'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The Prime Minister ate it.

In the evenings there isn’t time to do much in the garden before it gets dark. You can’t trim the hedges if it’s too dark, but you can’t do it if you can’t find the hedge clippers anyway. I walked all around the gardens looking for them and they were in the shed all along. But it was a nice walk. As the stars started to come out, I saw the headlights of a car slowly moving down a road on a hill a few miles away.

My uncle Ben once turned on the TV in the evening to see the news, but he turned on the wrong channel and instead of a newsreader he saw a cat staring back at him. The cat just sat there, slowly moving its tail around. At first my uncle wondered if this was really the news, but the cat was clearly trying to communicate something with the movement of its tail. Ben assumed that the cat was the latest newsreader, and he watched it every day. He stared at the cat staring back at him and after a few weeks he was just starting to decipher the meaning of the news (on one evening he thought the cat was saying something about a dog) but he realised that he was looking at the wrong channel when he was visiting his son one evening. His son, my cousin Mike, lives just down the road with his wife, Louise, and their eight-year-old son, Scott. Ben went to their house for dinner one day and he showed them the cat on the news, but they showed him the woman who read the news on the other channel. It all made perfect sense to my uncle at first, but then he wondered what the cat was actually doing if it wasn’t reading the news. Scott and Louise wondered about this too. They turned over to the other channel and stared at the cat, who still just stared back at them, slowly moving its tail around. They watched the cat every day, trying to figure out why it was there, but they couldn’t think of anything. They asked Scott what he thought of it. He had been watching a TV show about a puppy over the previous few weeks. In the first three episodes, the puppy would just run around with his tail wagging, knocking things over and chewing anything he could get his mouth around. Then Scott missed an episode, and when he saw the next one the puppy had become the Prime Minister. Scott never figured out how he managed to get this job. The puppy himself didn’t seem to be too aware of his new role, but his owner often used his pet’s position of power. They had once been thrown out of a café because the puppy ran around the place under the tables, annoying all the customers and the staff, so they returned to that café and the manager couldn’t ask them to leave because the puppy was the Prime Minister. The puppy was given a few cakes to eat, and he made a bit of a mess but there was nothing the staff could do about it. So when Scott was asked what he thought of the cat on TV he said, “Well the puppy is the Prime Minister, so I suppose the cat must be the opposition.” This made sense to his mother. “Oh right,” she said. “So this must be like a Party Political Broadcast.” The general election was just a few weeks away, so they all stared at the cat again, trying to decipher the opposition position from the movement of the cat’s tail. And when the candidates called to the door to canvas for votes, they stared at them too, but they didn’t hear anything that would make them vote one way or the other. Then a few days before the election the electricity went, and they missed the cat’s Party Political Broadcast, so they stared at their own cat instead. The cat didn’t seem to like being stared at. She ran outside, and when they followed her out she ran up a tree. My cousin Mike had to climb the tree to get her down, and he was scratched by both the cat and the branches in the tree. The cat had been such a nuisance that they all decided to vote for the government in the election. On the following day they went to visit Mike’s cousin Hector, and he had just got a new Labrador puppy who spent most of that evening clinging to the legs of either Mike, Louise or my uncle Ben. He was just as annoying as the cat and it left them undecided again. On the evening before the election the cat rubbed off their legs, and for a while this convinced them to vote for the opposition, but they visited Hector again that evening and the puppy didn’t go for their legs at all. He licked their faces and gave them the paw when they asked for it. This convinced them to vote for the government, and the government were returned to power in that election. They regretted it later. The next time they visited Hector the puppy clung to their legs and wouldn’t let go. But then the cat was still annoying them too. She got stuck up the tree again, and Mike nearly fell out of it when he tried to get her down.

The moose’s head over the fireplace seemed to doze off after I lit the fire. I was talking to my wife about something and when I said the word ‘lobster’, out of the corner of my eye I noticed the moose’s eyes widening. I looked up at him and he was definitely wide awake again. I went to the window and looked out. It was completely dark then, and the sky was full of stars. I said the word ‘lobster’ and turned around. The moose’s head was still wide awake. He must have been hungry.