'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
Click here to buy the paperback or download the ebook for free.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Dad's Army

I walked through the fields behind the garden and stood in the long grass on a hill, a cool breeze on my face, the sun still an hour away from the horizon. I could see the sunlight shining on a car miles away.

My uncle Alan once said he was Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army and I believed him, even after I found out that he’s just a fictional character – Corporal Jones, not my uncle. (Dad’s Army is a famous British sitcom - more info). My uncle seemed as real as the short people he used to make fun of, and I wondered why I thought Corporal Jones was just as real. I was young at the time, and when I got older I figured out the truth, but I should have spotted it years earlier. I always knew that Dad’s Army was just a sitcom. I suppose I never really thought about it. His daughter, my cousin Chloe, was a bit of a looker, so she had no trouble attracting men, but there was one drawback to going out with her. All of her new boyfriends had to gain the approval of Chloe’s mother, my aunt Sarah. The latest boyfriend would be invited around for tea to meet Sarah. I can remember one called Victor who wasn’t too worried about this meeting until he met Chloe’s previous boyfriend one day, and Victor happened to mention the visit to Chloe’s house to have tea with her mother. A look of fear came into the eyes of the ex, and he said, “She’ll ask you about your soul!” The more Victor thought about this, the more afraid he became. He had three days until the meeting with Chloe’s mother and he spent all of that time trying to think of things he could say about his soul, but he couldn’t come up with anything. He was terrified when he met my aunt and uncle in the hall. Alan went upstairs after shaking hands with Victor, and the others went into the sitting room. Sarah poured the tea, and she was just about to say something to Victor when he started talking, just in case she said something about his soul. He talked about the first thing that came into his head, which was trees. It was the only thing that came into his head. The pressure of the situation got to him and he could only talk about trees. Sometimes he ran out of things to say about trees, but he always kept talking when it looked as if Sarah was about to say something – he’d just repeat something he’d said earlier. He finally stopped talking after an hour, and my aunt didn’t have any desire to speak either. She thought he was a complete idiot, and naturally she disapproved of him as a boyfriend for her daughter. Chloe split up with Victor because she valued the approval of her mother, and he did seem like a bit of an idiot after spending an hour telling them everything he knew about trees, which he could have done in thirty seconds. The next boyfriend, Alex, seemed much more promising, but then he met Victor a few days before the meeting with Sarah, and when Alex mentioned the invitation to tea with the parents, Victor grabbed hold of his shirt and said, with a look of terror on his face, “She’ll ask you about your soul!” Alex spent an hour talking about Eskimos when he met Chloe’s mother, and Sarah classified him as an idiot too. She was getting a bit sick of this – having to waste so much time listening to idiots babbling on about stupid things. She’d lost count of the amount of times it had happened. They’d talk about things like trees, Eskimos, shoes, bees, Santa Claus, carpets or ice bergs. Sarah couldn’t face another hour of this, so when Chloe’s latest boyfriend, Bill, was invited around for tea, my aunt came up with a way of determining whether or not he was an idiot before they ever had to listen to his lecture on trees or Eskimos or whatever. She asked Alan to introduce himself as Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army. If Bill didn’t believe it, they’d take him inside for tea and let him talk. If he did believe it – and given Chloe’s habit of bringing home idiots, he almost certainly would – then Sarah would suddenly remember some appointment she had or a friend she was supposed to meet, and she’d have to cancel the tea with Bill. So when Chloe arrived with Bill, she introduced him to her parents in the hall, and her father said, “I’m Corporal Jones. Y’ know, Dad’s Army. They don’t like it up ’em.” They shook hands, and a few seconds of silence followed as they waited for Bill’s reaction. His lack of reaction seemed to suggest that he believed the ‘Corporal Jones’ story. Bill started to panic – he had a feeling that the silence would be broken at any moment by a question about his soul, so he started talking about the first thing that came into his head – sawdust. Sarah didn’t know what to make of this. Why would he start talking about sawdust? Was he making some comment on her husband’s claim to be Corporal Jones? She decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, so she brought him inside for tea. An hour later he wandered onto the subject of sawdust on butchers’ floors. Then he suddenly remembered that Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army was a butcher, and he had a vague memory of Chloe’s father introducing himself as Corporal Jones. Bill thought that if he is a butcher, then he’d surely have spotted his lack of knowledge about butchers. But then he might not be Corporal Jones at all. He looks a bit more like Captain Mainwaring than Corporal Jones. Captain Mainwaring worked in a bank. Bill couldn’t remember anything about Chloe’s father working in a bank. He asked my uncle what he does for a living, and Alan said, “I’m an architect.” Bill couldn’t remember which one in Dad’s Army was an architect. Alan noticed that Bill looked confused, so he said, “Is something wrong?” “This is very embarrassing,” Bill said. “I’m afraid I’ve completely forgotten your name.” Sarah and Alan laughed and looked at each other. He’s not an idiot – that’s what they said in their expressions. “I’m Alan,” he said as he shook Bill’s hand again. Bill tried to picture which one in Dad’s Army was Alan the architect, and he had a vague idea who it was. He’s married to Chloe now.

The moose’s head over the fireplace seemed to be chewing something when I walked into the room and I thought of the words ‘what’s the matter, Jones?’. I looked out the window as the sun reached the horizon. I listened to the sound of a jet fly overhead, and looked at the white trail across the sky until it faded away. I thought I heard a chewing sound and I very nearly said, “Come here, Jones.”