'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Window.

We got our white Christmas this year, and a proper white Christmas too. The snow covered everything. Apparently it’s been about fifty years since that last happened.

My cousin Craig once won a chess tournament, but the trophy he was presented with was a foot-high replica of a window with open Venetian blinds. Nobody explained to him why he was getting a replica of a window, and he felt that a man who just won a chess tournament should be able to figure these things out for himself, so he never asked. During the presentation of the trophy and in the photos, he tried his best to look as if he knew the reason for the window. When he brought the trophy home he acted as if it was blatantly obvious why they gave him a window for winning a chess tournament, so people pretended that they knew the reason too, but he always got the impression that they didn’t know either, until his cousin Jane saw the trophy and asked him what it was for. He told her about the chess tournament and she just said, “Yeah,” and nodded her head. She seemed to understand it, and Craig tried to think of a way of finding out why she thought they gave him a window. He didn’t want to ask her in case she realised he didn’t know himself, so he waited until his mother, my aunt Joyce, came into the room and he said to her, “Jane was just admiring my chess trophy.” Jane said, “Yeah, it’s very nice.” People who were pretending to know why they gave him a window were always nervous when talking about it, and they tried to change the subject, but Jane wasn’t like that at all. Aunt Joyce noticed this and she saw a way of finally finding out why they gave her son a window. She said to Jane, “So why do you think they gave Craig a window?” Jane said, “It’s because of the time he cheated when he was playing cards. He said he was going to the toilet but he went outside and he looked in the window to see someone else’s cards.” This made perfect sense to his mother. She said, “Ohh. So they think you cheated. But obviously I knew that all along.” Craig wasn’t entirely satisfied with this explanation. He insisted that he didn’t cheat, but Jane said, “If the blinds were closed, that would have meant that you won it fair and square, but because the blinds are open, it means they think you cheated.” “I did not cheat.” “But they think you cheated. Why else would they give you a window with open Venetian blinds?” Craig couldn’t answer that question before and he couldn’t come up with a better answer then. He just said, “I did not cheat.” But his mother winked at him and said, “Fair enough.” Everyone heard the story of Craig cheating at chess, and the trophy was a constant reminder of this. His parents were having a party and all the relatives were invited, but Craig wasn’t looking forward to it because everyone would ask about the cheating. He had to find a way to prove that he didn’t cheat, so he decided to go through the game move by move just to show that he won it fair and square. Jane arrived early on the day of the party, and he got her to observe this re-run of the game. My cousin Hector had arrived early too, with his daughters, Alice and Grace. He’d been fishing with the girls a few days earlier, but after an hour he hadn’t caught anything and Alice suggested he use a buttercup as bait. He told her that fish don’t go for buttercups, but after another hour he still hadn’t caught anything, and Alice suggested it again. Just to humour her, he put a buttercup on the hook and cast the line. Within five minutes he had caught a fish. Hector thought it must have been a fairly stupid fish, so he called it Dopey. Alice was delighted that her suggestion had worked, but on the following day she realised why her father had called the fish Dopey. Hector obviously didn’t think much of her method, and Alice thought he could do with a more dramatic illustration of its efficacy. ‘Revenge’ is the word most people would use instead of ‘a more dramatic illustration of its efficacy’. Alice didn’t use those words either, but that’s what she was thinking. Aunt Joyce and Uncle Cyril have a dog called Spotty. One of Cyril’s favourite possessions is a clock shaped like a teapot, but Joyce doesn’t like it at all. She once said something about throwing it out, and Cyril was afraid that she’d do it behind his back. So he trained Spotty to bark whenever he saw someone holding the clock. When Hector was in the back garden, he noticed a buttercup on a path, and then he noticed another one a few feet away, and another one a few feet beyond that. He saw a trail of buttercups that led around the house, so he followed it. It led him to a clock shaped like a teapot on the front lawn. He picked it up and wondered why someone would leave a clock in the garden. Craig and Jane were in the front room. Craig was recreating the final of the chess tournament and Jane was observing it to make sure he didn’t cheat. But he got to a point in the game where he couldn’t remember his opponent’s next move. He paced from one side of the room to the other, trying to think. Jane heard a noise from the front garden. She went to the window and looked out. She saw Hector running around the lawn with a clock shaped like a teapot in his hand, being chased by Spotty, with Alice and Grace nearby taking photos. She looked out the window for a few minutes, trying to figure out what was going on. When she finally remembered the chess game she turned around and saw Craig standing at the other side of the chess board, with his hands behind his back. “Ahhh,” she said. “So that’s how you cheated.”

The moose’s head over the fireplace has been looking at me very suspiciously, and I can’t say I blame him. A friend of the wife asked me if I shot it myself. I said, “No. I don’t know who shot it. It’s been in my family for generations.” I said that very emphatically to make sure the moose got the message. Just for the record, I didn’t shoot it myself. I don’t know who shot it. It’s been in the family for generations.