Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009


A Nice Surprise in the Woods

   Myself, Jimmy and Chadwick formed a band when we were short of cash. I could play the tin whistle, Chadwick played the violin and Jimmy could do something to an accordion. The accordion didn't like it, but the passers-by didn't find it too upsetting when we busked on the street. We made enough money to cover a trip to the pub, and we played in the pub as well.
   Our performances in the pub became a regular occurrence, and once we were invited to play in the bedroom of a woman called Maeve. She was in her eighties and she had been bed-bound for years. Her bedroom was full of boxes, chests, old furniture and other junk, but we managed to find a place to stand and play. She enjoyed our performance, and she asked us to play again on the following week. This became a regular gig as well. We'd go to see her on Thursday evenings. Her son, Emmet, would let us in, or if he wasn't there we'd let ourselves in with the spare key under the flowerpot outside the back door. Emmet was highly skilled at stealing watches. He only did it out of habit, and he always gave them back. He'd normally steal our watches on the way in and give them back on the way out.
   At the end of each performance, Maeve would give us something as a sign of her appreciation. Sometimes she gave us money or a bottle of whiskey. Sometimes she gave us a stuffed pheasant or a chocolate hammer. One evening she told us she had a special surprise for us. She gave us a map with a red X marked on it. She said, "When ye get there, take four paces from the back door and start digging. Be very careful opening what ye find. Ye don't want to break what's inside."
   We weren't expecting to find a house because the location marked by the X was in the middle of the woods, but the map did lead us to the ruins of a small house. It was surrounded by trees. The crumbling stone walls were being engulfed by moss. The roof had long gone.
   Jimmy took four paces from where the back door used to be. He found himself standing in between two trees. We started digging there, and we hadn't been digging for long when we found a bag. There was a small bronze box in it. At the front of the box we saw a tiny keyhole. We remembered what she had said about being careful opening it, so we decided to take it back to Chadwick's house rather than breaking it open with a shovel.
   It was nearly dark by the time we left the woods. On the way home we saw a man walking towards us on the road. He was having trouble walking in a straight line. It was Emmet, and he was drunk on love, as well as on alcohol. He told us about how he had fallen in love with a woman called Sinead. They were perfect for each other, he said. The only potential obstacle was his hobby, which was eating biscuits in bed. He couldn't marry any woman who'd have a problem with him eating biscuits in bed. If she was less than fully supportive it would spoil his enjoyment of the biscuits. He was trying to work up the courage to tell her about it. Chadwick suggested telling her about his habit of stealing watches as well. Emmet said, "I've stolen her watch often enough for her to have guessed that one by now."
   Jimmy wished him many years of happiness with Sinead. There were tears in his eyes as he shook Jimmy's hand. He walked on again without saying another word, and we continued on our walk to Chadwick's house.
   "He really must be in love," Jimmy said. "He forgot to steal my watch."
   "I was convinced he was stealing it when he was shaking your hand," Chadwick said.
   Jimmy suddenly stopped walking and said, "He stole the box from my coat pocket!"
   "His mother must have told him about the present," I said. "And he didn't want us to have it."
   We ran back down the road. Soon we saw Emmet up ahead, but he was running as well. We spent most of that night chasing him, and we nearly caught him a few times but he always managed to get away. We had him surrounded in a pub when he was singing a song, but everyone joined our attempt to catch him because it seemed like fun, and he managed to get away in the melee.
   In the morning we went to Maeve's house. We didn't expect Emmet to be there, so we let ourselves in through the back door, and we went upstairs to Maeve's room. We were in the middle of telling her what had happened when she stopped us. She reached under her pillow and took out the bronze box we had retrieved from the woods. She took a set of keys from a hook over her head and she used the smallest key to open the box. There was a gold brooch inside.
   "I'm sorry about this little charade," she said. "I meant for Emmet to steal it from ye. It was the only way I could get my brooch."
   Chadwick said, "Why didn't you just get him to go into the woods and dig it up himself?"
   "He's afraid of the woods. It goes back to when he was a child. You have to be very careful about what you say to children. I regret telling him about the woodland monster who thinks people are teapots. I've been trying to get this brooch for years. I didn't trust anyone to get it for me because I was afraid they'd steal the contents. Ye wouldn't steal the contents if ye thought ye owned the box and everything in it. As I said, I'm sorry I had to do it like this, but I intend to repay ye for everything ye've done. I have a present for ye in the box on top of the wardrobe."
   There was a metal detector in the box. After a few hours sleep, we went back to the woods in the afternoon and we used the metal detector to search the ground around the ruins of the house. Emmet was in the house. When we asked him how he'd managed to overcome his fear of the woods he said, "I haven't overcome it at all. I've just developed a greater fear of what's outside the woods. Sinead would never think of looking for me in here. I told her about the biscuits, and she said she didn't mind at all. She had something she wanted to tell me as well. Her hobby is biting insects, just to see what they taste like. I said to her, 'Surely you'd know what an insect tastes like after tasting just one member of that species.' But no, she said. They're like snowflakes. Each one is different. If she was eating insects in bed, it would ruin my enjoyment of the biscuits."
   We spent a few days searching around the ruins of the house. We found some old coins and a gun. Emmet was there all the time. Chadwick suspected that Sinead had come up with the story about the insects just to get rid of him after hearing about his hobby. She didn't seem to be making any effort to find him. But we didn't say anything to Emmet. We left him there in the woods, terrified of what might be lurking in the woods and slightly more terrified of what lay beyond.

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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