'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2004


It’s been much colder recently, but we’ve had very little rain, thankfully. The garden still looks great on a freezing morning, the bare trees against the blue sky above, frost on the grass.

My cousin June bought a rabbit for her son, Graham, as a birthday present. Graham’s sister, Daisy, had already got a rabbit for Christmas, but June always thought it looked lonely on its own, so she got another one for Graham. She built a hutch in the back garden. June was no expert when it came to building rabbit hutches, but she didn’t think that rabbit hutch building was an area where expertise was absolutely essential. As long as the rabbits were happy in it and they couldn’t escape, it would be perfectly adequate. However, June’s construction failed on both of these criteria. It failed the first because they tried to escape from it, and it failed the second because they succeeded. But June wasn’t disappointed. She loved the idea of the rabbits escaping from what was effectively a prison. It must have been hugely exciting for them, so when she rebuilt the hutch, she allowed the possibility of escape, and the rabbits managed to get out again. The next hutch had little wooden fence posts all around it, but one of the fence posts would give way at the slightest pressure, and the rabbits found it. June had discovered a new hobby here. She was building a new hutch almost every day, and constantly coming up with new ideas to allow their escape. She even added in little details like a ‘no escaping’ sign. The rabbits were getting better at the escaping all the time, but they were in no real danger. The house was near a railway line, and there was a fence all around the back garden to keep the kids away from the trains. About a hundred yards down the road, there was an old train station. Very few trains were using that line, and the station was deserted for most of the day. A lot of small train stations around the country were being closed down, and the Minister for Transport was due to visit this one. The station manager was afraid that the Minister would close it down too, but he had an idea to save the place. He created a lawn on the platform. When people asked him why he did this, he’d say, “They’ll never shut us down if we have a lawn on the platform.” No one was able to point out any flaw in this theory, and he was convinced it would work. When June went out to feed the rabbits one morning, they weren’t in the hutch, which was no surprise at all, but she couldn’t find them anywhere in the garden either. At first she didn’t seriously consider the possibility that they had escaped from the garden, but then the thought dawned on her that after all the practise they had at escaping, they must have figured out a way of getting to the other side of the fence too. She went straight to the railway line to make sure they weren’t there, but Daisy and Graham went to the train station. In their minds they always believed that rabbits and lawns go together, and they could picture the two rabbits playing on the platform. June used to clean all the brass in the house with a polish called ‘Billy Brass’. The kids would notice the shiny door handles and they’d ask their mother what happened to them. She’d say, “Billy Brass cleaned them.” They assumed that Billy Brass was a man who lived down the road, and they also came to believe that Lenny Bull (a neighbour of their uncle) cleaned bulls, although they did wonder why he was always so clean and alive. When they got to the train station to look for the rabbits, the Minister for Transport was just arriving to inspect the place. The station manager shook the Minister’s hand and said, “Welcome, Mr. Rabbitte.” Daisy and Graham were convinced that this man had something to do with the disappearance of their rabbits, but when they asked him about it he denied it completely. Of course, they didn’t believe his denial and they kept asking him about it. They followed him all around the station, saying things like, “Are you sure you haven’t seen two rabbits? Or maybe you’ve been cleaning two rabbits?” The Minister seemed to be getting annoyed at this constant pestering, but the kids didn’t give up. When they stood on the platform, Daisy said to him, “Are you sure you haven’t been cleaning two rabbits?” The Minister said, “For the last time, I have nothing to do with rabbits. I’m here about the train station. I run the trains. I effectively own the trains. I’m responsible for the operation of our rail system and for everyone on the trains. I have nothing whatsoever to do with rabbits.” Just as he said that, a train came to a halt in the station and the two rabbits stepped out onto the platform. Daisy and Graham turned towards the Minister. They shook their heads and clicked their tongues at him. The Minister was deeply embarrassed. He apologised to the kids but they wouldn’t listen to him. They played with the rabbits on the grass, and the press photographers took photos of them. The Minister imagined those photos on the front pages of the papers, along with a story of how he… He wasn’t sure what he had done, but it would inevitably be portrayed negatively if he had made kids who were playing with rabbits in the grass unhappy about something. And he’d only make things much worse if he closed down a place where kids play with rabbits in the grass, so he announced that he certainly wouldn’t be closing down this train station and he left as quickly as he could. June was delighted to have the rabbits back. At this stage she was an expert in building rabbit hutches, and she made sure they wouldn’t be able to escape from this latest one, but they never even tried. They were happy in it, and they didn’t even try to go beyond the fence when they played in the garden. June never found out where they got to on the train, but they’d obviously seen the world and satisfied their curiosity about what’s beyond the fence.

The moose’s head over the fireplace looks very serious, and I get the impression that he’s deliberately trying to look serious. When I was walking by the window the other day I looked in and I thought I saw him laughing, but every time I go into the room he looks very serious, which would lead me to think that he’s been laughing at me behind my back and he deliberately tries to look serious when I’m around so he won’t laugh in front of me. I did accidentally glue my head to an accordion the other day, but that wasn’t funny at all.