'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, February 02, 2005


I walked around the garden, listening to the birds and of the sound of the dog doing something to something in the trees. The robins seem to be getting friendlier. One of them landed on the grass just a few feet away from me the other day. A magpie landed nearby recently too. I wouldn’t mind if the magpies stayed away altogether. They have horrible claws - you’ll see that if one of them lands nearby. Whatever the dog is doing, it involves a struggle, and whatever he’s doing it to is struggling.

My cousin Jane once had a feeling that she’d seen a stamp with an image of Olivia Newton-John on it after sending out invitations to her 21st birthday party. She mentioned it to her mother, who said, “What would Olivia Newton-John be doing on a stamp?” Jane said she’d probably be singing or acting, but it didn’t sound very likely. The invitations had just been posted, so she couldn’t look through the stamps again, and she wondered if she’d just imagined it. My cousin Ronan went on a holiday to Spain with some of his friends and he sent a postcard home with a few almost illegible words on it, but one of his friends, Adrian, added in the line: ‘I just met Roxy Music’. Ronan didn’t notice this when he posted the postcard, and he didn’t remember meeting Roxy Music at all when his parents asked him about it. He told Jane about this when she came to visit, and she said, “Maybe it was Roxy Music I saw on the stamp, and not Olivia Newton-John.” That sounded slightly more believable. Ronan wondered if it was Olivia Newton-John he met, and not Roxy Music. This sounded slightly more believable too. He could remember meeting someone who looked a bit like her. He said, “I think I must have written ‘Roxy Music’ on the postcard when I meant to write ‘Olivia Newton-John’.” His mother, my aunt Bridget, asked him where he met Olivia Newton-John but his memory of the meeting was vague, so he couldn’t give many details, and he had a feeling that even if he did know all the details, he couldn’t tell most of them to his mother. When Adrian came around to visit he said to Aunt Bridget, “Did Ronan tell you about anyone interesting he might have met on his holiday?” “Yeah, he met Olivia Newton-John.” This came as a shock to Adrian. He said to Ronan, “When did you meet Olivia Newton-John?” “I don’t know. I can’t really remember.” “Why didn’t you tell us?” “Because I can’t remember.” His mother said, “He told us about it in a postcard.” Adrian wondered why he would have written ‘Olivia Newton-John’ when he meant to write ‘Roxy Music’. Then he remembered a woman he’d met on their last night in Spain. She did look a little bit like Olivia Newton-John, and she was a few years older than him, but surely she wasn’t really Olivia Newton-John. He couldn’t say for sure because he had just a vague memory of the meeting too. Jane thought the idea of seeing Roxy Music on a stamp sounded slightly more believable than Olivia Newton-John. She looked through the stamps in her brother’s stamp collection, but most of them were just images of birds, and she started to think that a stamp with Roxy Music on it seemed unlikely. She was about to give up, but then she found a stamp with an image of a dog on a crutch, and Roxy Music seemed more likely again, so she kept looking and she came across one with a man playing a piano under a full moon. That could be Bryan Ferry, she thought. The piano would suggest Bryan Ferry, but she didn’t know what the full moon meant. Then she found another stamp with a man who was just standing and she thought he might be Brian Eno. It wasn’t the strongest of links, but if you put the two stamps together it could be Roxy Music. So she told everyone that she hadn’t seen a stamp with Olivia Newton-John on it, that it was actually Roxy Music. And she doesn’t just think she’s seen it - she really has seen it. She told her friend, Claudia, about the dog on the crutch, and Claudia said, “I once saw a stamp with a bee in a straightjacket.” Jane said that was ridiculous but Claudia said that if she hadn’t seen a stamp with a bee in a straightjacket, she’d have said that a stamp with a dog on a crutch is ridiculous. Jane said that she’d seen a stamp with a dog on a crutch and she still thinks that a stamp with a bee in a straightjacket is ridiculous. She suggested that Claudia imagined the bee in the straightjacket, but Claudia insisted that she didn’t. “Show it to me then,” Jane said. “I can’t,” Claudia said, “it’s… I can’t.” “You did imagine it.” “Well you show me the one with the dog on the crutch then.” Jane was delighted that Claudia said that. She showed her the stamp with the dog on the crutch and she was about to say that maybe the dog was stung by a bee, and that’s why the bee was put in a straightjacket, but Claudia said, “And where’s the one of Roxy Music?” Jane said she couldn’t remember where the Roxy Music stamp was, but Claudia said, “Because you just imagined it.” So Jane showed her the stamp with the man playing the piano and the other one with the man standing, and Claudia said, “Thinking that you’ve seen a stamp with Roxy Music on it because you’ve seen those two stamps is a million times more stupid than a stamp with a bee in a straightjacket. Which I’ve seen.” Jane said no more about it, but Claudia said much more about it over the coming days. Ronan and Adrian called around on Friday evening and they played poker with Jane and Claudia, but Claudia hated playing card games because she always forgot the rules. Poker just confused her, but she always tried to pretend that she knew what was going on. This game was even more confusing because Adrian was wearing the jester’s hat he wore for most of his holiday in Spain. He looked like the joker and she couldn’t help thinking that this had something to do with the game, but she didn’t say anything about it because they’d already explained the rules very carefully to her. The drink made the time pass by a bit quicker but it didn’t ease the confusion, and she was more confused than ever when she noticed that the label on Jane’s beer bottle had an image of a queen passing out at a royal banquet. Jane was losing badly in the game, but Adrian kept complimenting her on how well she was playing. She didn’t pay much attention to the compliments or the game because when she was looking at the jack of hearts she noticed a bee with a broken bottle in the background. It looked as if the bee was threatening people on the street. And then when she got the jack of spades a few minutes later she saw the bee standing on top of a bus, shouting at people below. She liked the way this story was progressing, so she concentrated only on getting the two remaining jacks. With every hand she’d get four new cards, and when she finally got the jack of clubs she saw the bee again in the background, along with two men in white coats, and one of them was holding a syringe. She couldn’t wait to get the jack of diamonds. Ronan put more effort into the drinking rather than the poker, and after a few hours the queen on Jane’s beer bottle and the jester’s hat were starting to confuse him too. The things that Adrian was saying to Jane sounded familiar, and then when he got a queen and a joker in one hand it dawned on him that Adrian was trying to chat up his cousin, just like with that woman in Spain, the woman he thought might have been Olivia Newton-John. At two o’ clock in the morning they decided to end the game after the next hand. Jane wanted to play until she got the jack of diamonds, but Claudia was on the verge of tears because she had no idea what was going on. Adrian had won a bit of money but he was disappointed because he’d completely failed to make any impression on Jane. She was the worst poker player he’d ever seen. She hadn’t won a single hand, and there was a look of disappointment on her face every time she saw her cards, but in the final hand she looked delighted. Adrian saw his chance. If he could let her win now she might be slightly more disposed to hearing how well she’s playing, so he bet a huge amount of money. Ronan seemed very happy with his hand too, and he raised the stakes even further. Jane raised it again. The only thing Claudia had learnt how to do was to push some money towards the centre of the table. Nobody ever noticed if it was the right amount. So she did this again, and Adrian raised the stakes again. So did Ronan and Jane. It kept going around like this until all of their money was in the pot. Jane was first to show her cards, or card. Adrian asked her what she had, and she said, “I have a jack with a bee in a straightjacket. On a playing card. Not on a stamp at all.” She put the jack of diamonds down in front of Claudia. “Well, you’ve beaten me,” Adrian said. He actually had two nines, but he only showed one of them. Then it was Ronan’s turn. He said, “I have a joker. And who’s this here with the joker? It’s the queen. Hm. They’re leaning against the railing on the balcony of a hotel room. And who’s that knocking at the door. Knock knock. It’s the king… The queen’s husband.” Adrian stood up, put his hands at either side of his head and said, “Oh my God! I gave her my phone number and told her I’d get her a part in a film about a band foiling a plot to take over the world.” He noticed Jane staring at him and he said, “That was just a woman who… She’s my aunt.” They all turned towards Claudia then and she looked frightened. She lay down her cards, and she had three fours. “You’ve won,” Adrian said, but she just broke down in tears because she’d no idea how she’d done it.

The moose’s head over the fireplace looks bored again. I might try putting a hat on his head. As the wife pointed out recently, he looks like James Bond when you put a hat on his head. It’s as if he tries his best to look smooth and suave. He’d never be bored again if he thought he was James Bond.