'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

They're Butterflies.

I was out in the garden for a while. Just standing there, outside in the garden. A deep breath of the cold fresh air. Breathing and standing. And watching the dog try to bury a plate in a flowerbed, but that was only one percent compared to the ninety-nine percent standing and breathing. Actually it’s a hundred percent standing and breathing. I didn’t fall over and stop breathing when the dog tried to bury the plate. I just said ‘good dog’.

My cousin Alan once forgot his own name when he met a girl in the pub. He just said the first name that came into his head and he assumed that that would be the correct one. But it wasn’t. He told her his name was Frank. He only realised that he’d given her the wrong name on the following day, but it was too late to back out of it then. He felt that failing to remember your own name wouldn’t be the way to go about impressing a woman you’ve only just met, so he kept up the pretence that his name was Frank. He remembered her name, Rita. When she introduced him to her family and friends as Frank, he realised that it would be almost impossible to get out of it now. Alan’s sister, my cousin June, has a habit of buying stupid things. She once bought tiles for the kitchen that had images of newts on them. They were very cheap, probably because they had newts on them. When Alan went around to look at the tiles, he said to his sister, “Why did you get tiles with newts on them?” She said, “Is that what they are? Newts?” He told her that they were definitely newts, and she said, “And what are newts?” He felt that he’d be breaking bad news to her if he told her that they were a bit like frogs, only uglier, so he said, “They’re a type of butterfly. Only without wings.” June was delighted with this. She couldn’t believe she had to pay so little for kitchen tiles with butterflies on them. Alan was driving by his sister’s house with Rita one day, and he decided to call in so he could introduce her to June, Dan, Daisy and Graham. It was only when he rang the doorbell that he remembered the name. He had forgotten to tell his sister that Rita thinks his name is Frank. When June opened the door she said, “Hi Alan.” Out of the corner of his eye he could see Rita looking at him, but he avoided eye contact. He introduced her to June and they went inside. When they went to the kitchen, Alan saw a way out of this mess. He pointed at the tiles and said, “What do you call those things again?” June said, “They’re butterflies.” Alan winked a few times at Rita, and there was a vague look of understanding on her face. When June went out of the room for a while he said to Rita that his sister always gets the names of things mixed up, and it’s much easier to just play along with her own naming scheme rather than put her right. Rita believed this, but when Daisy and Graham came into the room later, Daisy said, “Hello Uncle Alan.” He whispered to Rita, “They’re just pretending that that’s my name in front of their mother. It’s easier this way.” She believed this too, and Alan was delighted with the way he extricated himself from that situation, but he wondered if his relationship with Rita could ever work. Sooner or later, he’d have to tell her that his real name is Alan, and he couldn’t imagine how he’d possibly explain that. June’s husband, Dan, hated the newt tiles in the kitchen, and he was always trying to think of ways to get rid of them, but June loved her ‘butterfly’ tiles. The plan he eventually came up with was to buy real butterfly tiles and tell her that these were the newts after they’d moulted, and it worked too. She loved the idea of changing the tiles from the ones with the newts before they’d moulted to after. The new tiles had been put up and the newt ones removed when Alan and Rita next visited the house. June noticed Rita looking very closely at the butterflies on the tiles. June said, “They’re newts.” Rita could have sworn that it was newts that were on the tiles and that June thought they were butterflies. She looked very confused as she stared at the tiles. She turned around when Daisy and Graham came into the room. Since the last visit, Alan had told his sister, Dan and the kids the story of how Rita came to believe that his name is Frank, so Daisy said, “Hello Uncle Frank,” and Graham winked a few times. Rita was more confused than ever then. She thought his real name was Frank and that they were pretending it was Alan. The thought occurred to her that it was she who had made the mistake with his name. When they left June’s house, she said to him, “This is a bit awkward, but is your name Frank or Alan?” Alan thought it was more than a bit awkward, but he knew that the time had come to tell her the truth. He said, “It’s Alan,” and he expected to have some explaining to do, but she said, “I’m terribly sorry. I had a lot to drink on that night when I first met you and I must have got your name mixed up with someone else’s name. I thought it was Frank.” She was very upset about this, but he insisted that he didn’t mind at all. “It could happen to anyone,” he said. “I’m terrible with names.”

The moose’s head over the fireplace seems to have a wide-eyed stare. I know someone who looked just like that after she got contact lenses, but I don’t think the moose’s head would have much use for them. You’d never see him reading. Maybe he’s just surprised about something. If he could write, he could let us know, but he doesn’t have the hooves. That’s probably why he doesn’t read either.