'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Monkeys Operating Radio Transmitters (a Christmas story).

It’s after getting very cold again recently. The possibility of a white Christmas has been raised. Well, the possibility of a white Christmas is always raised, but normally just to say how unlikely it is. This year it’s possible. The garden looks great under a covering of snow, and the landscape for miles around.

My cousin June had a habit of buying stupid things. When she came across soup bowls with images at the bottom of monkeys operating radio transmitters, she couldn’t resist buying them. She used to say to the kids, “If you see a monkey operating a radio transmitter, you’ve finished your soup.” The kids, Daisy and Graham, were watching a TV show about Santa in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Preparations for Christmas were going according to plan at the North Pole, but then the reindeer went missing, and Santa found a note saying that they’d been kidnapped. He nearly gave up on Christmas then. He didn’t know how he’d get around the world without the reindeer, but one of the elves came up with the idea of using monkeys to pull the sleigh. So they got eight monkeys and they put little antlers on their heads, but one of them was wearing headphones, like the monkeys in the soup bowls. The antlers confused the kids, and the one wearing the headphones didn’t help clarify the situation. Surely the monkeys would be just as effective without the antlers. Or ineffective. Surely monkeys can’t pull a sleigh through the sky. But then if reindeer can do it, why not monkeys? June bought some soup bowls with images of reindeer at the bottom, but she didn’t tell the kids about them. She wanted it to be a surprise, and she watched closely as they ate their soup, but instead of looking surprised, the kids just looked confused. They were even more confused when they watched the TV show and found that the monkeys had been replaced by sheep. The monkeys were giving Santa headaches because he couldn’t get them to work as a team, but the sheep often just stood there looking at him when he wanted them to move, and he was thinking of giving the monkeys another chance. June got tiny little antlers for their two pet rabbits, and she was sure the kids would love this, but again, they just looked confused. And then Santa tried using cats instead of the reindeer, sheep and monkeys, but they weren’t as good as the monkeys. June’s pet duck, Sleepy, loved the Christmas decorations, especially the tinsel (see ‘What’s in the box?’ from the October archive for the explanation of why the duck loves tinsel). On Christmas Eve, June remembered that she had another box of tinsel in the attic. The duck was delighted with himself when she brought this down. She put the little antlers on his head and he looked even happier. Daisy and Graham watched the TV show on Christmas Eve. The reindeer were back again, and they’d never even been kidnapped. They just got sick of working in the cold weather so they wrote the note about the kidnapping themselves and they all went to Rio. They loved living on the beach in Rio, but the people there got sick of them because they kept bursting the beach balls and beach volleyballs with their antlers. The reindeer believed that the object of beach volleyball was to burst the ball with their antlers, so they thought they were doing really well, and they loved doing it. Santa was very angry with them when they came home. He said he wouldn’t let them pull the sleigh that night, and he insisted on using the monkeys or the sheep or whatever else he could find the pull it. Daisy and Graham couldn’t wait for Santa to come, but mainly because they wanted to see what would be pulling his sleigh. They didn’t know what to expect, although they knew it was unlikely to be rabbits. Early on Christmas morning, they woke when they heard a noise from up above. It definitely wasn’t the sound of reindeer’s hooves, but it could have been monkeys. It definitely wasn’t rabbits. Then they heard what sounded like the quack of a duck, but they thought it couldn’t possibly be a duck. How could ducks pull a sleigh through the sky? June heard the noise too, and she realised that Sleepy must have fallen asleep in the box for the tinsel. Her husband, Dan, had put the box back in the attic, and Sleepy must have only just woken up. She told Dan to get the duck down from the attic when he was putting the presents under the tree. The kids heard the footsteps above and they assumed it was Santa, and their father really did look like Santa. He dressed up in the red suit and beard just in case the kids came downstairs and saw him putting the presents under the tree, which they did, but they weren’t interested in Santa at all. They just stared at the duck with the antlers. They were shocked when they saw that it really was a duck, but then they realised that ducks can actually fly. Monkeys, reindeer and sheep can’t fly. The idea of reindeer flying around the world is ridiculous, but ducks could do it. Dan was afraid that they’d recognise him. He put on a very deep voice when he said ‘ho ho ho’ and ‘merry Christmas’. He left as quickly as he could, but they didn’t even notice him going. When he came back downstairs a few minutes later with June, the kids were still staring at the duck. June was surprised to see that they hadn’t even touched their presents. She reminded them of the presents, and they finally opened them, but they kept looking over at the duck as they removed the wrapping paper. There was a lot of bubble wrap around the train set they got for Graham, and the duck started popping it with his beak. The kids completely forgot about their presents and just stared at him. June and Dan would have understood if the kids were happier playing with the bubble wrap rather than with their presents (that’s happened before), but they couldn’t understand how they’d be even happier watching the duck playing with the bubble wrap. When June asked them why, Graham pointed at the duck bursting the bubble wrap and said, “He thinks he’s in Rio.” When Sleepy went to sleep in one of the boxes, Daisy and Graham just looked down at him. This is how they spent most of the day. June and Dan spent most of Christmas Day staring at the kids as they stared at the duck.

The moose’s head over the fireplace looks as if he loves Christmas. That’s the way I choose to interpret the expression on his face. The wife has put a Santa hat on his antlers and a white beard on his face. I suggested just putting a red nose on his nose to make him into a reindeer. That would have been the obvious one, but the wife tends to go overboard with these things. The advantage of the beard is that we can’t see the real expression on his face. There’s always a chance that he would have been happier without any decorations at all, but you’re better off not even thinking about that and focusing on the permanently cheerful expression on his face.