Very Slight Stories | Like short stories, only shorter.

'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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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.

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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