|Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.||
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
When Martin was young he always looked forward to getting a birthday present from his grandmother. These gifts were always things she'd made herself. Some were knitted and some were the result of many hours spent gluing pieces of paper together and attaching buttons to pipe cleaners. As he got older, when he had learnt to count the candles on his cake, these presents started to lose their appeal. When he grew too old for candles he was embarrassed by the sweaters, hats and homemade pen-holders sprouting pipe-cleaner necks, crepe paper heads and sad paperclip eyes. Most of the objects she made had faces and names like Floyd or Eddie. 'Barbara' was the name of the ashtray she gave him for his sixteenth birthday. It was meant to be no more than an ornament. She might have pointed this out if she'd known that he was a smoker and stupid enough to use a flammable ashtray.
When he was in his thirties and he was old enough for birthday candles again (though never more than three or four) he looked forward to his grandmother's gifts once again. It was the thought that counted, he realised. He had also realised that it was delusional to expect anyone to give him a present he might actually like. When his expectations were negligible, these handmade items became his favourite presents again.
For his thirty-fifth birthday she gave him a tea cosy. It came with a teapot to demonstrate how it worked. The teapot looked like an antique, and Martin wondered if it was valuable. One Saturday afternoon he took it to an antique shop to get it valued. There were no other customers in the shop when he went in. Two middle-aged men sat on chairs behind the counter. He thought they'd be delighted to have a customer, but when he took out the teapot and asked their opinion they weren't very helpful. They were straining so hard to be unhelpful that it would have been easier to be helpful.
At times like these, Martin wished he was a religious person so he could endure such trials with a peace of mind that would allow him to smile benevolently at the people he wanted to punch. But instead of a smile he looked as if he wanted to punch them. People like the men in the antique shop always seemed to enjoy inspiring this look in others, which increased Martin's desire to punch them, but he knew he couldn't do it. If he couldn't be like a serene monk who sees the love of God everywhere, he'd settle for being someone who doesn't have any qualms about punching people.
He went to see a friend of his called Brenda and he told her about his experience in the antique shop.
"That was probably their way of saying it's worthless junk," she said.
"They could have just said it. People like that really annoy me."
"Do what I do when shopkeepers annoy me."
"I'll do it for you."
She got a phone book and she found the number of the antique shop. She dialled the number, and when a man answered the phone she told him that she had recently inherited a house from an aunt whose passion in life was collecting antiques. "She wouldn't let anyone touch these things," Brenda said. "I've never had an interest in touching anything in that house. It all looks like junk to me, but then I'm no expert in these things. I just want to clear the house, so I'd pay you to get rid of her collection."
Martin could hear the man in the shop trying to hide his excitement. He said that himself and his colleague would assess the collection before deciding on the best course of action. She gave them an address. She told them that her uncle Christy would be there. They should tell him that Brenda sent them, and he'd show them the antiques.
Martin drove to the street where Christy lived. Brenda went with him. He parked near Christy's house, and shortly afterwards they saw the two men from the shop arrive. One of the men rang the doorbell. Christy opened the door, and he seemed to know what was going on as soon as they mentioned Brenda. He smiled broadly and he invited them in.
"What's he going to do to them?" Martin said to Brenda.
"Show them his model trains. He can spend hours droning on about his trains. People will humour him if they think they're going to make a killing on free antiques or books. A bookshop owner once spent three hours looking at the trains because he thought there was a collection of rare books about canals waiting at the end. He deserved it because I detected a sneer when I bought a Harry Potter book in his shop."
"Don't people get angry when they realise there's nothing for them at the end?"
"Yes, but it doesn't affect Christy in the slightest. He's never even remotely bothered when he irritates or infuriates other people, which is a great way to be. He's never bothered by anything."
"I'd love to be like that," Martin said. "That's what I need to aspire to."
They waited in the car for over two hours, but the antique experts still hadn't emerged from the house. Martin wanted to be there for their exit because he wanted to see how angry they'd be. Brenda said she'd go in to see how they were getting on.
She'd only been gone for a few minutes when she returned to the car and said, "Bad news, I'm afraid. They're inside happily playing with the trains. It turns out that they're really into model trains. I know you must be angry, but remember what you said earlier about wanting to be like Christy and never being bothered by anything. Now would be a good time to start."
Martin got out of the car. He slammed the door and walked across the street towards Christy's house. Brenda followed him. "Don't do anything stupid," she said.
He rang the doorbell. When Christy opened the door, Martin said, "Can I play with your trains, please?"
"Of course you can," Christy said. "The more the merrier."
Martin found the model trains very relaxing. He was glad he'd been able to overcome his reservations about admitting that he wanted to play with trains. This need to preserve an outward antipathy towards model trains had been an unwelcome presence in his life since he was ten. He promised to buy himself a present of a train set for his next birthday.
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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