'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Coffee, Spotty.

We’ve had a lot of rain recently so I haven’t been doing anything in the garden. I’ve spent a lot of time in the shed, doing this or that. Mostly just looking out at the rain, but it’s a nice way to pass the time. There’s no chance of making it even as far as the shed today. The words ‘severe weather warning’ featured very prominently in the weather forecast (expressions that begin with ‘severe’ and end with ‘warning’ are always likely to be prominent) and it looks as if they’re right.

My aunt Joyce once hurt her leg when she tripped on a step, and she was told to rest it for a few weeks. Uncle Cyril thought he’d get a few weeks rest from Aunt Joyce if she was confined to one space, but he saw the downside to the set-up as soon as he wanted a cup of coffee. He didn’t know what to do then. His wife had always made the coffee for him. He looked around the kitchen and he saw his dog, Spotty, sitting on the floor. He knew it was a bit of a long shot, but he decided to ask the dog to get him a coffee, so he said, “Coffee, Spotty.” The dog didn’t get him a coffee, but he did bring a shoe. At least he did something. Cyril patted him on the head and said, “Good dog.” Every time he wanted a coffee after that, he’d hold out his cup and say, “Coffee, Spotty,” and the dog always did something, even though he never did what he was told to do, but Cyril believed that if monkeys could write the works of Shakespeare if they were given enough time, then surely Spotty could get him a cup of coffee. Making coffee must be easier than writing the works of Shakespeare, although Uncle Cyril wasn’t planning on doing either. This was just before Christmas, and after they put up the Christmas tree, Cyril asked the dog for a coffee one morning and Spotty knocked over the tree. That definitely wasn’t what he was supposed to do, but it was fun to watch anyway. When my cousin Hugh and his fiancée, Annabel, called around to visit, they saw Cyril hold out his coffee cup and say, “Coffee, Spotty.” The dog tore a bag of flour to pieces. Cyril patted him on the head and said, “Good dog.” Hugh visited his uncle again with his family on Christmas Day. His grandmother had given him a sweater that showed Santa feeding Rudolf, and he was wearing this at the time, but only because he thought there was a chance that Spotty would destroy it. He took the sweater off when he said he was too hot, and he got the dog to sniff it. He left the sweater on a chair and waited until Cyril wanted his next coffee. When my uncle asked the dog for a coffee, Spotty ran to the room where Hugh left the sweater. Hugh followed him there, but he took his time. When he got there, he saw the sweater on the ground, but it hadn’t been damaged at all. Then he remembered that Aunt Joyce’s stamp collection had been on the chair beneath the sweater. The whole collection was full of stamps with swear words in them (she’s been collecting stamps with swear words for decades, but it’s still a fairly small collection because of the rarity of those particular stamps). The stamp album was open on the ground in front of Spotty. Hugh picked it up and he noticed that some of the stamps were missing. He had been looking through that stamp album since he was five, so he was familiar with every item in the collection. As far as he could tell, there were about ten stamps missing, and he assumed that Spotty must have eaten them, but Hugh had a feeling that he’d get blamed for it, and not the dog. He decided to try making replacement stamps himself, even though he knew his aunt would hardly fall for it, but he thought it was worth trying anyway. Some of the stamps he drew himself, and with others he used existing stamps and wrote swear words on them. He found a stamp with an image of a dog and he wrote the word ‘Spotty’ on it. He put the stamp on a postcard and he kept showing it to Spotty, even though he knew that the dog would hardly understand the point he was trying to make. A few days after Christmas, Hugh went around to Cyril and Joyce’s house to cut some firewood because his aunt still wasn’t fit enough to do these jobs. When he finished the firewood, he went into the kitchen and made himself a cup of coffee. The weather forecast was on the TV at the time, and Hugh always kept a close eye on the weather forecast over the Christmas holidays because his cousin Graham was in it. The TV company had decided to get school kids to act out the weather over the Christmas holidays, and Graham’s class were chosen for this. To illustrate rain, the whole class wore rain coats and looked very sad as they stood in the middle of a field. On this particular day, they were illustrating wind. Graham was playing a postman whose letters were blown all over the place during a storm. He was running after them, but before he put them into his bag, he held each letter up to the camera, with a big smile on his face, and the stamps were clearly visible. Hugh was shocked to see the stamps with swear words that had gone missing from the collection. Spotty hadn’t eaten them at all. Hugh had just put his cup of coffee on the kitchen table, and he was on the way to the fridge to get the milk, but he stood in the middle of the kitchen, staring at the TV in shock. Uncle Cyril saw the cup of coffee on the table and he thought he could do with one himself. He held out his cup and said, “Coffee, Spotty.” Hugh was still transfixed by the stamps on the weather forecast, so he didn’t notice the dog jump up in front of him and catch his sweater in his mouth. The dog pulled Hugh forward, and he hit his head off the worktop, knocking him unconscious for a while. Uncle Cyril saw Hugh on the ground and the cup of coffee on the table. Hugh wouldn’t be having that coffee at all now, so Cyril could have it himself. Spotty really had got him a cup of coffee. He rubbed the dog’s head and said, “Good dog. Well done, Spotty.” The dog wagged his tail. Cyril was just as happy. A dog who could get him a cup of coffee was much better than one who’d bring the newspaper or retrieve dead birds. Or write the works of Shakespeare – they’ve already been written anyway.

The moose’s head over the fireplace didn’t look happy when I walked into the room, and at first I thought he must be thinking about horses. He hates horses. If there’s horse racing on the television, I have to turn the volume down. But I wondered why he’d have been thinking about horses then. I looked out the window. The only sound was from the clock in the hall. I couldn’t think of anything that would remind him of horses. But it can be difficult to know what he’s thinking about at times.