Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009


The Chocolate Factory

   When Hugh was in a second-hand book shop one day he came across a book about setting up your own chocolate factory. He had never felt a need to set up a chocolate factory before, but the book seemed interesting. It was a woman's account of her attempt to produce chocolate in her garden shed. It was a big shed, as garden sheds go, but it was small for a factory.
   The book gave Hugh many hours of enjoyment and a need to set up a chocolate factory in his garden shed. His shed was smaller than the one described in the book, but he set up his factory in it because he saw this endeavour as no more than a hobby. He'd consume the chocolate himself, if it was fit for consumption, and he might even give it to friends and relations in the unlikely event that the chocolate tasted reasonably good.
   After a few months of experimentation he was producing chocolate that tasted slightly better than reasonably good. He made chocolate cakes and biscuits, and he sold these at a market on Saturday mornings. People were reluctant to try his chocolate at first, even though he was giving away free samples, but after they'd overcome their fear of being poisoned they tried it and they were invariably pleasantly surprised. Hugh was pleasantly shocked that he was actually making money out of this venture.
   One evening, a man called Ned came to see him. Ned was a local businessman who owned a supermarket, a hardware shop, a pub and a farm. "I've come here to buy your chocolate factory," he said to Hugh. "I've always wanted to own my own chocolate factory, just like Willy Wonka. Now there was a great businessman. I've always aspired to be like him, as a businessman rather than as a person. He was a bit odd as a person."
   "My chocolate factory is not for sale."
   "I'd give you a job. You'd be the manager. I've got big plans for your factory. Not as big as Willy Wonka's plans, but bigger than anything you could imagine."
   Hugh wondered if he should point out that Willy Wonka was a fictional character. He decided against this. "It's not for sale," he said. "I'd rather be my own boss."
   "Of course you would. When you're your own boss you won't have to worry about your boss telling you how useless you are, unless you hate yourself. A boss like that isn't going to amount to much, and neither is an employee who doesn't know how useless he is."
   "Why don't you set up your own chocolate factory?"
   "I tried once, but it's not easy making chocolate that people actually want to eat. I only succeeded in making chocolate that people wanted their enemies to eat. There isn't much use for chocolate that you don't want to eat, unless you can force-feed your enemies, and there aren't many people around who can do that, not like in the good old days when there were plenty of people going around the place making other people consume things against their will, and there wasn't a thing the law could do about it. We didn't need TV in those days. That's why we didn't have it. That's why we didn't have electricity -- we didn't need it. All we needed to do for entertainment was to look out the window and see someone talking to a tree. You'd say, 'Someone has made them eat something that's making them behave in this peculiar fashion. I wonder who it could be. It could be anyone of about a hundred people.' And then we'd spend the rest of the evening trying to figure out who the culprit was. It was like an episode of 'Murder, She Wrote'. We need 'Murder, She Wrote' now because forcing someone to eat or drink something that may have peculiar side-effects is practically a crime these days."
   After Hugh had insisted that he'd never sell his factory, Ned left.
   A few days later, a woman called to see Hugh. She said she'd tasted his chocolate at the market and she'd been inspired to make her own. She offered Hugh some of the chocolate sweets she'd made. They looked too tempting to resist, so he tried one. It tasted odd. Not bad, but odd. It made him feel a need to sit down and close his eyes.
   When he opened his eyes again he was tied to a chair in a room he'd never seen before. Ned was there. He smiled when he saw that Hugh had opened his eyes.
   Ned said, "You've probably guessed that I've made you consume something you wouldn't have taken of your own free will. You wouldn't have tied yourself to the chair of your own free will either. And the only way to release yourself is by agreeing to sell your chocolate factory."
   "I can wait. And it's much easier for me to wait because I'm not tied to a chair."
   Ned did a tap dance to demonstrate how not tied to a chair he was.
   "People will know I'm missing," Hugh said.
   "The story that will be spread around town is the one about you needing to get away after your little breakdown. You've been working too hard in your chocolate factory, trying to combine it with your day job. Photos of your breakdown will be spread around town as well."
   Ned took out some photos of Hugh in tears as he tried to knock down a wall with an umbrella "You'll never guess what I gave you to make you do that," Ned said. "I have a video as well. If you agree to sell it now, no one will ever have to see these photos or hear about your breakdown."
   Hugh knew he was beaten. He said, "You can have the recipes and the contents of my shed, but you'll have to move them to your own premises."
   "That was the plan all along. Do you actually think I'd be associated with your ramshackle little operation? I told you I had plans for the business that were bigger than anything you could imagine, but I had no idea you couldn't imagine anything bigger than your garden shed."
   "And there's no way I'm working for you."
   "Now that I know you can't imagine a chocolate factory that's bigger than your garden shed I'm not sure I'd want you as manager anyway."
   Ned moved the factory to a former butcher's in the town, but the business only lasted six months. When he needed to get revenge on the people who criticised the Christmas decorations in his supermarket he couldn't resist adding something to the chocolate. Before long, half the town were talking to trees, pretending to be cats or feeling unwell. Ned thought the whole enterprise was worthwhile. He had fulfilled his dream to own a chocolate factory, selling chocolate that people liked, and then he had made those people sick.

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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