Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, October 27, 2009


New Dublin

   Perhaps we'll go to Galway next week. If we don't make it all the way to Galway we can stop in a field and start building a new Galway. This is how my uncle Billy created Dublin in 1972. He was on his way to Dublin to see a man about a dog. He was still fifty miles away from his destination when he stopped in a field to sleep. Billy could sleep for a week. This was because he'd get into long arguments with everyone he met in his sleep. He'd get into long arguments with everyone he met when he was awake as well, but real people would never argue with him for longer than six or seven hours.
   He slept in the field for five days. When he woke up he found that someone had built timber walls and an iron roof around him. He decided to make this the new Dublin and he'd wait for the man with the dog to come to him. Many people joined him in his new Dublin over the following weeks. One of the newcomers was a man called Tim. Every time he was struck by lightning, he'd dance. He was struck by lightning three or four times every week. On cold nights, people would crowd around him for the heat after he was struck. They were liable to get kicked by his dancing feet, but a good kick in the head only helped keep out the cold.
   Billy was often woken from his sleep by a kick from Tim, so he decided it was time to expand Dublin. He built more rooms in the field. The town kept growing, and the influx of Dubliners gathered pace. It took three years for the man with the dog to arrive. Billy decided not to buy the dog. The man and the dog stayed in the new Dublin. Billy went back home to Limerick, but when he got there, everyone had gone to the new Limerick. Billy stayed in the old Limerick because there was no one there to disturb his sleep. In his dreams he populated the abandoned city with people who never tired of arguing with him.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Strangers and Waiters

   Tommy was walking past a bus stop when he met Laura. She said she was going somewhere on a bus and she asked him if he'd like to go with her. He said he would.
   When they got there they got off the bus. They were alone. They watched the clouds pass by above them. They agreed that they were enjoying each other's company. The clouds, it seemed, were not enjoying each other's company. A cloud shaped like an axe attacked a cloud shaped like a fly.
   Tommy and Laura went on another bus that took them to another place. They enjoyed being at this other place. Other people were there. Strangers. They enjoyed being amongst strangers because it was half-way between being alone and being with friends. This is where they wanted to be. They'd go on enjoying being where they wanted to be until they began to want to be somewhere else or until one of the strangers produced an axe.
   They had to wait two hours before this happened. No one produced an axe, but Tommy and Laura did begin to feel a desire to go somewhere else. Most of the strangers had already felt this need and had gone somewhere else. Many enjoyable hours could be spent wondering where the strangers went to. These hours would be reserved for later in the day or at night because they had something else to do in the meantime: going somewhere else. When they left, there was only one stranger still there. He was looking out over the sea. They wondered why they hadn't thought of doing this before. They considered staying behind to attempt looking out over the sea, but the lure of somewhere else was too great, and they left.
   When they arrived somewhere else they found that they were in a restaurant. This made sense because they were hungry. A waiter appeared. Many pleasant hours could be spent wondering where he came from, but the likelihood is that he came from the kitchen. When he left, he almost certainly went to the kitchen because when he came back the next time he had food with him. It was more or less what they had ordered from the menu. They said they were pleased with their food. The waiter went away again, but this time he went up a stairs. Over dinner they discussed where he might have gone to. They came to the conclusion that he had gone to tell someone else that they were pleased with their food. When they had finished their dinner they went up the stairs to tell this person that the waiter wasn't lying. They were afraid that the waiter would get fired for lying.
   They came to an office that contained the waiter and two strangers. The waiter had his hands raised over his head, and so had one of the strangers. The other stranger was holding his hands in front of him. One of his hands was holding a gun. The other hand was holding a wad of cash. Tommy and Laura said they really enjoyed their meal. The stranger with his hands held over his head apologised to the waiter for accusing him of lying. The waiter accepted the apology. Tommy and Laura waited until they felt a need to go somewhere else. After half an hour of waiting in silence they were still carefully examining themselves for the slightest spark of this need, but there was nothing. Laura remembered the stranger looking out over the sea. She suggested looking out over the sea from the window. She did this with Tommy. The waiter and the two strangers joined them.
   The sun had just set. They discussed where strangers might go when they leave somewhere to go somewhere else. The stranger with his hands held over his head said he was planning on going to a boat when he felt a need to go somewhere else. The stranger with the gun said he was going to his cottage. He expected the need to go there to hit him within the next few minutes. He told them they were welcome to follow him there. He stood completely still as he looked out over the sea, waiting for the need to strike. The others watched him closely, hoping to see signs of the need taking effect.
   The first effects of the need could be seen when he turned around and walked towards the door. The others followed him. The journey to somewhere else was a two-mile walk. They went into his cottage. He closed the door and turned on a light. They could hear the sound of waves. It seemed as if this sound was coming from outside. The stranger with the gun told the waiter and the stranger with his hands held over his head that they could lower their hands to whatever height they normally kept their hands at in circumstances such as these, and he asked all of his guests if they'd like a drink. The waiter said he'd like a whiskey, but the stranger who used to have his hands held over his head accused him of lying.
   When drinks had been poured for all of his guests they looked out over the sea. They knew they were facing in the right direction because of the sound of the waves, but a wall was blocking their view of the sea. They wondered how many other strangers were looking out over the sea at that moment, like they were. This thought occupied their minds for many hours, and it kept out the slightest hint of a need to go somewhere else. It was dawn before the thought started to lose its grip. Tommy and Laura felt a connection with the strangers and the waiter. There was a danger that they'd become friends and they'd have to start talking to each other, so Tommy and Laura left to find more strangers and waiters.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The Blackbird and the Ruby

   Cynthia arrived at her caravan at seven o' clock in the evening. It was raining, but she didn't mind. Some people's concept of hell was a caravan holiday in the rain, but this was her idea of a perfect holiday.
   There was a tiny restaurant in a nearby caravan. She went there for her dinner. The chef had invented a type of bean that makes other food hide. Apples would roll off the table to get away from it. He asked her if she'd like to try the bean, but she went for the chicken instead. The chef looked disappointed. So did the chicken.
   She started talking to the couple at the next table. It would have been rude not to talk to them because they were so close. An apple couldn't have escaped through the space between the two tables. They introduced themselves as Melanie and George. They said they enjoyed looking at the birds along the coast. Cynthia said she enjoyed bird-watching as well. Melanie warned her not to spend too long looking at the blackbirds around the caravan park because of one particular blackbird who had given the others a bad name. When he opens his mouth you'll see a ruby inside. You'll reach out for it, but it will always be just beyond your grasp. You'll keep reaching until you'll enter the blackbird's stomach. There's a good chance you'll get out eventually, but the exit might not be so pleasant. Cynthia said she'd bear this in mind when she was out bird-watching, but she didn't think there was much danger of being swallowed by a blackbird.
   The sun was shining when she woke up in the morning. She wasn't too disappointed because there was rain in the forecast. She stepped outside. Most of the other holiday-makers were still asleep. She went to the ditch at the other side of the caravan and she looked out over the fields. She listened to the song of the birds. When a blackbird landed on a branch near her she remembered what Melanie had told her. She didn't have much time to dwell on this thought because as soon as the blackbird opened its mouth she could think of nothing but the ruby she saw. She reached out for it.
   Her mind was freed of its fascination with the ruby when she noticed that she was somewhere dark and wet. She wasn't alone in the blackbird's stomach. George and Melanie were in there too. "I feel like such a fool," George said. "I've always prided myself on my ability not to look at things. I assumed that not looking at a blackbird would be a simple task, but I was wrong."
   They were in the blackbird's stomach for hours before they were spat out. They were dropped into an empty field, in an unfamiliar landscape. They walked through the fields, hoping to find a house, but after walking for miles they hadn't even come across a proper road, just dirt tracks. They tried following some of the tracks, but these always led them to more fields or into woods.
   It was the middle of the afternoon before they met another human being. They saw a small sail boat in a field. A man was sitting inside it. He was blowing into the sail. Cynthia asked him if he could give them directions and he said, "The only direction I know is the one I'm facing. It makes things much simpler when you only have one direction, although it doesn't help you get there."
   He started blowing again. Cynthia, George and Melanie walked in the direction he was facing. During the rest of the day they came across a few empty houses and barns, but they didn't meet anyone else. Clouds crept across the sky in the evening. They found a barn before the rain started, and they spent the night there.
   It was still raining in the morning, but not even this could cheer up Cynthia. They were planning on staying in the barn until the rain cleared, but at nine o' clock they saw the man in the boat again. The boat floated past the barn. "Sailing is so much easier when you have a bit of water underneath you," he said. "Climb aboard."
   Cynthia, George and Melanie climbed into the boat. They had little trouble getting into it because it was moving at walking pace, but it gathered speed as it went down a hill. They wanted to get off then because it was moving too fast, but it was moving too fast for them to get off. They narrowly missed many trees. Cynthia, George and Melanie kept screaming, and the sailor kept blowing into the sail.
   They came to a long flat lawn, but they were still moving too quickly. They were heading straight for a windmill. It looked as if they'd go in through the open door, as long as they missed the spinning blades.
   They narrowly missed a blade. They went in through the front door of the windmill and they came out through the back door. They landed on a circular lawn. They were slowing down, and they finally stopped when they dropped into a hole. Cynthia, George and Melanie climbed out of the hole, and they realised where they were. "This is the crazy golf course next to the caravan park," Melanie said. "We're back!"
   "I'm starving," Cynthia said. "I could really do with that bean right now."
   They went back to their caravans to change their clothes and then they met up again in the restaurant to try the bean.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


George's Books

   George showed a great deal of caution in everything he did. He feared that sudden movements would cause people to back away from him. If a sudden jerk of his head caused one person to leave a room, the other people in the room would surely follow. Sometimes on a Sunday afternoon he'd be sitting on his armchair, quietly minding his own business on his own, when he'd suddenly spring to his feet and do a tap dance. He put this down to being possessed by a spirit. He didn't know if it was the same spirit inside him all the time or if it was many different spirits, either residing in him all the time or just passing through and making him dance on the way. He decided to write a book because he believed there was a good chance that the spirit or spirits would take control of the writing process at some stage.
   He started writing about his bike, and after that he paid as little attention as possible to what he was writing. He wrote one chapter while he was reading a book about the Boer War, and he often wrote while he was gardening. After two weeks he started reading what he had written, and he was very surprised by what he found. There was nothing about the Boer War in it. It seemed as if there were many different voices competing to be heard. One of them had a hatred of gardening. Another was obsessed with old detective films. Sometimes they spoke to each other. They often referred to someone as 'himself', and George suspected that this was himself. They seemed to regard him as an idiot they had to endure.
   All of these voices suggested many different spirits residing inside him, but George started to wonder if this was a trick played on him by his subconscious, and if so, was there any way he could get revenge on his subconscious. He couldn't bear the thought of anyone getting one over on him, even if the other person was really himself.
   Whether it was his subconscious or the spirits, he needed to establish who was boss, and that the boss wouldn't tolerate his staff disrespecting him behind his back or inside him. He wrote another book, and this time he paid close attention to every word he wrote. It would be a re-affirmation of his own role in his life, and a subjugation of the unruly forces inside him. He found that he enjoyed writing the word 'emblem'. He used it several thousand times in the book.
   He was pleased with his creation as he read through it. At no stage had any of the inner voices taken control, or so he first believed. As he read through it for a second time he noticed that the first letter of each sentence was part of a word, and the words were part of phrases like 'George is an idiot'.
   George was furious. He decided it was time to teach his inner trouble-makers a lesson. He read the first book again to get an insight into the characters of these spirits, or of his subconscious. One of the voices mentioned a strong dislike of country music. Another one said that ballroom dancers should be exiled to their own island, or to their own planet, if this became possible at some date in the future. George started listening to country music and he went to ballroom dancing lessons. He took up line-dancing as well, just to annoy his inner foe who despised country music. He spent a lot of time gardening and he watched DVDs of romantic comedies. He found other clues about the likes and dislikes of these inner characters, and he did things to make life for them as uncomfortable as possible. This is what led him to spend more time with his brother, Eric. The inner voices regarded Eric as an idiot. George thought they were right about this, but he went to see his brother nearly every evening just to annoy the voices. Eric could ramble on for hours about stupid things or remain silent for hours as he tried to think of something stupid. When George went to see him one evening he was looking at his shoe and he had a feeling that something was missing. After hours of staring he realised that what was missing was the 'S' to make 'shoe' a plural. He couldn't find his hoe either, but that's another story.
   George wrote another book. Just like in the last book, he paid very close attention to each word, and he often used the word 'emblem'. When he had finished it he looked at the first letters in each sentence and he saw that the inner voices had been put in their place. They were very respectful towards George. They used phrases like 'George is a man of great intelligence, wit and sophistication whose taste in music is beyond reproach'.
   He gave up ballroom dancing because he agreed with the sentiments expressed by his inner voices, but he kept listening to country music, even though he didn't like that either. He didn't want them to forget who was boss.

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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