Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Rags to Riches

   Max and Barbara were just about to go to bed on Christmas Eve when the doorbell rang. Max opened the door, but there was no one outside. A basket had been abandoned on the doorstep, and when he opened it he found a caveman sleeping inside.
   Max and Barbara brought the basket into the house and they put it near the fireplace. When the caveman woke up he was terrified at first. He grabbed a candlestick to use as a weapon, and he started eating the candle. Barbara won his trust by offering him food that tasted better than a candle. She was ready to attack him with the candlestick when he decided that the candle tasted better than her pudding, but he melted her heart when he cried tears of joy as he ate her Christmas cake. By the end of their dinner on the following day, the caveman was completely at ease with his surroundings.
   They called him Adam. They gave him a bath and a new set of clothes. They shaved his beard and they cut his hair. Barbara started teaching him how to speak and how to read. Adam was a very quick learner. He was reading novels within months, and by the summer he was more articulate than all of the neighbours, which was something he liked to boast about. This didn't go down too well amongst the neighbours. Resentment towards him was growing, and he was often getting into arguments.
   One day he got into an argument with a man known as Hog. It emanated from a discussion about global warming. Adam would have found it much easier to win the argument if Hog had known what they were arguing about. It wasn't long before their argument descended into a fight, and their fight soon descended into a political rally. Adam made an impassioned speech in favour of global warming. Or maybe it was against global warming. He had achieved such a mastery of political oration that he could be passionately in favour of the thing he was fervently against.
   An election was called. These are some of the election posters:

   Adam won the election, thanks largely to his skill as an orator. He fulfilled his duties to the best of his ability. No one could deny that he was an effective leader, but he still managed to make enemies, partly because of his habit of boasting about his talents and partly because of his inability to understand how money worked. He paid for everything in pigeons. These pigeons were pets, but some of them were dead. It can be disheartening when you're expecting payment for goods or a service you've provided and you get a box instead of money, and when you look into the box you see a dead pigeon in its pyjamas.
   His enemies came up with a plan to bring him down. They hired actors to pose as wealthy businessmen. These actors met Adam, and he agreed to take some very well-dressed pigeons in exchange for political favours. The meeting was secretly filmed. Adam's enemies promised him that the film would remain a secret if he resigned, and he agreed.
   An election was held to find Adam's replacement, and Hog won, but he was completely out of his depth. He needed help, so he made peace with Adam (he held out an olive branch in the form of a Christmas cake). Hog hired his former adversary as an advisor. He paid Adam in pigeons. It worked out for the best for both of them. Hog had a seemingly limitless supply of dead pigeons, and for Adam it was a very well-paid job.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


A Box of Red Apples

   I have to keep an eye out for my aunt, Sophie. Every time she sees a box full of red apples she gets very excited. She'll be consumed by giddiness. There's nothing wrong with getting very excited, but sometimes in this state she'll get dizzy and fall over, or she'll make an extravagant purchase that she'll regret later. People who specialise in selling things you'll regret buying have figured out that they can sell almost anything to Sophie as long as they show her a box of red apples first.
   There are a few things she can do to calm down. One is to go to see Trevor, who whispers tuneless songs with indecipherable lyrics, occasionally gently strumming a guitar. Sophie closes her eyes as she listens to these songs and she imagines flying through the air over mountains and forests. This doesn't always calm her down because sometimes she imagines flying over an orchard with trees full of red apples.
   She can also go under her bed to calm down, but this doesn't always work either. The drunks hiding under her bed will promise to take her to Switzerland, but the last time the drunks went to Switzerland they just went to the other end of the bed. In fairness, it is an exceptionally big bed. There's a casino under there, but it's run by drunks. They love watching the red snakes of light left behind by the rolling dice.
   The last time she saw a box of red apples she went into a cathedral. She put on her favourite gloves, and then she danced, a dance enhanced by her hair, which seemed to have a life of its own. The man who invented a leaf-tester expressed his disapproval. She unleashed a vicious tirade against his leaf-tester. She spoke about all the monkeys it must have killed. The only appropriate response he could think of was to hire people who could fit entire cabbages into their mouths. He got them to stand in front of her, open their mouths as wide as they could, which was very wide indeed, and then scream. Unfortunately, the scream was nowhere near as impressive as the capacity of their mouths. She laughed at them. She thanked him for providing so much entertainment. He tried to pretend that he had intended to provide her with entertainment. He offered to take her to the theatre to entertain her further. They've spent a lot of time together ever since then.
   "Can I have a word with you?"
   Yes, of course.
   "I was concerned when I heard you mention the drunks under your aunt's bed. I don't think you should leave them on their own under there. A security guard is needed, and I'd like to apply for the position."
   What experience do you have?
   "For ten years I worked as a security guard in a storeroom full of crockery and English men determined to break every piece of crockery in the place. You'd need nerves of steel to last a day in that job. I lasted ten years."
   That's very impressive. Of course, I'll have to ask my aunt first, but I'll certainly recommend you for the post.
   "Thank you very much indeed."
   You're welcome.
   The man who invented a leaf-tester won a lifetime's supply of cooks. Before he won this prize he used to get through a cook a week. It was difficult to know how many he'd need for the rest of his life because there was always a chance that a cook would poison him instead of walking out. But his life expectancy improved greatly when Sophie started cooking for him. She cooks for his cooks as well, and now they stay around for much longer.
   Do you think I should catch one of those cats who scratch Mrs. Hooley's bin and put it in the cupboard where the builders are hiding?
   "Absolutely out of the question. What you need is a security guard. Obviously I can't do the job myself while I'm under the bed, but my brother could do it. I took him under my wing in the storeroom. I showed him the ropes, and how to get around the law if you want to use the ropes."
   "I'll say it to my aunt. I've heard some strange noises coming from under her sink. Do you know anyone who could investigate?"
   "You should definitely consider getting a security guard for under the sink."
   There are artists under there.
   "Then it's absolutely imperative that you get a security guard for under the sink. I have another brother, he's a bit strange, but he'd be ideal for the job."
   I have some artists in my attic.
   "Well now, I have another brother, but... Let's just leave it at 'I have another brother'."
   Do you think I should go home to check on the artists?
   "That's exactly what you should be doing. And if anyone asks, I don't have another brother."
   I'll go now. Feel free to say whatever you want to say while I'm gone. Goodbye.
   "Say? To say whatever I want to say?... I don't know if I could say anything. Have I ever really said anything in my life? I mean, I talk and use words and all that, but it's not exactly the same thing, is it? I drew a picture of a cowboy last night. I could show you that but... You probably wouldn't like it. Now that I think about it, I really should be going as well. I was showing my brother how not to use the gas cooker earlier and... I really should go."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


The Man with the Greyhound

   Clive will stand over there by the window and he'll tell us when he sees the man with the greyhound. He was supposed to be here at seven. If he doesn't come... We'll just have to wait here. But anyway, Colum, what were you saying about your trousers?
   "Have you ever wondered where your trousers go when you're asleep? I certainly have. To satisfy my curiosity I set up night-vision cameras around my house to see what my trousers were up to. This was how I discovered that a woman was breaking into my house every night to put biscuits into my tuba. I had been wondering why there were always biscuits in my tuba, but I was never as curious about this as I was about my trousers. I decided to stay up one night and confront her. She arrived at two o' clock in the morning and I asked her what she was up to with the biscuits. She said she was under the impression that I wanted her to put biscuits into my tuba. She was furious with me for leaving her with this false impression for so long. I thought the best thing for both of us would be a good night's sleep, so I suggested that we meet again at noon on the following day. She agreed to this.
   "Our second meeting was much better than the first. She had a nasty temper but I had a Swiss Roll. If this was 'paper, scissors, stone', she'd have the stone to throw at me but I'd have the paper to wrap the stone. My Swiss Roll counteracted her temper, so we got along very well. I liked the fact that she was capable of such anger, as long as she didn't direct it at me. She did everything whole-heartedly, including doing nothing. She could do nothing with terrifying intensity.
   "We spent a lot of time together, often doing little more than nothing. She lost her temper on a fairly regular basis but I always managed to find a piece of paper to cover the stone. One day she asked me how tall you'd have to be if you wanted to be Superman. To answer her question I went to the library to do some research. After reading numerous books and papers I came back to her with this answer: 'I don't know'. I told her that not knowing things gets a bad press, but it's much better than attempting to convince yourself that you know something just for the sake of knowing. I'd recommend not knowing to anyone. I've been happier since I finally accepted that I didn't have the faintest idea where I was going. I told her that there was beauty in being oblivious.
   "She said, 'I can show you something that's even more beautiful than the fight we witnessed between that Labrador and the poodle.' I asked her if it was Leary's rocket car. I regretted saying those words before I finished saying them. I heard myself talking and I thought, 'That eejit is saying something guaranteed to make her lose her temper.' But I needn't have worried. She was intrigued by the rocket car. I told her about Leary. Whenever he needs to know something he'll ask his mother, the poet. She never fails to provide an answer, even in areas she knows little about. She gave him a very comprehensive answer when he asked her about how to build a rocket car, but he needed to find more technical information..."
   "The man with the greyhound is here," Clive says.
   Okay. We better be off so. To end this thing, here's an image showing what Colum's trousers do at night.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Before the Explosion

   Karen entered his life in an explosion. When the smoke and dust had cleared she attempted to introduce herself, but she failed because she felt that she hadn't existed before the explosion. Details needed to be collected that, when assembled, would form a person. He helped her collect those details. He suggested that she was twenty-eight years old (actually he thought she looked thirty-three, but he always subtracted five years when estimating the age of women -- it's something his uncle taught him, and his uncle faints when you accuse him of being a table). He also suggested that she should be a travel writer who solves crimes in her spare time.
   They went away to A, B and C. When they had seen A and been sick at C, they returned to be beside the B-side where they decided to stay. She, in her role as a travel writer, collected details or attributes to attribute to A, B and C so they'd appear as real places in the minds of her readers, and in her own mind. 'A' had thousands of eyes that lit up in the night. The heads and bodies that acted as hosts for the eyes remained invisible in the darkness.
   Most of her first travel book was about B, because that's where she decided to stay, and she started work on another book about B.
   Representatives from A and C sat at a round table. Anti-B sentiment had been growing ever since Karen's book was published. She had been responsible for the busiest tourist season ever at B. The representatives from A and C arranged this meeting to discuss their response. The meeting began when delegations from D and E arrived. D and E were angry that they hadn't even been mentioned before this. Also present were someone from J, a cat and a bucket with a face drawn on it.
   "Tourism is way down in C," the representative from C said. "The press say it's because of the smell, which admittedly is particularly bad this year, but we know it's because of all the focus on B."
   "It's all Karen's fault," a member of D's delegation said. "We need to discredit her. I suggest we publish a travel book about her. We'll portray her as a destination you'd want to avoid at all costs."
   Karen was busy at work on her second book. She was writing about some of the people at B. Two chapters were devoted to the nocturnal activities of this man.

Have you seen
this man?

   She also wrote about Dahlia, a young woman who lived with her aunt and her uncle. She had been derived from a single grey line on a white wall. The line was added so that it looked like the outline of a woman, and the outline of a woman grew into a woman over the years. The wall has been blank ever since Dahlia left it.
   "I've never met my parents," Dahlia told Karen. "The people who know who I really am can blend in with the wallpaper. Sometimes I think I see them out of the corner of my eye."
   Karen wrote about Dahlia's Aunt Emily as well. The wind blows right through her, so if you're looking for shelter she's useless.

This is Dahlia's Aunt Emily:

   Many researchers were trying to figure out who Dahlia's parent were, but when Karen was writing her book, none of these researchers had died, met an omniscient God who was able to provide them with the information they sought and return them to the land of the living in the form of a life-impaired ghost, a form that would allow them to resume contact with their former colleagues and say, "Dahlia's parents are..." The best they'd been able to achieve was the death of four researchers. It was unknown why none of these four had returned as ghosts with the answer to their question.
   The travel book about Karen came out shortly after her second book was published. It was one long diatribe sponsored by A, C, D and E. But their book was overshadowed by three biographies of Karen published at about the same time.

These are the authors of her biographies:

   The three books came up with three different stories of her life before the explosion, and they all seemed far-fetched. In one of them she was a famous submariner. But the books had one thing in common: a house in the country where she grew up.
   She went to this house. There were thirty-four rooms in it but there was only one occupant: an old woman who didn't mind the ghosts. Karen spent the evening sitting by the fireside, listening to the woman's stories, hoping to find out something about her past.
   As midnight approached, a ghost arrived. When Karen saw him she said, "You're one of the researchers, aren't you? You worked on finding out who Dahlia's parents are. And now you know."
   This sounded much better than the truth, which was that he used to steal pigs for a living. The ghost said, "Ah, yeah. Dahlia's parents are... a traffic warden and... a baker. But I really came here to tell you about your past. You're thirty-one years old. You've been arrested over two-hundred times. Offences range from impersonating a policeman to impersonating a policewoman to stealing a giraffe from a zoo..."
   A long list of misdemeanours and failings followed. If Karen had been listening she might have detected the involvement of A, C, D and E, with some input from J, the cat and the bucket. But she fainted when she heard that she was thirty-one years old. She was attended to by these nurses:

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Iris explains why she can't help you right now.

   I'm afraid I'm busy at the moment. I'm conducting an experiment with spiders to answer a question the bus driver asked me. I thought he was finally going to ask the question everyone had been expecting: "Will you, Iris, the love of my life, marry me and make me the second happiest bus driver in town? Because obviously you don't expect me to be happier than Larry. Do you? No one could be happier than Larry. Everything always goes his way. He found a birthday cake yesterday and that tattoo on his face just fell off. He makes everyone feel unhappy. With you, I'd be much happier than all those drivers who spend their lunch breaks cultivating a veil of depression so thick you can't see them behind it. Words could never come close to describing the beautiful oceans of happiness you'd bring to my life, except perhaps to say that they're not as beautiful as Larry's oceans. I hate Larry."
   But no. He didn't ask that question. He got down on one knee and said, "How many spiders does it take to screw in a light bulb?"
   I've prepared an answer for when he finally proposes. It's a twenty-seven-page 'yes' that doesn't actually contain the word 'yes', but he'd be left in no doubt about my desire to be his wife after hearing the words 'I, Iris, the love of your life, who uncovered her true feelings while comforting the baker who worries about what happens to the moon during the day, who can't ignore his fear that bullies will beat it up, and it will rise in the night sky with black eyes...'
   But we'd be here for another twenty-seven pages if I continued with that sentence. I'm very tempted to tear each page into tiny pieces. My sister tried to set them on fire, and I might well have let her if I didn't have such an aversion to seeing my sister enjoying herself (I'm doing my best to overcome that). Thanks to his latest question I spent the entire afternoon collecting spiders. I convinced my sister to help me. It wasn't absolutely essential to get her help, but I knew she wouldn't enjoy it so I asked her.
   After collecting spiders in her garden, she suggested we go to see our uncle Ronald. His house is full of spiders. He's never bothered removing them or their webs. So we walked through the fields to his house and he was only too happy for us to take some of the spiders, as long as we didn't disturb the dust.
   After collecting another thirty spiders I thought I'd have enough for my experiment. Ronald offered to drive us home in his new 'car'. He's been coming up with bizarre inventions ever since his brain surgery. The operation was carried out by barber shop brain surgeons, who perform surgery by singing songs. Each scalpel-sharp note is delivered with precision. No anaesthetic is needed. They'll cut your hair as well, but you'd be wise to get an anaesthetic for this.
   His new car was wind-powered. He'd attached a sail to the top of it. The sail was made out of old red curtains. We were expecting an enjoyable journey through the fields, but the wind was much stronger than we thought, and the car was much lighter than it looked. We were carried away by the wind. As we spun around I saw a terrifying swirl of red curtains, blue sky and white clouds.
   The next thing I knew, we were being arrested by the wild police, so we must have landed where the wild police grow. I thought we were going to end up in jail, but as we were being led away we met Walter, and he rescued us. He told the police that he saw Richie hiding in a tree, looking as if he was just about to commit something, most probably a crime. Richie is a compulsive criminal. He walks off cliffs just to break the laws of gravity, and his will to offend is so great that it counteracts the murderous gravitational pull straining to drag him onto the rocks. Even when he's caught unawares by a murderous push from his ex-wife, he still doesn't fall.
   The wild police were excited when they heard about Richie hiding in the tree. They let us go so they could attempt to land the biggest fish of all. We were mere minnows compared to Richie. I expressed my deepest gratitude to Walter for rescuing us. He just laughed and said it was nothing. He always laughs and says it's nothing, even when it's patently something.
   He told us that he was looking forward to going home to his wife. He said he loves the way he can make her laugh simply by shaking something out of his beard. He feels as if a lifetime has passed since he'd try to impress women by talking about all the live chickens he was going to eat. Part of me doesn't want to touch him with a barge pole (I have a pole at home that I use when I'm faced with no choice but to touch someone I don't want to touch), but another part of me wants to stroke his beard. Right now, this latter part is the bigger one. I wish the bus driver could be more like Walter. I'll prepare a report on the spiders, but it certainly won't be longer than twenty pages.

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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