Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Mr. Thompson's Station

   The trains are waiting. Passengers must go to them, seeking them out at their nameless station. In my uncle's photos, Mr. Thompson, the station master, looks as if his mind is elsewhere, possibly contemplating the whereabouts of Mr. Bird, the driver who took leave of his duties to empty his trousers of the pebbles, sunflower seeds, foreign currency, bottle tops and paperback books he had amassed in his pockets on long summer days. That was two years before the photos were taken. Surely he would have extracted every item from his pockets in two years, Mr. Thompson thought.
   Mr. Bird found that he could fulfil his duties simply by waiting for a passenger to arrive, and no passengers ever arrived, so he could work from home. But he wasn't at home. Mr. Thompson checked. He walked down the short winding path through the trees to the driver's cottage, but no one was there, or at least no one opened the front door when Mr. Thompson knocked. He didn't go around the back. Returning to the station was the only way to allay the anxiety he felt. It was easy to get lost, even on the shortest of outings. You could try finding the tracks if you got lost, and following them back to the station, but they had a way of confusing even the most astute inspectors of rail lines. Mr. Kelly, the most eminent of all inspectors, was left disconsolate by the bewildering junctions. Rail lines had always cooperated with him in the past, willingly submitting to his scrutiny. Hostility from train tracks came as a shock. He took it personally. It was much worse than the time his brother told him he had the charm of a sewer disturbed by a storm. He was used to being offended by his family. The sewer insult had come shortly after his brother had tried to frame him for an act of vandalism on their grandfather's caravan. His career went on a downward spiral after his failure to conquer the tracks around Mr. Thompson's station. He devoted an increasing amount of time to weaving the intricate plots his brother would get tangled up in, and to the unravelling of his brother's plots against him. A closer relationship with his family failed to compensate for the harm done to his bond with train tracks.
   There was a good chance that Mr. Bird had gone to Flora's cafe, which was located half a mile away at the end of a lane that was gradually being engulfed by brambles. Mr. Thompson would never travel so far away from his station because of his fear of being engulfed by the outside world. This fate may well have befallen Mr. Bird. He'd have gone to the cafe to exchange some of the items in his pockets for tea and cakes. Flora would accept foreign currency and the informal currency of corks, hair pins, bottle tops, buttons and pebbles. The lighter load on his return journey would have allowed him to let out the spring in his step, so long a captive beneath his cumbersome trousers. His light-hearted mood wouldn't have lasted long. The realisation that he was lost would have been made unbearable by his knowledge of the station's reluctance to reveal its whereabouts. Mr. Bird was a resourceful man. He would have devised outstanding ploys to track down the station, but it would have resisted his best efforts.
   My uncle was a spy. He was self-employed. He had a great facility for seeing things that others would miss. These are some of the things he witnessed during his career: elastic light bulbs; astronauts who were afraid to leave their attic; a magazine editor you could fold up and fit into a handbag; glasshouses that fell to pieces every time they sneezed; a castle overrun by feet; a superhero who got his strength from eating hair. One summer day my uncle was walking through a thick forest in search of a greyhound when he came across the train station. It was typical of him to stumble across something so elusive. He knew he had struck gold, and for the next few weeks he remained concealed in his hiding place amongst the trees. He observed the operation of the station and he took photos of the principal characters. The operation revolved around Mr. Thompson's concern about the absence of his driver, and my uncle was there to see the concern become panic when a passenger arrived. It was Mrs. Dennigan. She was dragging a bulging suitcase behind her on the platform. Mr. Thompson watched in horror for several minutes as she inched towards the ticket office. His nightmares had left the relative safety of the stage inside his head and they were going on tour.
   But just before she reached the ticket office, Mr. Bird returned. He looked different after his trousers had been emptied. A few awkward items had been very reluctant to leave, and that's why he had been away for so long. Mrs. Dennigan said she was returning from a visit to her sister's house. After a spring clean, her sister was going to throw out many things she didn't need, and Mrs. Dennigan had rescued most of them from the bin. This explained the obesity of her suitcase. When she was at the station she realised that she didn't need these things enough to be burdened by them on her return journey, so she removed them. Mr. Bird needed them enough to be burdened by them in his trousers. He managed to find room for a broken tape recorder, a feather duster, a glass jar full of old pens and a cracked tea cup, amongst other things. The feather duster's disappearance into his trousers was as entertaining for the performer as it was for the audience.

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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