'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Weather Forecast

There’s a pile of broken red bricks in one corner of the garden. Beyond the orchard there’s a small hill covered in wild flowers and long grass, with an apple tree on the hillside. The two walls meet at the top of the hill, and in the corner there’s a pile of red bricks. Some of them are broken. I’ve always wondered how they got there.

My uncle Ben once went to America with the intention of going to the pub down the road. Or maybe it was the other way around. He once sang ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ at a party, and when he had finished the song he had a feeling that he’d sung something about a glow worm. He told himself that it was just his imagination, and he forgot about it. When he got home that night he turned on the TV to see the weather forecast because he was planning on walking the five miles to his brother’s house on the following day. But he’d had a lot to drink in the pub and he wasn’t paying attention to what the weatherman was saying. He whistled ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ as he sat in front of the TV, and he only realised that he wasn’t paying attention when the weather forecast was finished. He tried to remember what the weather man said, and he was sure he had heard the word ‘blizzard’, but this was in July. He thought that he must have imagined it again, like the glow worm in the song. This particular weather man often used to get the weather wrong when he began his career. He started going to the cinema and taking notes of the weather in the films. He’d base his weather forecast on these notes rather than any meteorological data, and he was more successful with this method. He became very popular when he started including other details from the films. Sometimes he’d go through the whole plot in his weather forecast. When Ben woke up on the following day there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. He had his breakfast and set off for his brother’s house. It was a beautiful walk down quiet country roads, up and down hills, walking in and out of the shadows of trees. But then he saw a piece of broken glass at the side of the road and he suddenly remembered a few more details from the weather forecast on the previous night. He remembered the weather man saying something about a man on his deathbed, a snow dome dropping from his hand and shattering on the floor. Ben felt a sudden sense of foreboding. He stopped and looked at the sky. There was nothing above but blue, and he told himself that he just imagined those details about the snow dome, the deathbed and the blizzard. He walked on, and to ease his nerves he started singing ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ to himself. But fifty yards down the road he stopped again when he realised that he had just sung the line ‘with a glow worm’. The sense of foreboding was stronger than ever, and he wondered if he should go on. He looked at the sky. There still wasn’t a cloud to be seen, and he told himself that they often get it wrong on the weather forecast. He walked on again, and when he got to the top of the next hill, he saw a boy standing on another hill a few hundred yards away. The boy was holding a sled (he had seen the weather forecast too and he was expecting a blizzard). When Ben saw the sled he turned around and ran all the way home. Or nearly all the way home – he didn’t quite make it to his house. He got as far as a pub. Most of his journeys end there.

The moose’s head over the fireplace looks so sad today, almost as if he’s thinking of a life in America he missed out on. The eyes are full of regret. That sort of regret has started countless lives in the pub.