'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Snooker Puppy.

I cut the grass at the weekend. It was nearly a month since I last cut it, and the next cut is probably a few months away. Within hours the lawns were covered in leaves again, and everywhere you walk you can hear the sound of leaves beneath your feet.

My cousin Hector once bought his daughters, Alice and Grace, a snooker table for Christmas. They had no real interest in snooker, and they wondered if he’d really bought it for himself, but they were willing to have a go at it anyway. Grace read through the rule book first and then she handed it over to her sister. When Alice was reading it she noticed a line that had been written in with a pencil. It said ‘Your opponent is allowed to place an object on the table before you take your shot’. Alice suspected that Grace had added this line, but she didn’t say anything about it because it seemed to make the game sound more exciting. When they finally started playing, just as Alice was about to take her first shot, Grace put a book on the table in front of the pocket her sister was aiming for. Alice took the shot anyway. The ball hit off the book and bounced back towards her, but she was happy that she’d managed to hit the book. Then it was Grace’s turn. She was left with an easy pott to the centre pocket, but just as she was about to strike the cue ball, her sister put the puppy on the table. He went straight to Grace and started licking her face, and every time she tried to bend over to take the shot he licked her face, so she just struck the cue ball while standing up straight. She missed the pott by a few inches. The puppy had never seen snooker before and he didn’t know what to make of all the different coloured balls rolling around the table, but whatever it was, he liked it. He chased the balls, knocking them everywhere, so Grace’s shot went on for over five minutes before all the balls came to rest, and in that time, three of them had dropped into the pockets. Alice and Grace liked it too. They felt as if they’d discovered a new sport. They left the puppy on the table for the rest of their game and it went on for hours. They even tried to train him not to push the cue ball into the pocket. Hector was happy that the girls liked their present so much. When he went to the pub on the day after Christmas, he told his friends about the snooker table and the new sport his daughters had invented. By the time he got home, everyone had gone to bed . The house was in darkness, and he couldn’t hear a sound. He listened very carefully for any noise from the puppy because of its habit of clinging to his leg, but he thought the little chap was probably sound asleep in the kitchen, off chasing birds in dreamland, which is exactly where Hector was heading. Before going to bed, he couldn’t resist having a quick game of snooker, so he tiptoed through the kitchen and went to the room where the snooker table was. He turned on the light and picked up a cue, but within a second of striking the cue ball he felt something clinging to his leg. He looked down and saw the puppy looking back up at him. Its basket was under the table, so it must have been sleeping there. Hector tried to remove it but his eye to hand coordination wasn’t at its best and he failed. What he really needed right then was sleep, so he climbed the stairs with the puppy still stuck to his leg. Just before he went to bed he remembered an idea he had in the pub earlier when they were talking about new sports, so he wrote the idea on a piece of paper in case he forgot it. Then he lay down in bed and went to sleep, and so did the puppy. When Hector woke in the morning, he looked down and saw the puppy still asleep on his leg. He tried to extract his leg as carefully as he could but the puppy woke up, and as soon as he realised where he was and what he had been doing before he fell asleep, he started doing it again. He clung to Hector’s leg and wouldn’t let go. Hector remembered the note he’d written on the night before. He’d left it on his bedside locker and he looked at it then. It just said ‘Teach Gollyball’. He knew it was a sport of some sort, but he had trouble making sense of it. Presumably the object of the sport was to teach someone how to play Gollyball, but he didn’t know what Gollyball was. He’d have to find out what it was before he could teach it, and he wondered how he’d find someone who could teach him how to play the game. He spent hours that day just pacing back and forth with the puppy stuck to his leg, trying to come up with a solution to this problem. The girls wanted to play snooker with the puppy, and they were delighted when their father finally went to the pub. He told his friends there about Teach Gollyball and the problem he was having with it, and they all made fun of him. They said it was a stupid idea, and that it was even more stupid to waste time thinking about it, but Hector wouldn’t give up. He knew it made sense when he first thought of it. He spent most of the next day pacing the room with the puppy attached his leg again, but he still couldn’t figure out how he’d go about playing Teach Gollyball. The girls tried removing the puppy so they could play snooker, but the puppy always preferred to stay on the leg. They knew they had to get their father out of the house, so Alice said to him, “Teach Gollyball is obviously a sport where you teach Gollyball by just letting people learn it for themselves.” That made sense to Hector, but then he said, “How would I learn how to play Gollyball myself?” Alice didn’t know how to answer that one, but her sister came to the rescue. “You’d just watch people learning how to play it,” Grace said. This made perfect sense to Hector. He couldn’t wait to get to the pub to tell his friends, but as he was going out the door he thought of something else. He said to the girls, “What sort of sport is Gollyball?” Alice said, “It’s obviously a type of snooker. You got the idea from our version of snooker.” This made perfect sense to Hector too, and ten minutes later he was sitting in the pub, about to explain it all to his friends, but as he tried to form the words he found it difficult to shape them into sense. “It’s a type of snooker,” he said. “But it’s difficult to explain in words. You really have to see it.” But then one of his friends said, “You could show us on the snooker table at your house.” Hector agreed and he hoped he’d be able to come up with an idea on the walk back to the house. The girls’ game of snooker didn’t last long. They put the puppy on the table, but he was tired after all the clinging and he fell asleep straightaway. They couldn’t get him off the table, so they put a cardboard box over him and played around the box, but it was no fun without the puppy, so they abandoned the game. When Hector arrived in the room with his friends he still hadn’t thought of anything. The puppy woke up as soon as he heard my cousin’s voice, but he couldn’t find a way out of the box. Hector and his friends just saw a box moving all around the table, knocking the remaining balls everywhere. Alice had left a cue on the table. It was pointing towards a corner pocket, and it guided the balls into that pocket. The black ball was left hanging over the centre pocket, but the puppy knocked it in when he finally got out from under the box, leaving just the cue ball on the table. As his friends stared at the puppy in astonishment, Hector said, “Now that’s Gollyball. Because… it makes you say ‘golly’. And I taught the puppy how to do that.” The puppy jumped off the table and clung to my cousin’s leg, but he just patted its head and said, “Good dog.” The puppy looked confused.

The moose’s head over the fireplace seems to be back to his old self now. He was angry about something for a few days. I don’t know what it was that started it. I remember noticing that he looked angry when my wife’s aunt came to visit a few days ago. Actually, it might have been that visit that made him angry. It certainly made me angry. I pointed out the moose’s look of anger to the aunt and she started laughing. Through her laughter she was just about able to say, “He looks like Al Capone.” That made the moose much more angry. He really did start to look like Al Capone then. I don’t really know what Al Capone looked like, but I’d imagine he’d have looked fairly angry.