'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Going to Bed.

The rain is back. The clocks will be going forward at the weekend - that’s an even more obvious sign of summer than the rain. I found a hedge clippers I’d lost last summer. It was embedded in a hedge. I asked the dog if he knew how it got there, but I probably did lose it myself. The dog would never admit to anything anyway.

My cousin Hector went to the pub for a few drinks with his brother, Albert, when Albert came to stay with them one weekend. Albert woke up in a wooden wheelbarrow in the garden on the following morning. The first thing he saw was a boy on a bike cycling around him. The boy would appear from one side, then disappear at the other, and come around again a few seconds later. This went on for about ten minutes, until Albert noticed an ice cream cone in the boy’s hand, and he was sure there wasn’t a cone there on the last circuit. Albert looked around him, and Hector’s neighbour was standing there with her daughter. The boy on the bike was her son. Albert asked how long they’d been there and she said, “I don’t know. About a quarter of an hour.” “Right. And what are ye doing there?” “Just looking at you in the wheelbarrow.” “Right… And what about the people in the minibus?” She turned around and noticed the minibus for the first time. It was carrying a group of Austrian tourists, on their way to visit a castle, but it was parked by the side of the road. Hector’s neighbour said to them, “What are ye doing there?” But the tourists just stared back. One of them took a photo of her. Hector had managed to make it all the way into the house on the previous night, but he fell asleep on an armchair. He was woken up by his daughters, Alice and Grace. They kept asking him questions about electricity but he wasn’t in the mood to answer. Whenever he needed a bit of peace, he got them to play a game he called ‘Slow Motion’. Basically, he’d just get them to move in slow motion. It seems to confuse the cat - he once fell over while they were playing it. Ever since then, Alice and Grace have been trying to make him fall over again, so when Hector saw the cat sitting on the wall in the garden he suggested that they play Slow Motion out there. They left him in peace at last. Normally when he needs a bit of peace, he needs a glass of whiskey just as much. When the girls are playing Slow Motion, he has to play along too, and it can be hell lifting the glass to his mouth so slowly. But a glass of whiskey was the last thing he needed then. He tried to go to sleep on the armchair, but he couldn’t stop thinking of the night before. He had a vague memory of meeting a polar bear, and the polar bear was talking about how people always complained when he wrote on blackboards because he scratched them with his claws, and he loved writing on blackboards. Albert, the neighbours and the tourists all stared at Alice and Grace when they came out of the front door and walked in slow motion through the garden. No one said a word. They seemed to be moving towards the cat on the wall. When they were a few yards away from the wall, their father came out and went to Albert in the wheelbarrow. He said, “Did I meet a polar bear last night who loved writing on blackboards, and he was upset because people didn’t want him writing on blackboards at all?” Albert didn’t say a word, then Hector looked around and saw the neighbours staring at him. So were Alice and Grace - they had stopped their slow motion walk towards the cat, and the cat was staring at him too. Then he noticed the minibus full of tourists staring at him and he wondered if this was a dream. That seemed to be the most likely explanation for it. He looked around and thought he saw a polar bear in the distance, running towards him. He screamed, but then he realised that it wasn’t a polar bear in the distance - it was their Labrador puppy up close. The puppy clung to Hector’s leg. He looked around him again, and the look of pity on his daughters’ faces was something he’d seen many times before. He knew he wasn’t dreaming then. There was a similar look on his brother’s face. The neighbours and the tourists seemed to be looking at him in a funny way too. There was an eerie silence, and Hector wondered how he’d get out of this. The puppy was staring up at him, wondering why he wasn’t doing anything. Then he noticed that the cat was lying on its side on the grass, with its paws sticking out. He pointed towards it and said, “The cat’s fallen over.” Alice and Grace completely forgot about their father then. They were cursing their luck for missing the fall. Albert fell out of the wheelbarrow as he tried to turn around to see the cat, and the girls missed that as well, but some of the tourists got pictures of it. Hector ran back towards the house, as fast as he could with a puppy stuck to his leg. But when he went back inside he saw the bar stool he’d stolen from the pub on the night before, so he chose to believe he was dreaming again. And then he went to bed.

The moose’s head over the fireplace looks happy again after all the horse racing of last week. He was wearing headphones for most of the time, but he suspected we were up to something. It’s easy to make him forget about these things and cheer him up - just have a staring competition with him. He loves winning, and he’s always likely to win too. You just have to stare at him for a few minutes, give up, and then he’s happy with himself. It was the wife’s niece who discovered this. She challenged him to a staring match, and she hates losing at anything, so she lasted three hours before giving up. The moose’s head was delighted after this. It’s also a great way of keeping the niece occupied. We tell her that the moose has been blinking all day to let her think she has a chance. That’ll give you a few hours peace.