'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Choral Music.

Our dog loves all the leaves on the ground. He can spend hours running around in circles in the trees at the back of the garden. I could easily spend an hour just standing beneath the trees. There’s much more light in there with the leaves beneath your feet instead of above your head.

My cousin Chloe decided to organise a party when her parents, Aunt Sarah and Uncle Alan, went to a wedding and stayed overnight. The wedding was on a Friday. Sarah said they’d be back at noon on Saturday, but Chloe and her younger brother, Gary, thought they’d have enough time to clean up whatever needed to be cleaned, or glue together whatever needed reassembling. They both got a bit carried away with the preparations. They hired a chef to cook the food, and then just before the start of the party, a choir turned up on the doorstep. Chloe and her brother blamed each other for hiring the choir, although it did ring a bell in Chloe’s mind. She had ordered so many things for the party that she couldn’t keep track of them all. There were over thirty singers plus the choirmaster. There was a big room at one side of the house, so they were able to fit them all in. The choral music went down surprisingly well. It wasn’t something you could dance to, although a few did try. It was just like any other party in the amount of alcohol consumed, and that was the main thing. Chloe had a bit of a headache when she woke up on the following morning, and as she walked down the stairs she was afraid that a much bigger headache was ahead of her, but she was pleasantly surprised to find so few signs of the party the night before. There were a lot of empty bottles and a few people sleeping on the floor, but bottles and people are easy enough to clear up. People will clear themselves up if you poke them with a bottle or your foot (something Chloe discovered by experiment). There was one cloud on the horizon, or one stain on the carpet, to be more precise. The silver lining was that it was just water after a vase had been knocked over, but it was still noticeable. Chloe wondered how she’d clean it up. As she thought about this, she remembered a kids’ TV show called ‘Leaknot the Teapot’. It was about a teapot called Leaknot who was always leaking, but he always tried to pretend that he wasn’t. One week he was sitting on a coffee table and he spilled tea on the carpet. The stain was noticeable then too, but he got his friend the dog to lie on it. The dog covered the stain and his body heat dried the tea in the carpet. Chloe remembered this and looked around the room. They didn’t have a dog, but there was someone asleep on the floor near the piano. She woke him up and said, “Sorry to bother you, but would you mind lying down over there instead of here?” The man stood up and said, “No problem at all.” He didn’t seem to notice the stain on the carpet as he lay down on it. Chloe knew she couldn’t use him to cover the stain from her parents, like the dog did, but at least he’d soak up the water and dry the carpet. She was delighted with herself for solving that little problem, but then she noticed an unusual noise around her, and a lot of unusual activity. The house was full of choristers, and they all sounded distressed. They were calling out the name of their choirmaster, Mr. Williams. They’d obviously become separated from their master, and they were looking all over the house for him, even in places where he couldn’t possibly be. They were lifting rugs, or looking in cupboards and shouting out his name. One of them was looking up the chimney. Chloe tried talking to them, but they didn’t take any notice of her. Gary came downstairs to see what all the noise was about and his sister told him what was happening. She said, “I think this is like when goslings get separated from their mother. Or is it with ducks? They don’t know what to do without their mother, or choirmaster. What we need is someone to pretend to be their master to lead them out of the house. We’ve got to get rid of them.” Gary guessed from the tone of his sister’s voice that the ‘someone’ she had in mind was her brother. She wanted him to dress up as Mr. Williams and lead the choristers away from the house. If they were like goslings or ducklings, they’d follow their mother. He refused to do it at first, but she pointed out that they only had an hour until their parents came back. My aunt Sarah said they’d be back at noon, and she was always on time. Gary asked Chloe where he’d lead them to and she said, “Just take them to the park and set them free.” Gary asked how he’d set them free and she answered that with one word: Run. Gary thought that it sounded cruel but Chloe convinced him that they’d surely find their way to their rightful homes in the end. Mr. Williams had a beard and glasses, and he wore a black suit. Chloe had a friend who was costume designer in a theatre, so she sent Gary off to see her, and he returned at five to twelve wearing a wig, a fake beard, glasses and a black suit. Even Chloe didn’t recognise him at first when she opened the door, but then she remembered why he was there and she said in a very loud voice, “Hello, Mr. Williams.” The choristers all rushed into the hall and stared in silence at Gary. They seemed a bit unsure about something, and Gary was about to say, “I’m Mr. Williams,” but then their neighbour, Mr. Harris, walked up the garden path, tapped Gary on the shoulder and said, “Are you the leader of this choir?” For a second, Gary thought this was an extraordinary stroke of luck; it was the perfect way to confirm his identity. But there was something about Mr. Harris’s tone of voice and the look on his face that suggested he was hoping to inflict some sort of an injury on Mr. Williams. Gary couldn’t deny being Mr. Williams in front of the choristers, and they were all waiting for his answer, so he said he was. Mr. Harris said, “It was you who went on a bit of a rampage in my garden last night, wasn’t it?” Gary denied this completely but Mr. Harris said he saw a man with a beard and glasses, wearing a black suit, directing the choristers to dig up a small tree and plant it on top of his car. Gary insisted that it wasn’t him and Mr. Harris said, “How many choirmasters with beards, glasses and black suits are there around the place?” Gary said that there could very well be another one somewhere, and this led to a discussion on the statistical likelihood of this eventuality. Mr. Harris would give a reason why it was almost impossible and Gary would come up with a reason why it could happen any day. Chloe kept looking at her watch. It was nearly twelve and there was no sign of this conversation coming to an end. She tried to think of what she could do, but she was panicking, and all she could think of is what Leaknot the Teapot would do in this situation. She remembered an episode in which Leaknot was trying to get to the sink because there was a tiny leak in his side, but on the way he met Laura, the daughter of Leaknot’s owner. She said, “Leaknot, do you know what an elk hammer is?” He was desperate to get rid of her so he said, “It’s a hammer for elks.” This didn’t get rid of her. She thought about it for a while and said, “Why would you need a hammer for elks?” He said, “Why would you need a hammer for anything?” This didn’t get rid of her either. She started listing out all the things you’d need a hammer for, and Leaknot was starting to panic then too. When she said that you might use a hammer for breaking open piggy banks, Leaknot said, “Your brother broke your piggy bank with a hammer.” She rushed off to find her brother then, and Leaknot made his way to the sink. This is the only thing Chloe could think of. She said, “And he broke your… glasshouse with a hammer.” Mr. Harris didn’t have a glasshouse but it was enough of an excuse to grab Gary by the lapels and lift him up. The choir in the hall didn’t like the threatening look of this action against their master. They moved towards Mr. Harris, and he didn’t like the threatening noises they were making. He let go of Gary and moved away down the garden path, but the choir followed him. When he ran away, they ran after him. Aunt Sarah and Uncle Alan came back to see their neighbour being chased down the street by the choir. When they asked what was going on, Chloe said, “Mr. Harris had a party last night,” and raised her eyes to heaven, clicking her tongue. At that moment, the real Mr. Williams emerged from a bush in Mr. Harris’s garden and he did something that Leaknot the Teapot always did his best to avoid doing.

The moose’s head over the fireplace looks a bit nervous. When Iris, the wife, came into the room yesterday, she had a straw hat in her hand, and I think that’s the source of the nerves. He has a fear of hats. A nephew of mine once put a hunting hat on the moose’s head, took a Polaroid of it and then stuck the photo to the wall opposite the fireplace. Whenever he sees a hat he’s afraid that someone will put it on his head.