|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Toby can think of two things wrong with the claim that school days are the happiest of your life. He only spent one day in school and it wasn't very happy. The only things he learnt from his formal education were that he didn't need to spend longer than a day at school, that this day wasn't as enjoyable as a day spent watching a shed leaning to one side, and that pet rabbits don't like being called after infamous historical figures. He was nineteen when he had his first and last day in school. He was much taller than the other children. They laughed at him, and they made fun of his height. They asked him if it was snowing on top of his head. They thought this was hilarious, and they wouldn't drop the snow joke. It expanded all the time, like a snowball rolling down a mountainside. By lunchtime they were asking him if the skiers relaxing in the chalet on his head were aware that the Yeti in the leather jacket had found a can of petrol and he was building a bonfire outside. They were, Toby said.
The class went on a field trip in the afternoon. Toby thought he'd enjoy this, but it only gave his classmates more opportunities to make jokes about his height. It wasn't long before the skiers were fleeing in terror down the mountainside. The class walked through actual fields on their field trip. Toby wanted to point out that he could walk through fields any day, and on any other day he wouldn't be ridiculed by kids, unless he was with his nephews. The teacher told them how to tell the difference between dandelions, buttercups and daisies. She spoke about the insects and animals that live in hedgerows. Toby didn't think it was necessary to say that giraffes don't live in hedgerows, but she did, and she explained why giraffes don't live in hedgerows. She repeatedly explained why a Yeti wouldn't live in a hedgerow, but only because the kids kept asking her.
The teacher told them to close their eyes and listen to the songs of the birds. Toby closed his eyes and thought about a shed collapsing, but his thoughts were drawn to the songs he heard. One song sounded familiar, and it wasn't coming from a bird. It was his uncle Ken, who was singing a Percy French song. Ken had sold his house years earlier and he started living in hedgerows because he believed that all houses would fall down eventually. Toby had tried to convince him that this only applied to sheds, but he wouldn't listen. He built shelters that were completely concealed by the stones, bushes, wild flowers and weeds in the hedgerows.
Toby's classmates and his teacher heard the sound as well, and it didn't take them long to locate its source. Ken came out of his shelter when he realised he had visitors. He was delighted to see his nephew in a school uniform. "You'll have a new star pupil," he said to Toby's teacher. "I've been telling him for years he should go to school. He has brains. I don't know where he got them from. It wasn't from his parents. His father fell in love with his mother when they first met. He thought long and hard about how he'd win her over. He kept smelling dogs until he found the smelliest one, and then he gave it to her. You'd think she'd have taken a step back and said, 'There's something I need to be doing,' and then run away. But no. She agreed to marry him instead. The time they spent together during their engagement was shaped by his need to avoid the irate owners of smelly dogs..."
Toby realised that his life story was being told. Because the audience was so young, some details about how his life began would have to be omitted, but sooner or later Ken would get to the story about how Toby and his brother set up their own business selling cakes made out of mud. The kids were listening intently to Ken, and so was their teacher. Toby came to the conclusion that school wasn't for him, and a swift exit was called for. He ran to the nearest gate and he tried to jump over it. He had successfully jumped over gates thousands of times in the past, but his movements were restricted by the school uniform, and this attempt proved to be unsuccessful. His foot hit the top of the gate and he landed on his head at the other side.
He didn't know how long he was out for, but when he regained consciousness he was surrounded by his classmates, his teacher and his uncle, and Ken had reached the story about how Toby and his brother built their own airplane, also out of mud. The school day was nearly over, so they had to return to their classroom. On the way there, Toby expected to be asked if the people on his head were attempting ski jumps that were beyond their ability, but the kids didn't say a word to him. They just looked at him with reverence, perhaps because of the success of the mud cake business or the spectacular failure of his jump. Despite this new-found respect, he still decided that school wasn't for him. He didn't think he'd be able to endure another lesson on why zoo animals don't live in hedgerows, and he had a good job in the bank to go back to.
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.
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