'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005


It looks like the last days of spring. Although if my memory of past years is accurate, summer only lasts three weeks in a good year, so according to my calculations, we should be looking into winter this time next month. I hope it is a good year.

My cousin Gary got a job as a reporter with a radio station. He’d always wanted to work on the radio, but he never realised it would be so boring. They’d send him out to talk to people on the street, to get their opinions on current affairs or events. Most people refused to talk to him. He liked those people. He came to hate the people who agreed to talk because they rambled on for ages. He’d have a pain in his head from listening to them and a pain in his arm from holding up the microphone. There was an obvious way to ease the pain in his head: don’t listen to them. And he found a way of easing the pain in his arm too. He got a fake arm to hold the microphone, and he put a glove on the hand so people would think it had been injured in some way. No one ever asked him about that. His free hand was inside his coat holding a can of beer with a straw in it. As the interviewee rambled on he’d drink the beer, which further increased his ability to ignore them. One day he asked a young woman a question about the environment, and she was only too happy to express her opinions. But as Gary drank from his can he started to wonder if she was talking about the environment at all. He heard words like ‘hockey’ and ‘bread’ in there. When she finally stopped talking he said to her, “I’m having trouble with the tape recorder. Let me rewind it to make sure it came out properly.” So he rewound the tape and played it, and this time he listened. She was talking about her hockey team and their rivalry with a team they’ve played four times over the past three weeks. They’ve started betting on the games, but they all think that gambling is wrong, so they bet bread instead of money. Playing for bread seemed like a charity sort of thing to do, and it definitely didn’t feel like gambling. But the games have become even more competitive, and she said there was a huge amount of bread riding on the outcome of the game they were playing that day. When Gary had listened to this on the tape recorder, she asked him if he’d like to watch the game and he said he’d love to, so he went to the hockey pitch with her. Normally he’d have thought that watching hockey would be about as interesting as listening to someone talk for half an hour about a snail stuck to a tree, but this one sounded interesting, and it would get him out of listening to someone talk for half an hour about a snail stuck to a tree. The match lived up to his expectations. It descended into violence in the middle of the second half. Gary said into the microphone, “A melee seems to have developed near the half-way line. Lots of kicking and swinging of sticks. It really is a sight to behold.” He was holding the microphone in his right ‘fake’ hand, but he took it in his left hand so he could hold it out towards the fight, hoping he’d record some of the things they were saying. When he noticed a hockey ball flying in his direction he tried to raise his right hand to block it, and for a split second he wondered why his right hand wasn’t moving, but then the ball hit him on the head and he fell over, his left hand still holding out the microphone and his right hand held in front of him. The fight stopped and they all came over to see if he was okay. One of them poked him with a hockey stick but he didn’t move. She said, “Let’s just leave him in the car park and get on with our fight.” Just as they were about to drag him away, he regained consciousness. When he asked what had happened, one of the players said, “You were hit by the ball and we were about to give you first aid.” Gary rewound the tape and pressed play. The players were all embarrassed because they knew he’d get to the bit where they suggested leaving him in the car park, and there was also the embarrassment of their fight before they got to that bit. The fight had started when one of the players said that an opponent looked like an ostrich when she ran after the ball. Gary was smiling as he listened to the bit about leaving him in the car park. The hockey players all looked away, but he just said, “All that talk of an ostrich reminds me of, ah, wait a second…” He pressed record and said into the microphone, “I’m reminded of the time I was talking to my uncle Cyril and he was telling me about the place he lost his glasses. And then he said, ‘It was the same place I lost the ostrich.’ Now that sounded a bit odd to me. I said to him, ‘How did you lose the…’ I was going to say ostrich, but I thought, no, he probably didn’t mention an ostrich at all, so I said ‘glasses’ instead, and he said, ‘The ostrich took them.’ That made perfect sense to me at the time, but when I was thinking about it later I thought, no, that doesn’t make a lot of sense at all. Then his dog started eating the phonebook, so we took him out in the back garden. He seemed to miss the phonebook there, so we gave him a rake, but he wouldn’t even touch that. We experimented with a few different things, and we found that a paint brush was the best substitute for the phonebook. And then the ostrich walked into the shed and Uncle Cyril said, ‘That’s because he’s wearing my glasses.’ And that made perfect sense.” As Gary was telling this story, the hockey players were talking amongst themselves. They were all very keen on keeping this recording off the radio, so they decided to physically force Gary into handing it over. They thought they could easily overpower him because there was obviously something wrong with his right arm. So when Gary got to the end of the ostrich story they attacked him, but the struggle didn’t last long. When they discovered the real arm they all ran off in shock. Gary ran back to the radio station to be in time for the broadcast. He got there just seconds before the start of the programme and he told the producer that this recording was dynamite. Listeners to the show heard about the hockey teams playing for bread, then the fight and Gary’s accident. They heard the players talking about leaving him in the car park and then Gary’s story about the ostrich. Just after this they heard a struggle and one of the players saying, “What’s that under his coat? Oh my God!” The tape ended with lots of young women screaming, their screams fading as they ran away. Gary got his own show out of it.

The moose’s head over the fireplace doesn’t get on with the wife’s niece. She does her best to annoy him. Normally she accomplishes that with her presence. She’s started ringing the bell on her bike when she cycles around the house. She thinks it’ll annoy the moose’s head because it’s a constant reminder that she’s around, but he loves the sound because it’s a constant reminder that she’s outside.