|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
I noticed that the walls in my house looked different in September. I spent a long time staring at them, and I couldn't put my finger on what was different, but something had definitely changed. The paintings on the walls looked out of place, so I replaced them with paintings that were more in keeping with the new character of the walls.
In February I got the impression that the walls were changing again, and I considered buying new paintings, but I saw a simpler solution to the problem: get a hobby. I looked through listings of evening classes and I came across one called 'How to be Successful'. Being successful seemed like just the sort of hobby for me, so I signed up for the class.
The teacher called himself Professor Coffloaf, but I never found out what his area of expertise was. I was one of twenty students in the class. After the professor introduced himself on the first evening, he said, "Where there are birds, there are birds, and where there aren't birds there are kettles that you can put the birds into... No, that doesn't sound right."
He went to the window and he looked out. He seemed to be deep in thought. Half an hour later he said, "What about kittens instead of kettles?... No, that's even worse."
When the bell rang at the end of the hour he left the room without saying a word.
On the following week he spent most of the time counting beans. We started talking amongst ourselves, but he took no notice. I was sitting next to a man called Neil who told me he joined the class to give up drink. If he wasn't at the class he'd be sitting on a bar stool in an old pub, drinking until he fell off the stool. He couldn't go back to that, so he was determined to stick with the class until the end. He had arranged activities for other evenings as well, such as playing snooker, and going to the theatre and to the cinema.
I turned up for the next class, but about half of my class-mates didn't bother. The professor was trying to find something in his pockets. He stopped when he seemed to think of something. He said, "A pear in a bag and a partridge in a sock. That's what we used to get for Christmas when I was young." Then he resumed the search of his pockets.
With ten minutes left in the class he was still searching. We heard the sounds coming from the fantasy aerobics class downstairs. The professor heard them too, and he said we could go down to look at it, if we wanted to.
Everyone wanted to, but it turned out to be a disappointment (for me, at least). It was just people dressed up as orcs, goblins and elves, and they were chasing each other around the room with plastic axes.
On the following week only five people turned up for the class. The professor told us we could go downstairs again. Watching the fantasy aerobics was marginally more appealing than watching him reach into the pockets of his trousers, so we all went down. Some former members of our class had joined the aerobics class.
I decided that I wasn't likely to become successful by looking at people dressed as orcs getting exercise, so I didn't bother turning up for the class on the following week.
Over a year later I was buying a lottery ticket in an old shop in the suburbs on a sunny day in May. Just after I left the shop I saw a man walking towards me on the pavement, and I recognised the face. It was Neil. He recognised me too. He was wearing a suit and tie, and he seemed to be much healthier than he was when I last saw him. He'd lost weight and his skin was tanned.
"You seem to be doing very well for yourself," I said.
"That's because I learnt how to be successful," he said, "thanks to Professor Coffleaf."
"You mean you actually learnt something from the class?"
"It was all just a test. I was the only one to stick with it to the end. I had to stick with it because I couldn't bear the thought of going back to the pub, and I was rewarded for my perseverance. He taught me everything. It was like being let into Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. I can't say any more than that. He wouldn't want me to. Neither would Willy Wonka. I don't have the time to stay chatting anyway. I have to meet my wife."
He showed me a photo of himself with his new wife. They were on a beautiful beach somewhere, suitably attired for their surroundings. They had their arms around each other. She was young and beautiful, and he didn't look too bad for a man who'd spent most of his adult life in pubs.
"So you can see why I'm in a hurry," he said as he put the photo back into his pocket. He said goodbye and walked on.
I walked on as well. I was deep in thought, and I didn't recognise the man walking towards me until he said hello. I was shocked when I realised that it was Neil again, only this time he looked exactly as he had looked when I first met him in the class. He was walking quickly, and he was slightly out of breath.
"Didn't I just meet you?" I said.
He shook his head and said, "I'm starting to regret ever doing that class. I better catch him before he meets his wife. My wife. She's mine."
"He showed me a photo of himself with her. They looked very... close."
This other Neil took out a photo and showed it to me. It was similar to the one I'd just seen, only in this one Neil looked much paler, and he was wearing a tattered coat. She was wearing a bikini, and she didn't seem to be bothered by his appearance.
"I can see why you'd be in a hurry," I said.
He put the photo back into his pocket, said goodbye and walked on.
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.
More blogs about Storytelling.