Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, February 02, 2010


One Day in Dugganascholar

   It was a beautiful morning in Dugganascholar, a small town sliding down a hillside to the river on the valley's floor. When Gerry opened the curtains a spring-mounted summer Saturday popped up to greet him and send him somersaulting out the door and down the hillside, a slow, leisurely somersault that included a breakfast break and a back flip when he slipped on spilt milk. There was no point crying on a day like this. He met his friends, Gavin and Lorcan, and they discussed the best way to spend the day. They could climb to the top of the hill to see the view and fall a-slow down a steep sleep and stop with a plop in the river at the bottom, or they could stay in the shade of the trees on the banks of the river and spend the day fly-swishing.
   They chose to laze with the trees and dream of a world where the 'have-not's have lots and the 'have's have nits, while all around them people of all shapes and sizes had found more industrious ways to pass the time. Dogs were digging for buried trousers. Kids were fighting boredom by carefully constructing tantrums and throwing them at each other. Mrs. Deasy was knitting with earthworms who'd find themselves re-incarnewted as creatures like frogs or mice. Sometimes she'd surprise everyone with a Labrador.
   A man called Gilbert met Gerry and his friends at the river and he told them he had a gardening job for them. Money would start them on the path between the 'have-not's and the 'have's, and it might help them do something about the nits, so they agreed to do the job. They followed Gilbert to his house.
   He showed them a plan for the garden. "My grandmother designed this," he said. "She became a garden-designer of renown. She gave me this plan twenty years ago but I never got around to implementing it during her lifetime. I kept putting it off and putting it off, and then she died, and I kept putting it off and putting it off and putting it off. And that brings us to today. I'm putting it off no longer. It's a beautiful design. If hundreds of monkeys were playing hundreds of rainbows they'd eventually produce a garden like this. Ye should have an advantage over monkeys because ye'll know what ye're doing."
   Gerry doubted that they'd have much of an advantage over monkeys, but he didn't say anything. They started work by digging a trench. There was a militaristic feel to the design. Gilbert said that this was because his grandmother kept having visions of him dying in a war.
   They were still digging in the afternoon when the clouds with dark-grey beards appeared and poured their contents into the trench. Gilbert came out to watch them work and listen to the sound of raindrops dripping down on his drumbrella, a growing breeze strumming the trees, becoming a storm. Gavin was exhausted. His brain displayed dream-like scenes. He saw things that looked like mechanical diggers and he had a feeling that these things actually existed, but he couldn't find the words to ask Gilbert about them. He always found shovels easier to use than words. Books caused aches and pains in his brain when he tried to read them. He'd throw them instead, but they only caused more headaches when people threw them back at him.
   When his shovel hit a metal box it took a while for him to realise he wasn't dreaming. Gerry had already opened the box by then. He found a key and a note for Gilbert. This note was from his grandmother. It congratulated him on finally getting around to creating the garden and it outlined how to collect his reward. He'd have to spend a night in an isolated haunted house, a place where people feared to put their feet unless their legs were long enough to keep their heads half a mile away. A ghost would point him towards the reward.
   Gilbert was overjoyed when he read the note. It all seemed slightly Scooby dubious to Gerry, but he insisted that himself and his friends get an equal share in the reward. Lorcan pocketed the key to strengthen their position in the negotiations. Gilbert was sorry he didn't get the mechanical digger, but he agreed to divide the treasure between the four of them because extricating the key would be tricky and he didn't want to be alone in the haunted house. He'd give them their share to avoid pick-pocketing, lock-picking or bucket-kicking.
   They went to this abandoned house at ten o' clock that night. Hours went by without so much as the gust of a ghost or the merest shadow of a shade, let alone the electric shock of unmistakable spectral activity. They drank beer and thank, thinked or thunk thoughts until they were slightly drunk (they're not entirely sure what they did to those thought-like things squirming around in their heads, but these things are dead now). At three o' clock in the morning, Gavin staggered to his foot and swayed unsteadily before he found the other foot just as he was about to fall flat on his pancake (he'd been busy in the kitchen while the others were dizzy with ideas dying in their heads). The sight of a wraith was written all over his face in words even he could read. A man in a see-through suit was descending the stairs. Fortunately, the man was see-through too, or else they might have had to flee, still not beerful enough not to be fearful of a man made of a faint light flaunting things that only worked as ornaments after death.
   They followed him into the wine cellar. He went through the door, but Lorcan had to open it with the key. This recently-deceased wraith had a scent of aftershave to make an impression in the afterlife. If he'd known his first job would involve writing words on Gavin's face he mightn't have bothered being buried in his Sunday best. Gavin's Saturday worst smelled as if it was concealing recently-deceased creatures. He might not have had any squirmy things to kill inside his head but there were plenty of them underneath his clothes.
   Their ghostly guide pointed at a stone protruding from the wall of the wine cellar. When Gilbert pushed the stone a secret door opened in the wall. It led them to a room full to the brim with paintings of cats, cases of whiskey and various other items that reflected Gilbert's grandmother's interests in life. They spent the rest of the night dividing their treasure.
   When Gilbert went home in the morning he noticed that a hole had been dug at the bottom of the trench in his garden. It could have been dogs digging for trousers, but maybe his grandmother had played a trick on him. She might have buried an even greater treasure underneath her note, something intended for his sister. The ghost could have visited Gilbert's sister before appearing at the haunted house, and informed her of the buried treasure.
   When his sister bought a sports car, Gilbert did his best to convince himself that it was just dogs. Digging for trousers.

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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