|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
The Bird Trap
Jeremy often stays in his shed until dawn when he's working on one of his inventions. He enjoys these exhausting nightshifts because of the sense of achievement he gets when he switches on his latest machine and it does exactly what he wants it to do. His very first invention was an apple-cutting machine, which he made when he was ten. He knew he'd discovered his calling in life when demonstrated this machine to his family and he saw the sheer terror it inspired. Even his aunt Martha started praying, and she was normally impervious to fear. She had once stood her ground when she found herself in the path of a charging bull. She must have done a very good impression of an immovable object because the bull halted his charge and apologetically backed away. If he'd seen her bungee jumping or hang gliding he'd have realised just how movable she was.
He came up with many useful inventions in his teens. His machine for planting daffodil bulbs attracted a lot of attention in his home town, and it inspired hardly any terror. People started hiring him to build machines that would do the jobs they couldn't do with their bare hands and a hammer. When he was seventeen, Mrs. Hanratty asked him to make a bird trap. She wanted to catch the blackbird who regularly visited her garden. "I'd really like to look that bird in the eye," she said. "He seems like such an intelligent chap. And I can see that he's thinking exactly the same thing when he's looking at me."
Jeremy designed a trap and built it in Mrs. Hanratty's back garden. The blackbird would be lured into the trap by food, which was in a shallow hole at the centre of a board on the ground. The board was hidden by a layer of leaves. Sensors were attached to the board to detect the tread of a blackbird. A cage would silently drop from above as the bird consumed the food. The cage was cunningly disguised as a hammock that hung from a tree, just in case the bird said to himself, "The food under that cage is tempting, but there's something about that cage I don't like." As it dropped to the ground, the fake hammock would turn over to become a cage. If the bird was clever enough to be suspicious of a hammock, then Jeremy would need a much better trap.
He set up the trap on a Friday evening, and he came back on the Saturday morning to see if the blackbird had been caught. He went around to the back of Mrs. Hanratty's house. He could see something moving in the cage, but when he lifted it he found Mrs. Hanratty's cat, Petra. He suspected that his trap had actually imprisoned the blackbird. Petra looked as if she'd just had a good meal, and on the ground there were black feathers and blood, the very things Jeremy's family most associated with his inventions.
Mrs. Hanratty would be upset if she found out that his trap had led to the death of the creature she was looking forward to having a meeting of minds with. She would have only ever seen the bird from a distance, so there was a good chance she wouldn't notice if he gave her another blackbird instead. He put some more food into the trap and he set it up again. He called up all of his friends and he told them he'd pay twenty euros to the first person to bring him a living blackbird.
He was lucky he had so many friends who had experience of trapping birds and animals. Gareth won the race. It took him two hours to catch a blackbird. He said that all he had needed to catch it was a glove puppet and an egg cup.
Jeremy put this bird into a cage and gave it to Mrs. Hanratty. She didn't notice that she was meeting a complete stranger. After a few minutes of nodding at the bird she turned to her cat, who was sleeping on a sofa, and said, "It's dinner time, Petra. Look what the nice young man caught for you."
"Surely you're not going to let the cat eat the bird," Jeremy said.
"She's been looking forward to it for weeks."
"If I'd known I'd been hired to catch cat food I'd never have agreed to do the job."
"I don't believe you'd really be so cruel to my cat. I think I'll leave the two of them in the bathroom. It'll be easier to clean up the mess in there."
She put the bird back into the cage and took it to the bathroom. She was expecting to find Petra close behind her, but the cat wasn't there. "She's getting very lazy these days," Mrs. Hanratty said. "I suppose I'll have to lift her in as well."
While she was gone, Jeremy took the cage outside and he set the bird free. Mrs. Hanratty came out and asked him what had happened to Petra's dinner. Jeremy pointed to a tree and said, "It's waiting to be eaten on that branch."
She was angry with Jeremy, but he insisted he had done the right thing. As they were arguing, the blackbird spotted some nice food on the ground, and he wasn't suspicious of the hammock above it. Mrs. Hanratty was amazed to see him being trapped.
"I can't believe he's stupid enough to fall for the same trick twice," she said. "I'm not sure I want Petra to be eating a bird like that. I've lost all respect for him now. There's something very refined about eating a creature you respect, like a deer or a chimpanzee. Crows are supposed to be intelligent. Will you catch a crow for Petra?"
"I'll pay you double what I paid for the blackbird trap."
He was tempted because he didn't like crows, but he refused.
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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.
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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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