'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, October 06, 2004

A Game of Chess.

There are brown patches in the trees now, and leaves on the lawns, but there’s still a lot of green in the trees too. I spent an hour raking some of the leaves from the grass while my wife, Iris, talked about a stone wall her sister is building. She’s been working on it for weeks now and it’s just starting to take shape.

My cousin Hector loved playing chess, even though he always lost. He persevered because he knew he’d beat someone someday, and after coming home from the pub one evening he saw his chance to win. He decided to play a game against the Labrador puppy he’d just bought for his daughters, but he lost that too, and he couldn’t figure out how the puppy had won. If Hector was a better chess player he might have understood why he lost. If he hadn’t just come back from the pub he might have been slightly better at chess, so he decided to play the puppy again when he was completely sober. He knew he’d have to be at his best – he shouldn’t have just taken it for granted that he’d win. He always had to keep an eye out for that puppy. If he looked away for a second, the puppy would run to his leg and attach himself to it. Hector’s wife had got a present of a snow dome, and in it there was a tiny figure of a man. There was a puppy clinging to the man’s leg. Hector used to shake the snow dome and watch the man with the puppy in the snow shower. He was very impressed with the way the puppy was able to cling to the man’s leg despite the storm around them, and he always used it as a reminder to keep an eye out for their own puppy. His next game of chess with the Labrador didn’t last long. Hector’s daughters, Alice and Grace, loved gluing things to things, and they had glued a feather to their father’s King on the chess board. When the puppy saw it he jumped onto the board and ran off with the feather and the King. Hector assumed that this meant the puppy had won again, but at least he knew how the puppy had won this time. Alice and Grace loved that snow dome with the man and the dog stuck to his leg. They loved the idea of seeing that scene in real life too. They convinced their father to have another game of chess with the puppy. The King with the feather was still missing, but the girls told their father that he should use a dog biscuit instead of a King because this was the only way the puppy would play (they said he was getting tired of winning so easily). So the puppy sat at one side of the chess board and Hector sat opposite him with a dog biscuit for a King. For most of the time they were both completely still, just staring at each other. If the puppy made the slightest movement, Hector would put his hand over the dog biscuit. He said to himself that chess was a much simpler game than he had thought before, and he was getting better at it too. His games rarely lasted this long. After ten minutes of staring, Alice pointed to something behind her father and said, “What’s that?” Hector turned around, and when he turned back the puppy was running away with the biscuit. My cousin wasn’t going to give in so easily, so he chased the puppy. It was snowing outside, and someone had left the back door open. The puppy ran outside and Hector followed him. He saw a brush leaning against the wall near the door, and that was just what he needed then. The puppy always chased the brush. Hector picked it up, but there was something sticky on the handle, and his hands became stuck to the brush. The puppy stood in the snow, looking at Hector trying to remove his hands from the handle, but then the puppy seemed to make a realisation. He ran towards Hector, but instead of going for the brush he went straight for his leg. The puppy clung to his leg and wouldn’t let go. Hector couldn’t remove him because his hands were otherwise engaged. He tried shaking him off, but the puppy still wouldn’t let go. Hector conceded defeat in the game of chess. He looked over at Alice and Grace, and they looked as if they had just won something too. They were jumping up and down in the snow, and one of them had a camera. When their father fell over the puppy still clung to his leg.

The moose’s head over the fireplace looked very happy when I walked into the room, which was a nice change. For the past few days he looked very suspicious. Confused too, but mostly suspicious. He overheard something on the TV about someone being elected President without any election taking place, and ever since then he had that look of confusion and suspicion on his face. But he’s finally figured it out now and he looks very happy.