'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The hills are alive.

When the sun was low on the horizon it lit up the back wall of the shed, but I still couldn’t find the rake. I took a walk around the gardens, stopping every now and then to take in the smells or look at the shadows on the grass, and half an hour later I found the rake leaning against the wall of the shed. I took it out earlier when I brought out the lawnmower.

My cousin Isobel was a very good ice skater and that’s how she met her fiancé, Jack. He wasn’t so good. She tried to teach him, but he got into a habit of falling over and he never got out of it. He still loved going ice skating because it meant he got to spend time with Isobel, and he couldn’t think of any other way to spend time with her. It also meant he got to spend less time with his family over the Christmas holidays. Normally he wouldn’t mind spending time with his family, but on the first day of the holidays, his mother took them all out for a long walk in the hills. He didn’t mind the walk either, but what he wanted to get away from was his mother’s singing. She always sang when she walked in the hills and she got all of them to join in. When they got back to their car after this particular afternoon of walking and singing, they found that the car had been clamped. It was a small car park out in the middle of nowhere, with only two other cars, and only theirs had been clamped. Jack’s mother wondered if they had been clamped because someone didn’t like the singing. She refused to be defeated by the clampers. She left the car there and they walked home. She made them all walk back to the car park on the following day. The car was still there and still clamped. They went for another walk in the hills, and Jack’s mother sang louder than ever. When they got back to the car it was still clamped, and she told them all that they’d be back the next day, and they’d come back every day and sing in the hills until the clamp was removed. Jack wanted to go ice skating to meet Isobel, but that wasn’t a good enough excuse to get out of the hill walking, so he told his mother that he had to go to the library (he was in college at the time). He used this excuse every day, but he always went to the ice rink. Jack’s older brother, Andy, had a seven-year-old daughter called Carol. Her mother once took her to a play performed by string puppets. It was about a man walking under a lonely star at night. He went to sleep under an apple tree next to a river and he woke up in the morning sun. She loved this play and she acted it out in almost everything she did. If she got the milk from the fridge, the milk would walk under a lonely star from the fridge and fall asleep on the table. She loved eating caramel, and she performed a very quick version of the play when she was getting the caramel because she wanted to get to the end as quickly as possible. Her father came to like caramel too because it meant he didn’t have to endure her plays for so long. He often gave her caramel. During her plays he used to read the paper until the morning sun came out. On one day during the Christmas holidays, he asked Jack to take Carol to the library for a while because he had to meet someone in the pub. Jack was going to the ice rink, so he took Carol along, but he told her not to mention the ice skating at all – if anyone asks, they were at the library. Carol and her father went hill walking in the afternoon while Jack was still in the ‘library’. Carol picked up a stick and acted out her uncle Jack’s visit to the library. As Jack walked under a lonely star he kept falling over. He was very unsteady on his feet. When Jack’s mother saw this the only explanation she could think of was that Jack had been drinking. He must have been going to the pub rather than the library. But that seemed completely out of character for Jack. In Carol’s version of the play, he fell asleep under the tree and when he woke up in the morning he said, “Oh, hello Isobel.” It all made sense in his mother’s mind when she heard about Isobel. He’s been meeting this woman and she’s been leading him astray. When Jack met his mother that evening she said, “Who’s Isobel?” “She’s… just…” “You’ve been meeting her when you should be at the library, haven’t you?” “Yes.” His mother insisted on meeting Isobel. She told Jack to bring her along on their hill walk on the following day. Isobel got a very cold reception when she met Jack’s mother. They hardly exchanged a word on the walk until the singing started. Isobel joined in and she had a beautiful voice. Jack’s mother started to think that she had misjudged my cousin. When they got back to the car the clamp was gone, and she thought Isobel was the nicest woman Jack had ever introduced to her.

The moose’s head over the fireplace seemed to be staring at something on the opposite wall when I walked into the room. I looked up and saw a spider on the wall near the ceiling. I stood at the window and looked out. I could hear the faint sound of a tractor but I couldn’t see it. I looked out until the sound faded. When I turned around the spider had reached the ground, but the moose’s head had lost interest in it.