Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Not There Radio

   Irene needs to be sitting down during Robert's recitation of all the facts he's accumulated during the day. She sat on her sofa one evening while he read from his list. As he approached the end of the list he read this fact: "You want me to tell you the address of the man who built a recording studio in his garage."
   She was furious. She said she wanted nothing of the sort. She swore at him for ten minutes until she remembered that he can take offence very easily when he's subjected to abuse. This might result in his refusal to tell her the address, and she really did want to hear it. So she stopped swearing and she let him continue. He read out the address and she remembered it. Over the years she'd developed an ability to remember everything he said. She did this by constructing a story around the details he read out.
   She feared there was a 'best before' date on her mind. She wanted to do as much as possible before her mind started to decay. She'd seen this happen to a detective she'd hired, although alcohol probably hastened that decay. He believed it would preserve his mind. She wanted to record her album at the earliest possible opportunity, while her mind was still functioning at its full capacity.
   She'd already written her memoirs, as well as many other works of fiction and non-fiction. She had a list of all the books she had written, and she was ready to tick them off as they were published. She had written many predictions of how people would react to her works, and she had written reviews of each book. She turned her attention to how people would react to her music, but it was difficult to make accurate predictions until after she'd recorded the album.
   She went to see the man who owned the studio. He added her name to the list of people who had booked studio time to record albums. She looked at the list when he went to his kitchen to get a pen. Her ability to remember names and addresses meant that she only needed thirty seconds to remember all of them.
   Most of the people on the list were his neighbours. She called around to each one of them and she convinced them that it would be a bad idea to record an album. Gangs of thugs were roaming the streets, looking for people who had recorded albums. Some singer-songwriters were tortured into confessing that they were responsible for committing music to CDs, crimes of unimaginable horror to these righteous gangs. This scare mongering didn't work on most people, so she ended up paying them to put off the recording of their albums.
   As the commencement of the recording approached, she found that she was devoting most of her time to the weather. Something strange was going on in the sky, she believed, but she couldn't put her finger on it. She wanted to stop thinking of the weather and start thinking about her songs, but she was unable to focus her mind. She used her mind's index finger to press all the buttons with flashing lights, and to flick the switches, but still her mind refused to operate as she wanted it to.
   On the night before her first recording session she couldn't sleep. She turned on the radio and she moved the dial through the medium wave frequencies. She came across a radio station called Not There Radio. The DJ would read out the names of towns from a map, and occasionally he'd say, "We're not broadcasting to any of these places." He'd take a break for the weather forecast. This was sung by a woman with an ethereal voice. Some of her weather songs lasted over twenty minutes.
   When Irene went into the recording studio on the following day she started singing like the weather forecaster on the radio. She felt as if she was releasing something that had been hidden inside her. Everything she sang was improvised.
   The session in the recording studio lasted four hours, and at the end of it she had four hours worth of material. She decided to break it up into four albums. Not There Radio had given a post office box number for any correspondences, so she sent copies of her four albums to them. Three days after she sent the albums, they started playing her songs during breaks for the weather forecast. At the end of the break the DJ would continue reading from the list of places where people couldn't hear him.
   They kept playing her songs over the following weeks. During this time, Irene told everyone she knew about the radio station, but no one was able to find it on their radios. No one had ever heard of it before. Sometimes she found this disheartening, but as she listened to her songs on the radio at night she thought that at least she'd found her audience.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Judith's Husbands

   Judith woke up one morning and she noticed a strange man in her bedroom. She pointed at him, but she couldn't think of anything to say. They went outside to get married. She hailed a priest who was passing by on a moped. He married them without even turning off the engine, and ever since then Judith has associated the smell of moped fumes with her wedding day.
   They went upstairs so she could put on the wedding dress she'd used at her last wedding on the previous week. The strange man put on her former husband's suit.
   Later that day her former husband returned from the dry cleaners with a suit, the one he'd been buried in. He gave this suit to the strange man, who sighed and hailed a priest who'd bury him. They dug a hole in the garden, and the strange man went to sleep in it. When he woke up in the morning he took the suit to the dry cleaners and he married the woman there.
   This marriage went on for months and there was no end in sight. When he went downstairs on Christmas morning, all the little Rambos were running around his feet. Her former husband used to farm Rambos. A Rambo is for life, not just for Christmas. And your life won't last long if you get on the wrong side of the Rambos.
   The strange man felt a need to get out of this marriage. He went to the house next door and he looked in the window. He saw that the armchair by the fire was empty. He went around to the back of the house, and he found that the back door was open. He went inside, and he took his place on the armchair. His new wife poured him a glass of mulled wine. When her former husband came downstairs he saw that his place had been taken. His name was Thompson. The strange man suggested going next door to the place he'd just vacated. Thompson said he didn't like the idea of living with the Rambos. The strange man thought this was wise, and he suggested going to Judith's house because her husband was often away.
   When Thompson went to Judith's house her husband had gone to the shop. After ten minutes he hadn't returned, so they assumed he was dead. They couldn't have a funeral because there was no body, so they organised a memorial service in the church instead. As soon as this was finished, Judith married Thompson. She was glad when she found out his name because she'd never been married to a Thompson before.
   They had left a note back in Judith's house. It was for her former husband, in case he came back from the shop. When Judith and Thompson returned to the house they found a note from her former husband. It said he had seen the note about his memorial service and he had decided to start a new life in Jamaica.
   Judith sat in the living room with her new husband that evening. They had run out of things to talk about. After twenty minutes of listening to the ticking of the clock, she thought of something. She said, "Do you want to watch me jumping up and down?"
   He said he'd love to watch her jumping up and down. So she jumped up and down, and he found it entertaining, but she had to stop when she got tired. After another long period of silence he smiled and said, "Of course! I nearly forgot. I have two tickets for the bus."
   He took the tickets out of his pocket. "I love the bus," Judith said.
   They got dressed to go out and they went to the bus stop. The bus arrived ten minutes later. They got on, and it turned out to be a very entertaining show that night. One of the drunks on the bus gave a very good performance, and there were plenty of great performances on the streets as well. They both had an interest in the bus and Judith was sure that this marriage would last, at least until the weekend.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


The Magic Machine

   Eugene was an inventor. He built machines that would come to his aid in the most unlikely of events. He feared being rendered so mind-numbingly bored by life that he wouldn't be able to move. He built a machine that would detect his immobility and would start playing music to revive his mind. One evening he fell asleep in front of the fire after a few glasses of whiskey, and the machine played the music. When he woke he was convinced it was 1983 and that he'd recently won an award for building a machine that automatically performed magic tricks. Magicians didn't like it because it put them out of a job. The machine was much more cost-effective than the magicians. Eugene got a lecturing job in a university because of the award.
   He moved to the city to take up his post. This was the first time in his life he'd lived in a city. He was amazed at the number of newspapers he could buy. He counted thirty-seven of them at one news stand. They all promised amazing revelations inside. One of the newspapers was published by a group of former magicians. It contained slanderous articles about Eugene, but no one was interested in these. This paper also contained reports about magicians who could do tricks that the machine was incapable of. One magician had started doing tricks with words. He could make the word 'and' come out of his ear.
   There was a practical element to the course Eugene was teaching. His students were required to build automated poker players. Grades would be awarded according to how these machines performed in a poker tournament at the end of the second semester.
   The machines that caught fire in the first round earned an F for their creators. One machine took over half an hour just to pick up its cards. But it didn't catch fire so it got a D. The five machines who made it to the final would all get an A, but only the winner would get an A+.
   After an hour, two machines were left in the game. One of them was dealt three aces, and it bet all of its remaining chips. But it lost because the other machine had four kings. As the creator of the winning machine was taking the applause of her classmates, a small metal panel on the machine fell open and hundreds of cards fell out. Its creator said she had no idea her creation was cheating. Eugene didn't believe her. He would have given her the A+ anyway, but her opponent's machine took a dim view of the way it had been defeated. A door opened on the front of this machine. A pipe emerged, and flames emerged from the pipe.
   The machine that had cheated was left blackened but unbowed. Wheels emerged from underneath it and a chainsaw emerged from the top. As it charged towards its opponent, people fled from the building. All of the machines stayed behind, and most of them participated in the fight.
   Millions of pounds worth of damage was done to the university buildings. There were holes in walls, and rooms were gutted by fires. Only the walls remained of the building where the poker tournament took place. Despite a spirited defence of his actions in a lengthy court battle, Eugene was held responsible for the destruction. The press turned on him, especially the paper owned by the magicians. The poker players were a very powerful lobby group, and they feared being made redundant if poker-playing machines were manufactured. Through one of their newspapers they convinced the public that only the criminally insane would conceive of such a machine.
   Eugene became a social outcast and he suffered financial ruin. He started drinking heavily. He lived in squalid conditions in a house that had been abandoned by everyone and everything apart from the rats.

   These were the memories on his mind when the music woke him up. He sat on his couch and he tried to figure out where the memories came from. They seemed too vivid to be a dream. In 1982 he had drawn up plans for a machine that did magic tricks, but he abandoned it when he started working on a machine that threw potatoes at other potatoes. He wondered if the memory was a glimpse into an alternate reality, one in which he decided to build the machine that performed magic tricks rather than the potato-throwing machine.
   There was also the possibility that the memories were real, and that the potato-throwing machine and everything that followed was all just a dream. He looked around the room. There was an empty whiskey bottle on the ground, but there were no obvious signs of squalor. He went out into the hall, and on the wall he found evidence that proved he wasn't a penniless drunk. He saw a framed photo of a dinner-dance at a golf club in 1997. He was shaking hands with the club's president after he had donated a machine that kept stray dogs off the golf course. So he never invented the magic machine that brought about his ruin. He couldn't help feeling disappointed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009



   When Jack was young his parents told him he'd grow up to be a Belgian. He thought this was some sort of a parrot, and he was looking forward to being one of them. But when he was eighteen he realised the truth. He was walking down the street one day and he looked around him instead of staying inside with his daydreams. The realisation suddenly dawned on him. "I'm living in Belgium!" he said to himself.
   He regretted not paying more attention in school. He thought his life might have taken a different course if he'd realised much sooner that he was from Belgium. He asked his friends about it. Some of them had realised they were from Belgium when they were only ten. He felt as if they had a head start in life.
   When he was thirty he realised that all of his friends were married and he was still single. He tried many different methods of finding a wife. He took up golf. It turned out to be an effective way of breaking windows, but the number of wives he had remained at zero. He tried growing potatoes. His number of wives remained unchanged, and he couldn't tell if the potato-growing was more or less effective than the golf.
   He got lost in the fog one night. He had heard stories about people who got lost in the fog at night and came out of it engaged to a person who was twice as heavy as them. This was the one wife-finding method he wanted to avoid.
   When he emerged from the fog he was attached to a woman who might well have been nearly twice as heavy as him, but she didn't look overweight because she was so tall. She was at least a foot taller than him. Marriage to her wouldn't be so bad, he thought. He might strain his neck from looking up at her all the time, but he was expecting to be at least ten inches taller by the time he was forty, so he'd nearly have caught up with her by then.
   There was tension before the wedding. He didn't like some of her friends, especially the one who had the fangs, and the one who had the fangs was going to be a bridesmaid. As the big day drew nearer he realised that the bridesmaid with fangs was distracting him from the fact that his fiancee bought her wedding dress from a corpse.
   He nearly broke off their engagement on the night before the wedding when he found out she was Belgian. But he spent some time thinking about it and he realised that he would have been more shocked if she said she wasn't Belgian. So the wedding went ahead. They've been happily married for four years now, but he still hasn't bridged the gap in height.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009


My Leaks

   My name is Peter. My car is relentlessly a Bentley. My neighbour's car is fitfully a Fiat, frequently a turnip. The spiders that exit my head go on to perform mighty deeds in the world, building awe-inspiring webs, catching master criminals and becoming master criminals, becoming salmon with minor surgery. I struggle to walk because of all the tree-huggers who've been hugging my legs since their trees were cut down. My legs are like surrogate mothers to the tree-huggers. I cut down their trees.
   Despite being exceptional in almost every respect, soup keeps leaking out of me. I plugged all of the holes in my back, and my leg-huggers are covering the holes in my legs, but when I consume soup it always manages to find an exit. I'll block whatever hole it comes out of, but the next spoonful will invariably find another hole. I find this disconcerting. It could potentially damage my standing in society, and this would damage society. People need to look up to me. If knowledge of my leaks became widespread, it could lead to widespread disillusionment. This is why I'm willing to try almost any cure. Someone suggested acupuncture, but this is a last resort. Creating more holes in my body has the potential to make the problem much worse.

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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