an armchair by the fire. She was holding a shotgun, which was pointed at him. "I've been expecting you," she said.
   "I've been expecting you too," he said. "Seeing as this is your house, and... Hello."
   "So you were just paying me a visit to say hello, in the spirit of the season."
   "Do you want the leprechaun or not?"
   "Ah... Yeah."
   "You can have it if you get something for me."
   "Just name it."
   She told him about a black vase that had been in her family for generations, until it was stolen from her house. It turned up at a car boot sale, where it was bought by a man called Evan. He refused to give it back to her, so she told him she'd have to steal it. He told her that she could break into his house through a window next to the back door. He said it was easy to push the window in, but he warned her that it wouldn't be so easy to get back out of the house. She'd been considering this ever since, but now she didn't need to consider it any longer because Arnold would break in for her. He was so desperate to get the smiling leprechaun that he agreed to do the job.
   He walked through the snow-covered fields to Evan's house. Evan was an architect, and he was obsessed with black. He designed houses that were completely black, both inside and out. His own house was like this. He believed that houses should be like a void on dark nights. He saw this as something positive and uplifting. Some people felt as if they were falling into the void, spinning down into a spiral. They'd get dizzy and fall over. He saw this as something positive and uplifting as well.
   But as Arnold approached Evan's house he noticed that it was white. At first he thought it was the snow, but as he got closer he saw that the walls had been painted white. He couldn't help feeling that there was something sinister about this.
   He broke into the house through the window near the back door. He was expecting to step into a void, but the moonlight through the windows illuminated white walls, floors, ceilings and furniture. Everything was white. He spent a few minutes walking around the downstairs rooms. A black vase would have stood out as much as he did, but everything there was white.
   A light came on, and Evan was standing at the door. "I knew there was something black in the house," he said. "I saw it in my dreams. Santa could never be as beautiful as you."
   Arnold made some mental notes for a possible career as a burglar: don't wear black in a white environment and don't break into a house occupied only by a man who's liable to tell you you're beautiful.
   He told Evan why he was there. Evan said, "You can have the vase if you do something for me."
   "Just let me look at you."
   "For how long?"
   "Until the morning."
   "Wouldn't you rather look at something white?"
   "No. I painted the house white so it would blend in with the snow, but I never thought white could be so depressing. I need black."
   Arnold had serious misgivings about staying with Evan for the rest of the night, but he really wanted the leprechaun, so he agreed.
   Evan did nothing more than stare and smile at Arnold. Arnold found the silence awkward, so he kept talking. He convinced Evan to put up some Christmas decorations. He said they were relaxing and they'd cheer the coldest of souls, seemingly forgetting all the trouble his own decorations had caused. Evan agreed to experiment with decorations.
   Arnold left with the vase in the morning. He took it to Denise's house, and she gave him the leprechaun. He returned to Evan's house later that day, and he brought some of his old Christmas lights, but Evan had been busy decorating the house since Arnold left. All of the decorations were black, and Evan was full of festive cheer.

The Tree and the Horse
Henry Seaward-Shannon
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.

Very Slight Stories: like short stories, only shorter

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