Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Every three weeks

I've decided to update this site once every three weeks instead of every week.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010



   Gary found a monkey in one of the trees in his back garden. It took a few hours to win the monkey's trust. He kept speaking in a gentle voice, and he offered the monkey some bananas. A jam sandwich finally enticed him down from the tree and into the house.
   It didn't take long for the monkey to make himself at home. It looked as if he was planning on a long stay, so Gary thought he should give his visitor a name. He'd never feel comfortable sharing a house with a creature who could use a knife and fork but didn't have a name, even if the monkey only used a knife and fork to clean himself. Gary decided to call him Mulligan.
   As well as using a knife and fork for personal grooming, the monkey kept trying to cut his own hair with a scissors, so Gary took him to a hair dresser. Mulligan liked his new hair style. On the following day he had an entirely new look. When Gary went downstairs in the morning he found Mulligan sitting at the kitchen table, wearing a suit. He would have looked very sophisticated if he wasn't trying to get something out of his ear with the handle of a fork. He started smoking cigars. Fortunately, he believed that carrots were cigars, and he never tried to light them.
   As the weeks went by, Mulligan's wardrobe grew. Gary had no idea where he was getting the clothes until Jack, one of his neighbours, turned up on his doorstep one day. Jack was a ventriloquist. He was with his dummy, and they were both angry. Mulligan had been stealing the dummy's clothes. When the dummy demanded the return of his clothes, Mulligan responded by blowing imaginary carrot smoke into the dummy's face. Jack was outraged, and he chose to vent his anger on Gary rather than on Mulligan. "You haven't heard the last of this," he said. "Watch your back. Especially the shirt on it."
   Gary went to the pub to meet his friends that evening. When he got home after midnight he went straight to bed. He couldn't remember if he took his clothes off before going to bed. This seemed like an important point on the following morning, because he wasn't wearing anything when he woke up, and when he looked in his wardrobe he discovered that all of his clothes had been stolen. Jack was obviously the culprit. Gary did his best to convince himself that he had taken off his own clothes before going to bed.
   He had to get his clothes back, but he couldn't be seen outside without them. He made some improvised underwear from a newspaper. He still didn't want to be seen outside, so he made his way to Jack's house through the gardens behind the houses. He had three gardens to get through before he reached his destination. He climbed over hedges and walls. Mulligan went along as well, and he had no trouble scaling the walls. Gary's task was made more difficult by a fear of losing his newspaper. As he was lowering himself from a wall he was focussing all of his attention on the newspaper, and he didn't notice the bucket and shovel on the ground. He knocked them over. He was afraid he'd attract the attention of the house's owner (a woman called Judy, who had recently moved into the area) so he climbed a tree. Mulligan waited down below.
   Judy came out to see what was going on. The presence of Mulligan brought her to the tree, and she saw Gary sitting on a branch in his newspaper underwear. She tried to re-assure him, but she couldn't be certain that he understood her language. She won his trust by offering him bananas. The jam sandwich wasn't necessary to lure him down.
   She took him inside and made him some breakfast. She gave him some clothes her dead husband used to wear. Gary became a regular visitor to her house, though he never showed up in newspaper underwear again. Mulligan found a friend in Judy's cat. They swapped bad habits. Mulligan taught the cat how to smoke and the cat taught Mulligan what a cigar was. Smoking cigars wasn't good for his health, but he did start eating carrots.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


An Anniversary Surprise

   To celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary, Howard and Gillian went to see how Gillian's uncle Iggy was getting on with the volcano he was building (he'd climbed a mountain and started digging a hole at the top). They'd been walking for three days when their path was blocked by a granite wall. They walked along the length of the wall until they came to two pillars with sleeping stone cats resting on top of them. The gates had been removed, but a tiger lay on the ground in between the pillars, and he proved to be very effective at the task the gates used to perform.
   "Good afternoon," the tiger said. "Would I be right in thinking that ye want to get to the other side of the wall?"
   "That's exactly where we want to get to," Gillian said.
   "Vera!" the tiger shouted. "They want to go through the wall."
   A woman emerged from a small hut near the pillars. She walked quickly to where the tiger lay, and she stood next to him as she blew up a balloon. There was a face on the balloon. She kept inflating it until it was three times the size of her head, and then she started letting some of the air out. Howard and Gillian heard a voice, and it seemed to be coming from the balloon. Vera's lips never moved. It was the voice of a very sophisticated woman. She explained that it wasn't safe to use this entrance, and that they should walk half a mile to the south, where they'd find a light blue brick in the wall. If they removed this brick, a door would be revealed.
   The voice ceased when Vera stopped letting air out of the balloon. Howard said, "Aren't you afraid of the tiger? At the very least he could burst the balloon."
   The tiger said, "If I wanted to frighten Vera I'd mention the crows staring at her."
   Vera was obviously terrified of crows. She let go of the balloon, and the remaining air that emerged from it sent it flying away in a haphazard trajectory. It landed in a field at the other side of the wall. Instead of going to retrieve the balloon, Vera ran straight to her hut.
   Howard and Gillian said goodbye to the tiger and they went to the blue brick. After removing it from the wall, a timber door appeared next to it. They were able to go to the other side of the wall through this entrance, and they walked back towards the pillars to return to their path. Howard found the balloon in the long grass, and he started inflating it. When he let the air out, they heard the woman's voice again, but the words she used could only have come from Howard's brain. She spoke about the time he sat on a magnificent salmon when he was young. The voice faded away as the balloon deflated. Howard blew it up again, and this time the voice narrated the story of the car he built when he was five. He was delighted. "It's like having my memoirs read out loud by Judy Dench," he said.
   During the rest of their walk that day, he kept inflating the balloon and letting the voice narrate his life story. They set up their tent near a river, and as they sat around their camp fire that evening he still hadn't grown tired of listening to the balloon, but he seemed to get a shock when the voice said, "I first met Agnes..."
   He let go of the balloon and it flew away.
   "Who's Agnes?" Gillian said.
   "I don't know."
   "It's your life story. You should know."
   "I had completely forgotten about the car until she mentioned it. I can't remember who Agnes is."
   "Then why did you let go of the balloon?"
   "I didn't. It slipped out of my hand."
   "Aren't you going to try to find it?"
   "No. I'm bored with it now. And I'm tired. It's time for bed."
   Gillian couldn't sleep that night. She kept thinking about Agnes. She was convinced that her husband was having an affair with this woman.
   In the morning, Howard went to get some firewood so they could boil the kettle for their morning cup of tea. While he was gone, Gillian went outside and found the balloon. Howard had an inflatable cushion that he used to support his neck while he slept in the tent. He had inflated it before going to bed on the previous night. Gillian used the air from the cushion to inflate the balloon. There was just enough air for the voice to say, "I never thought I'd be buying three-hundred red roses, but Agnes has that way about her, a certain charm that I can't resist. Every time she speaks..."
   Gillian didn't mention Agnes again. She hardly said a word to Howard for the rest of their walk to the volcano/mountain. It took them another five days to reach her uncle's workplace, and for most of that time she was thinking about pushing Howard into the volcano, regardless of whether or not he could get back out. She wondered how much progress Iggy had made with the hole. He'd been on top of the mountain for years, so the hole would be very deep if he had been digging all that time, but it was possible that he lost interest early on and abandoned his plan.
   When they got to the top of the mountain she didn't want to look in. She just wanted to push him and let fate be the judge of his actions. But before she had a chance to do anything, the volcano erupted. Gillian wondered if fate was wreaking revenge on her as well as on her husband, but then she realised that they were being showered in rose petals rather than lava.
   "Happy anniversary," Howard said. He had paid Agnes to organise this anniversary surprise for his wife. She had gone on ahead of them with the roses, and she'd been working with Iggy to create the eruption.
   Love had flowered once more and all was well again. When all of the flower petals had settled on the ground, Iggy and Agnes emerged from the shack where Iggy lived. It seemed as if love was just blooming for them. Female company was exactly what Iggy needed after years working on the volcano. Despite all the work he'd put into it, the hole wasn't deep enough to cause a serious injury to anyone pushed into it. Most of the work had taken place in his mind as he contemplated the implications of being able to build a volcano.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010


Home is where the artichoke heart is

   Holly and her brother, Peter, had been dreaming of their home planet since they were kids. In their teens they started collecting the parts they'd need to build a spaceship for their voyage home. Many of the parts were very hard to come by, and in collecting some of them it was difficult to avoid attracting the attention of anti-terrorist agencies. When Holly and Peter were in their early twenties they still had a lot of pieces to find before they could even begin assembling a craft capable of going all the way to Grambelmorne, the planet of their birth. Their search took them all over the world, and they were beginning to wonder if it was all worthwhile. On their way home from a fruitless trip to Russia, Holly said, "Have you ever considered the possibility that we're not really aliens? What if it's all a lie, all an invention of Mr. and Mrs. O'Leary? What if Mr. and Mrs. O'Leary are really our parents?"
   "Why would they lie to us?"
   "I don't know. A bet?"
   "Humans do like betting."
   "Perhaps it's time to face the prospect that we're humans as well."
   "But we have hearts made out of artichokes. Humans don't have hearts made out of artichokes. Their hearts are made out of hearts. I haven't found a single medical journal that says otherwise. I've never dug up a human corpse that had an artichoke heart, or showed any signs of being tampered with before I tampered with them."
   "When Mrs. O'Leary showed us the x-rays of our artichoke hearts, she only let us have a very brief glimpse of them. I have a feeling that if we looked closer we'd find that the artichokes were painted on."
   "Are you saying that we don't have special powers, and that we're not better than everyone else on this planet?"
   "I think we have to face the possibility that we don't have special powers, but we're obviously much better than everyone else."
   "The success of our business empire and educational institutes depended on knowing that we could have used our special powers if we had failed in our endeavours."
   "No. We could never have failed. Your error stems from seeing other people fail, but we're better than other people. Nevertheless, we still need to consider the possibility that in essence we're the same as them, and that this planet is our real home."
   It didn't feel like home. This is what made them continue their quest to build a means of conveyance back to Grambelmorne. It took another seven years to complete the craft. They both felt as if they were coming home as they descended towards the surface of Grambelmorne and they saw the forests of trees higher than the tallest buildings on earth. This feeling intensified when they emerged from the craft after making a safe landing, and they took their first breaths of Grambelmorne air. They were greeted by an official. They explained the reason for their arrival, and they asked to be taken to see the emperor.
   Their stay on the planet didn't last long enough for an audience with the emperor. The official was able to provide conclusive evidence that they were in fact earthlings. He informed them that, like the majority of earthlings, they had one head, whereas most of Grambelmorne's inhabitants had two heads. A small minority had three heads and a few had none.
   Holly and Peter took a short walk to consider what to do. From the vantage point of this alien planet they could see that earth was their real home because it was where they were smarter than everyone else. On their journey home they felt a sense of contentment when they considered the prospect of living the rest of their lives on earth.
   Peter said, "Do you think Mr. and Mrs. O'Leary doctored those photos to make it look as if we had two heads?"
   "Mr. O'Leary probably painted the extra head on. For many years I've suspected that I only had one head."
   "I've had my suspicions as well, but I've always been able to convince myself that I have two and that it was my good head that was coming up with those convincing reasons why I had two."

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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