Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, April 27, 2010


The Match Report

   The match began with a murder. One of the goalkeepers was found dead in his own net, much to the consternation of the other players. The referee seemed unmoved by the situation. He spent most of the first half strolling around the pitch with a cigarette in his mouth instead of a whistle, while all around him the match went on at a frantic pace. Despite his casual demeanour, he had solved the case before half-time. The murderer was the prime suspect, a striker who had been involved in a long-running feud with the goalkeeper. It started with a disagreement over what brains are made of and whether or not you could make your own brain. The striker had no qualms about killing the goalkeeper on his own team.
   Many people in the crowd were wondering why they should bother staying around for the second half, but a score shortly after half-time kept the spectators interested. One of the wingers was found dead in suspicious circumstances. The ref took notes as the corpse was being removed from the field on a stretcher, and the match resumed.
   An hour into the game, everyone was distracted by an off-the-ball incident in the penalty area. Two opponents were arguing about how far away from someone you'd have to be to seriously injure them with a turnip. The ball was in a glass case just outside the other penalty area. After the ref had settled the argument, attention was returned to the ball, but the case was empty. The ball had been stolen.
   The ref consulted with his linesmen, but they hadn't seen anything. Some spectators chanted accusations against the two players who had argued about the turnip. They were accused of colluding to create a diversion while the thief stole the ball.
   The crowd were in uproar when one of the strikers was murdered in the penalty area, but it turned out that he wasn't dead at all, and the ref booked him for diving. The player insisted that he really had been murdered, and he pointed to a wound where he said he'd been stabbed in the back, but this wound was on his ankle, and no murder weapon was found. The game went on.
   After a seemingly innocuous foul, the ref spent a long time questioning the centre-half who was the last person seen with the winger before his murder. After making some notes in his notebook, he took out a yellow card. Near the end of the game, the centre-half committed a much worse foul on the edge of the penalty area. All of the players converged on the scene of the foul, and a brawl seemed imminent. The ref arrived to restore order. The opposition were calling for the centre-half to be sent off. After looking in his notebook, the ref took out the red card, but instead of showing it to the centre-half he sent off one of the midfield players from the other team. He identified this man as the murderer of the winger and the mastermind of the theft of the ball. The ref claimed that the winger had found out about the plan to steal the ball and he was using this information to blackmail the thief. The midfield player had made two payments to the winger, but he couldn't afford to pay any more because he needed the money to pay the mothers of his illegitimate children, so he killed the winger.
   The murderer was defended by his manager in the press conference after the game. According to the manager, the ref had shown a complete lack of common sense in producing the red card. He should have taken into account the astonishing quantity of illegitimate children amassed by the player. Some of those children were decorated with a meagre amount of diamonds, and they had to use butlers who had been rejected by the children of other players. These reject butlers came in strange shapes and everything they touched would start growing hair.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


My Reports

I can spend a week in a room,
scraping tiny pieces of wallpaper
from the wall,
and putting them into a briefcase.
The people who come
to tie the day's shoelaces
always offer me advice
or make observations about my life.
They told me the tale of the day
they went to see the man
who had an old pram
that he pushed around
and filled with all the junk he found,
and he made sculptures
out of the junk.
His house was full of these sculptures,
as were the gardens in front of
and behind his house.
They said I was being subconsciously influenced
by this man,
that this is why I was putting bits of paper
into the briefcase.
What do they expect me
to do with the papers?
Don't they know I'm writing reports?

Alex came rushing here to see me.
This is my report on what he said:

   He went for a walk on the beach after his dinner in the evening.

   'Stunning' was the only word he could think of to describe the view on that evening. He's used to only being able to think of one word. Sometimes it's 'cornflake' and sometimes it's 'wind'.
   He saw a man emerge from a house and disappear into the sea. Three minutes later, this man emerged from the sea. He was wearing a suit and tie. His clothes were dry by the time he had finished lighting his pipe. "Now," he said, "down to business. Which one of you is Alex?"
   Alex put up his hand.
   "Very good," the stranger said. "A hand in the air. Nothing like the old hand in the air to say 'It's me' or 'I know who killed Mrs. Blank' or 'I submit to your will'."
   "I don't submit to your will and if you're suggesting I had anything to do with the death of Mrs. Blank you're barking up the wrong tree. I've never heard of the woman before in my life."
   "She doesn't exist. Even before she died she didn't exist. I'm not expecting you to 'submit' to my will. I'm merely making a simple request. You work for Mrs. Killarney, don't you?"
   "Would you mind taking me to see her?"
   "I suppose I could do that much."

The man next door wants me to write
about the straitjackets he made for daffodils
to stop them dancing.
My Neighbour:

He keeps talking about these straitjackets
when I'm compiling my weekly report
for the newspaper,
and everyone will be able to read
my thousands of weekly reports
if they can find a newspaper
stuck in railings
or underneath a flowerpot
('thousands' because
I write them daily)

And what?

I was just looking at something.

The editor of the paper
was trying to build a shed
that looked like
the leaning tower of Pisa.
He had collected thousands
of pieces of paper in his briefcase.
He found a bottle of hair
amongst the litter in the back yard
and he's going to use it
for his trip to the city.

if everyone lived in Rome
there'd be no one to live in

I don't know


I looked in the paper
to see my report about Alex.
The editor had added this report
to the end of mine:

   I was trying to solve the mystery of my grandfather's breeze.

   The doorbell rang downstairs. I heard Gwen opening the door. A man was there. She took him to see Mrs. Killarney. I went out to the landing, and I stood still, hoping to hear what they were saying, but I can't stand still for five minutes without someone tapping me on the shoulder and saying 'Has the talking kitchen said anything interesting today?' or 'Do you still have that pile of stones to throw at the talking kitchen in case it goes mad?'. If I stopped wearing my shoulder they'd just tap me on the head. So when someone tapped me on the shoulder and said 'I've been thinking about what the kitchen said about my holiday home', I had no hope of hearing Mrs. Killarney's conference with the stranger.
[I think the following section has also been added on by the editor.]
   I heard him say, "The oars at either side of my head propel my head through the river of each day, furiously working against the tide, listening out for stray hints of stuck plots that I can piece together and see the entire picture and look into the clear glass eyes of the sinister men born with silver forks in their mouths, or the men standing in the shunshine with their beady beardy eyes growing hair to obscure the windows to their souls like the ivy engulfing the house where they perform the experiments on pigeons and God help you if you have to work as a pigeon for a day and you end up caught in their claws. Yours Truly has already filled out the form requesting God's help in such an eventuality and I've ticked the appropriate boxes in fox forms to indicate a medical condition rendering me unsuitable for work as a pigeon, suitable for light work as a foximile sent to inform chickens of impending endings in penguin landings, kamikaze crash landings that could never shatter the lair of air I've built around myself."
   I went to the shop to get some supplies for our trip. I met Michael Schumacher there, and he gave me a bowl of trifle. I shared it with my sidekick, a cat called Roger, as we floated away on our hot air balloon. As we went around a snow-capped mountain, people threw stones at us. "Good old Michael Schumacher," I said as we narrowly missed crashing into the turret of a castle. We made an emergency landing in a meadow.
   It was a lovely afternoon. The sun was just beginning its descent, a long goodbye before nightfall. We set up our tent next to a river that was busy carving out a valley. It had done a lot of the work already. I opened the picnic basket. We had enough sandwiches to keep us going for a week. All I had to do was to invent a way of keeping the sandwiches going for a week without turning green. Or else find a way to stop us from turning green after eating week-old sandwiches.
   We ate our sandwiches and drank tea from a flask. "I don't think that was really Michael Schumacher," Roger said.
   Well I think it was.
   We said goodbye to the sun and hello to the moon before saying goodnight to each other and going to sleep. We slept soundly that night. We woke to the song the birds sang to welcome the sun back. After breakfast (more sandwiches) we set off on our hike through the hills. Before too long we met a man who was trying to steal honey from a beehive. He was wearing a balaclava so the bees couldn't give a good description of him to the police. But the bees were able to repel him. If he'd worn gloves his hands wouldn't have been stung repeatedly, and he wouldn't have left any fingerprints. I offered him some sandwiches. Roger said, "Have you completely forgotten about Mrs. Killarney?"
   "I certainly have not," I replied. "Mrs. Killarney went for a romantic walk along beach with the mysterious stranger. As the sun set, he told her about his plans to manufacture caravans and she told him about her plans to manufacture caravans."

In the final section
of the above report,
I think the editor
has joined two reports together
and added on the final paragraph
(which is very like a line
from an article
in the motoring section).
The editor should have used the following report,
which he put in the sports section.
I suspect that the names have been changed.

   It was dark. And then it wasn't dark. It was barking. They told me about the man with the silver head and I unleashed all the abuse I'd been storing because I thought they were lying. I had to apologise when they pointed the man with the silver head at me. I had no abuse left for the football match. I had dinner with Mrs. Killiney instead of going to the match. She gave me some sound advice and some very good abuse I could use, but I didn't have any football players or referees to use it on then, so we went to the coast and we used it on the seagulls. We met Alan. The only word he could think of was 'Foolbarrow', but this did seem surprisingly apt at the time.

   I only deciphered the seagulls' response when I was walking back through the sea to my house. Their words were much more offensive than anything we had said to them, but I didn't have time to go back because I had to work on my match report. I've been having some trouble with the character of the referee, but it should be ready for tomorrow's edition.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


This is a Circle

   This is a circle.

   Circles come in many different shapes and sizes. They're used in many walks of life, everything from mathematics to gardening. Squares and circles are enemies.

   Some squares are former circles who have grown corners and been expelled from the land where circles live. Circles live in a land of unspoilt natural beauty, where litters of baby circles play happily amongst the wildflowers in meadows.

   A circle dies when it's broken, and then it becomes a line. Some lines will keep moving forever, going wherever they want to go. Other lines can be trained to restrain themselves, and they can serve important functions on tennis courts or on medical forms.
   One day when I was minding my own business, leaning against a lone gunman as I read the paper, a line approached me and asked me for directions to the bus station. I gave it directions, but as I watched it leave I saw that it was going the wrong way. I followed the line into the park, and I caught up with it when it stopped to watch two mathematicians who were about to engage in mathematics. Their names were Eric and Michael. They were putting on their crash helmets when I arrived. There are more accidents and fatalities in mathematics than there are in Formula One.
   The line was trying to attract the attention of the mathematicians in the hope that they'd find a use for it, but they showed no interest in the line.
   I was distracted by the mathematicians testing each other's helmets before they got to work. I didn't notice that the line was being chased by a dog, and it was getting all tangled up. When I saw what was going on, I chased the dog away, but by then the line had become badly knotted and tangled.
   Eric took pity on the line. We took it back to his house and we gave it a bath. We were able to remove most of the knots and the tangles. Eric decided to keep the line. It gets on well with his other lines, and he's been teaching it how to do tricks. The last time I visited his house he showed me how the line would become a curve on his command.
   His new pet has also turned out to be an excellent guard line. It moves quickly around the feet of thieves, making them feel dizzy, and most of them leave. Eric gets three times as many thieves as an average house because no one ever breaks into the houses on either side. The house on the right is full of Rottweilers, and the one on the left is owned by a woman who makes her own dolls. All of these dolls have concealed weapons. They stop smiling at you as soon as your back is turned. Sometimes you'll see their evil glare just as you're turning away. Thieves break into Eric's house rather than taking their chances with the dolls or the Rottweilers.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Tuning my Memory to History

"And the wild waves sing his Requiem
on lonely Banna Strand."

Where's Banna Strand?

"Over there."

Right. And what happened there?

"It's where Roger Casement was captured when he was trying to bring arms ashore in 1916."

And where's Béal na mBláth?

"It's right behind you."

Oh right. What happened there?

"It's where Michael Collins was shot dead in 1922."

Which one am I again?

"You can be whatever you want to be."

Good... And what do I want to be?

"A fence post."

That explains a lot.
What if I want to be Michael Collins?

"Do you not remember your history lessons?
Do you want to get shot?"

Oh yeah. I was thinking of...
Never mind.
The fence post will be fine.

"Grand. Now we're just going to put this can on your head and we're going to shoot it. Is that okay?"

Are ye going to shoot the can or my head?

"The can."

That's okay.

"Grand. Maybe you'll want to do something to take your mind off things for the next few minutes. You could... I don't know. Write a book or something."

Write a book? What could I write about? I could have a go at writing a history of Banna Strand. Or I could just go to the wheelbarrow races.

"I wouldn't recommend going anywhere, or even moving a muscle."

Could I write a history of the wheelbarrow races?

"As long as you remain at the planning stages for the time being, and don't physically write anything."

It's never likely to go beyond the planning stages. There isn't really a whole lot I can write about them. It's just people racing wheelbarrows down narrow roads. They can attach as many wheels and jet engines to the wheelbarrows as they want. That's all I know about the races. As I said, my book was never likely to go beyond the planning stages. I wish I had my grandmother's memory. She used to tell some amazing stories about the historical events she witnessed. She kept her analogue memory for years after everyone else had switched to digital. She could remember when she was a young girl, before memory had even been invented. School was a much tougher place back then because they were expected to remember things even though they didn't have any memory. That reminds me of my uncle Bob, who built his own television. It was really just a wooden box with some knobs glued to it. It wouldn't come on when he plugged it in, so he started beating it repeatedly to make it work. He had some success with this method. It was like that with my grandmother in school. The teachers used to beat them to make them remember things, and my grandmother had to admit that it worked. She remembered the beatings anyway.

"One other thing. If someone told you that your postman was made out of ice cream, would you be tempted to point a hair dryer at him, just to see if he'd melt?"



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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