'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
Click here to buy the paperback or download the ebook for free.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Speed of Light.

Some of the garden furniture could do with a coat of white paint, the things that are meant to be white. The roof of the shed is meant to keep out the rain, and I have a feeling I’ll be the one who has to talk it into doing its job properly.

My cousin June got a new glasshouse and a few of the relatives came around to see it in the evening. Her cousin Jane was there, and she came across a note in the kitchen that just said ‘Jane’. She read it and looked around her. She looked at the other side of the note, but it was blank. She read the note again, but she still couldn’t figure out how to respond to it. From another room, June said, “What time is it, Jane?” She looked all around her but she couldn’t see anyone, and she answered nervously. “It’s nearly eight.” Then she went outside to the people looking at the glasshouse. June’s kids, Daisy and Graham, had seen a Punch and Judy show earlier in the day, but the Judy puppet had gone missing before the performance, and the puppeteer replaced it with a jam jar. Most of Judy’s lines seemed inappropriate coming from a jam jar, so he changed it, making it up as he went along. Punch asked the jam jar what she’d been doing for the day, and the jam jar said, “Not much really. Just holding jam.” And then Punch asked her if she’d like to sit in the cupboard for a while and she said, “No thanks.” There was a long silence after that, until Punch said, “I really like that... hat you’re wearing.” When Daisy and Graham got home, they created a puppet show of their own with a jam jar and a sugar bowl. The bowl asked the jam jar if it plays football and the jam jar said that was a stupid question. Then the sugar bowl, through Graham, said, “I was just trying to make conversation.” Daisy added in another character, a phone book, who said, “Well the jam jar was just trying to say that she doesn’t want to talk to you.” Graham remembered a TV show about a boy with a table lamp that he used as a torch. The table lamp was on an extension lead, and they used to get into all sorts of adventures. At the start, the boy would say, “That extension lead must be really long.” Then they’d move further away from the house and he’d say, “That extension lead must be really, really long.” By the end they’d have moved much further away and he’d say, “That extension lead must be really, really, really, really, really, really long.” Graham picked up a lamp and said, “That jam jar must be really stupid.” Daisy picked up a spoon and said, “I’m a mouse. I’m stupid and I was able to steal sugar from the sugar bowl while it was asleep.” Graham picked up a video cassette and said, “I’m a cat. I’m really lazy and I sleep all day, and I was still able to kill that mouse.” Then he moved the table lamp around with his other hand and said, “That mouse must be really, really stupid.” The puppet show went on in a similar vein. Characters such as geese, bears, cows and butterflies appeared, played by things such as the fridge, bits of cutlery or newspapers. Outside in the back garden, someone asked Jane what the speed of light is. She looked at the note and said, “About a hundred and eighty-six thousand miles a second.” The others just stared at her. “I mean...” She looked at the note again, then she noticed a squirrel staring at her too. “Why is that squirrel staring at me?” She pointed at the squirrel and they looked towards it. Jane ran away. The kids had taken their puppet show to another room in the house, where their parents were talking to Uncle Harry and Aunt Bridget, who had come to see the glasshouse too. Jane went there and looked at the note again. It still just said ‘Jane’. When the people she’d been talking to at the glasshouse came inside, one of them said to her, “I think you were right about the speed of light.” She looked at the note again, and when she looked up, everyone was staring at her. She pointed towards the opposite wall and said, “Look at the squirrel.” She ran from the room, even though they kept staring at her. Only Daisy and Graham looked towards the wall. Graham thought she was pointing at a painting of a harbour there and he said, “That squirrel must be really, really, really, really, really, really stupid,” moving the lamp around a bit as he spoke. The kids were starting to run out of potential actors in this room, so they went back to the kitchen. Daisy picked up a stapler and said, “I’m a deer, and I once saw that wolf fall over when it tried to think of something.” Graham was starting to get confused. He thought a fork was already playing the deer, and he couldn’t remember who was playing the wolf. Jane had left the note on the cooker. When Graham saw it, he got the blackbird (a pencil) in his hand to say, “Jane, do you think that if the jam jar got its head stuck in a rabbit hole...” Jane walked into the room then. Graham stopped and looked at her, then looked back at the cooker. He was more confused than ever then. He was already having trouble keeping track of what was what, and he found it very difficult to determine which one was the real Jane. In the end he turned back towards the cooker and said, “Jane, do you think...” Daisy said, “That boy must be really, really, really, really, really, really, really stupid.” Jane just ran from the house screaming.

The moose’s head over the fireplace is looking very smug after I lost heavily in a game of Scrabble again. He looks over my shoulder in these games, and I can sense that pitying look every time I form a word. I once spent a game trying to get the words ‘stupid’ and ‘moose’ but I mis-spelt ‘stupid’. I avoided eye contact with the moose for a few days after that.