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

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

An afternoon on the lake.

The lawnmower ran out of petrol with just a small patch of grass left to cut, so I got out the old lawnmower. There’s no engine on this one. You just push it and sweat a lot. After ten minutes I had to take a break. I looked up at a jet making its way across the blue sky, leaving a white trail behind. It was almost soundless, it was so high up. I looked up at the sky until the jet disappeared, then finished the grass.

My cousin Jessica was a very promising artist, but her passion for art waned when she became an art teacher. She never had much of a passion for being an art teacher, and as time went by she became disillusioned with the job. Teaching people how to paint tables wasn’t the career she had envisioned. She went through the motions in the classes, but even that became difficult. At the end of one class she said to her students, “For next week, just… just paint a picture.” Someone said, “Of what?” “Of…” She said the first thing that came into her head. “Beethoven.” And then the second. “Beethoven in a boat.” She completely forgot about this until she saw what they had painted on the following week. The first one was of a man sitting in a row boat, and he did look a bit like Beethoven, but the wig on his head looked nothing like a wig. In another painting, the wig looked more like a mop, and in another one, Jessica thought she could see the handle of a mop. Beethoven was looking at something in the distance in this one, but in another painting he was looking down into the boat, and the head of a woman could be seen looking up at him. She was holding a mop. A few of the paintings showed Beethoven falling out of the boat, and the woman with the mop putting her hand to her mouth. Jessica asked them about it and they told her that a woman in the class lived near a man who looks a bit like Beethoven. So she invited him out in the boat on the lake. She couldn’t think of a way to get him to wear a wig, so that’s where the mop came into it. She had left the mop in the boat. She used to point towards some bushes at the edge of the lake and say, “Look, is that Mozart?” While he was looking at the bushes, she’d hold the mop over his head. The rest of the art class were at the edge of the lake, painting the scene. He saw her with the mop a few times, and he seemed to be suspicious of something. When she hit him on the head with the mop he fell into the water, and that was the end of the ‘sitting’. The class really enjoyed the day, and Jessica was sorry she missed it, but they said they could always do it again with another subject. A woman in the class told them about her husband who had given up smoking a few weeks earlier. He was finding it difficult, and after an evening in the pub he came home and decided to give up giving up smoking for good. He lit his pipe, but after an evening in the pub, his hand to eye coordination wasn’t at its sharpest. Or if you look at it another way, his hand to eye coordination was flawless – instead of putting the pipe in his mouth he put it into his eye. He’s been wearing an eye patch ever since, and everyone has been calling him Long John Silver. The class agreed to have a go at painting him in a boat. It was easy to get him onto the lake. His wife told him that the doctor had said it would do his eye a lot of good. He thought it would do the other eye a lot of good to get away from his wife for a while, so he agreed. She couldn’t think of how to get a parrot on his shoulder without making him suspicious, but they thought they could add that into their paintings later. There was one other boat on the lake at the time. It was a young couple who had been there on the previous afternoon too, when they were talking to a woman in another boat for a while. This was in November and the evenings were starting to close in. When it started to get dark, they looked around but they couldn’t see the other boat – the one with the woman they had just been talking to. He lit a match, held it up and looked around, but she said to him, “What good is that going to do?” He realised that it was a bit of a stupid idea alright, so he said, “I was just going to light my cigarette.” He had never smoked in his life, so obviously she had never seen him smoke before, but he searched through all of his pockets and he pretended to be annoyed when he couldn’t find his cigarettes. He said that he loved smoking on the lake, so he took her back there on the following afternoon just to prove that he really does smoke, and that he loves smoking on the lake. The man in the role of Long John Silver was in the only other boat in the water. He could hear someone coughing, and then he smelled the smoke. He hadn’t smoked since poking his eye with the pipe because he felt that all the trouble with his eye would be a waste of time if he took up smoking again. He would have done anything for a cigarette there on the lake. He followed the other boat and tried to breathe in as much of the smoke as he could, but after a few minutes he noticed that there was an exceptional amount of smoke coming from the boat, and only a small percentage of it was from the cigarette. The man who was smoking had set the boat on fire with a cigarette butt, but thankfully, ‘Long John Silver’ was on hand to rescue them. In the paintings for the art class, some people added in the parrot and chose to represent Long John Silver taking prisoners and setting a boat on fire, but others left the parrot out and painted Nelson at the battle of Trafalgar, watching with his crew as a French ship sank. A division formed between the two groups in the class. On the following week they all went out in boats on the lake, and the tension was clearly visible. Those who had painted Nelson claimed that they were being deliberately rammed by those who had painted the pirate. Jessica never realised that teaching art could be this much fun. Every week they go out on the lake, supposedly to paint scenes from nature, but it’s really just to ram each other in the boats.

The moose’s head over the fireplace stares into space and that’s what I do too. It’s getting dark earlier these evenings. I look into the light blue around a star above the horizon. The moose’s head just has the wall to look at, but he’s not really looking at the wall anyway.