'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The Goat

All the insects are out and about again. There are a good few flies and bees and wasps around the place, plus a flat green thing I haven’t seen before, and a lot of very nasty-looking black things.

My aunt Bridget and uncle Harry invited a lot of the relatives to their house for a day during the Christmas holidays. It had been snowing for the previous few days. My cousin Hugh was there with his fiancée, Annabel, and they went out sledding. They walked about a mile to the top of a hill and stood before the steepest slope. Hugh went first. Annabel gave him a push, but there was really no need. He got more than enough speed from the slope, and then he gradually slowed down as the land flattened out. He came to a rest on a frozen lake, and he got off the sled very carefully in case the ice broke, but just as he was standing up he heard a very ominous sound. When he looked around he saw a goat hammering at the ice with his hoof. “Stop that,” Hugh said. “Stop hitting the ice. You’ll break it.” The goat looked up briefly, and then went back to hitting the ice. Hugh kept telling him to stop, but the goat ignored him, so Hugh took off his scarf and threw it at the goat. It landed in the goat’s left horn and he stopped hitting the ice. He looked up and tried to remove the scarf from his horn, but the scarf moved every time he moved. He ended up running in circles, chasing the scarf above him, and he completely ignored Hugh when he said, “Stop it! Stop running. You’ll break the ice.” Annabel had attached Hugh’s gloves to the sleeves of his coat with a piece of thread. She did it as a joke, but he found it very useful because he was always losing his gloves, so he left the thread there. He pulled off one of the gloves, and swung it from side to side with the piece of thread. “Look at the glove,” Hugh said to the goat. “Keep your eyes on the glove at all times.” The goat stopped running in circles and looked at the swinging glove. “You are getting very sleepy. You are not on a frozen lake in winter. There is not a scarf on your head. Take a deep breath and relax. You’re in a field in the middle of summer. There’s a blue sky above. Birds are singing. Little lambs are jumping through the long grass. Just relax.” The goat looked very relaxed as he stared at the glove. Hugh very slowly walked off the ice, swinging the glove all the time, and the goat kept staring at it. Annabel had reached the bottom of the hill at that stage. Hugh told her what had happened, and then they headed back towards the house, but the goat followed them. Hugh put the glove in his pocket, and he said to the goat, “Go home. Go home.” He said it very slowly, but the goat didn’t seem to understand what he was talking about. The goat followed them all the way to the back garden. Annabel went over to get the scarf, and she said to Hugh, “The poor thing is shivering. He must be frozen.” “Well I think I might have hypnotised him into thinking that this is a day in the middle of summer with lambs jumping in the grass and that sort of thing.” “You poor thing,” Annabel said to the goat, and she put the scarf around his neck. The kids were playing hide-and-seek in the house. Scott was doing the hiding, and Daisy, Graham, Alice and Grace were trying to find him. It’s a huge house, and after an hour of looking they still hadn’t found him. They’d looked behind all the curtains, and then they concentrated their efforts on the cupboards, but still no luck. Alice said, “I know of one more cupboard in the house. He must be in there. It’s in a room upstairs.” So they went to the room, opened the door as quietly as they could and tiptoed towards the cupboard, then they opened the doors very suddenly and said, “Aha!” But Scott wasn’t there. “Wait a minute,” Alice said, “there’s another cupboard downstairs that we haven’t checked yet. He must be in there.” They went back down again, tiptoed towards the cupboard, opened the door suddenly, but still no Scott. Alice remembered another cupboard, so then more tiptoeing and suddenly opening doors of an empty cupboard. They were all getting sick of the game at this stage. As they were walking past the back door they heard a noise. Alice whispered, “That must be Scott. He’s hiding in the back porch.” So they tiptoed towards the back door, opened it suddenly, and saw a goat lying on the ground in the porch. He was wearing a scarf and a hat. He just looked back up at them. Alice said, “Hands up who agrees that this is Scott.” They all put up their hands straightaway and went to watch TV. Hugh and Annabel had been discussing what to do with the goat. Annabel’s suggestion was to try to snap him out of his trance, but Hugh thought it was a stupid idea. She pointed out that it was he who put the goat into the trance by telling him about summer days and lambs jumping in long grass. That sounded fairly stupid then too, so he agreed to try her idea. Scott’s father, my cousin Mike, had been with Uncle Harry and the other cousins sampling some of Harry’s drinks cabinet. He took a break for a few minutes to stretch his legs, and he found the kids watching TV. When he asked where Scott was, Alice said, “We were playing hide-and-seek, and we found him in the back porch.” “Where is he now?” “He’s probably still in the back porch. He seemed quite happy there.” The other kids nodded. Mike went to the back porch and when he saw the goat with the hat and the scarf, the first thing he thought of was a bottle with no label that Harry took from the very back of the drinks cabinet. He said it was very strong, and there was a funny taste off it. It seemed to offer the most likely explanation for the fact that he was seeing a goat in a hat and a scarf. He went back inside, and as he was walking past a cupboard in the study, he heard a noise from it. He opened the doors and saw Scott inside. Scott said, “Ssh. They still haven’t found me,” and he closed the doors. Mike walked on towards the kitchen. Hugh and Annabel took the goat out to the back garden. Hugh stood in front of him and said, “When I snap my fingers, you’ll be back in the real world. It’ll be winter.” Hugh snapped his fingers. “Now go home… Go home…” Louise came into the kitchen and asked Mike where Scott was. Mike looked out the window and saw Hugh running in circles, closely followed by the goat. Then he remembered seeing Scott in the cupboard. He tried to make up his mind, and eventually he said, “He’s playing with Hugh in the back garden.” When Mike looked out again, Hugh was on the roof of the shed, with the goat looking up at him, and Hugh was swinging a glove attached to a piece of thread. “I need to sit down,” Mike said. Scott got sick of waiting and left the cupboard. He found the others watching TV. “Ye’re supposed to be looking for me,” he said, and Alice said, “We thought we had found you.” “No, I was in the cupboard in the study.” “I knew there was one more cupboard. We thought we found you in the back porch, wearing a hat and a scarf.” “No, I was in the cupboard in the study.” “Now that I think about it, that might have been a goat.” Daisy, Graham and Grace all said, “Ahhh.” When Hugh was on the shed, Annabel told him to tell the goat that it’s summer and the lambs are running in the long grass. Hugh said, “That’s a stupid idea. I only said it earlier because I was about to fall into a frozen lake. If he can’t understand the words ‘go home’, how is he going to understand something about lambs in long grass.” Annabel said, “Mr. Goat. That man on the shed wants to kick you.” “He doesn’t know what you’re talking about. He’s just looking at the glove.” Hugh got down from the shed very slowly, swinging the glove all the time, and the goat seemed completely relaxed then. The kids went outside to see the goat, and Scott said, “How could ye think the goat was me?” Alice said, “He was wearing a hat and a scarf earlier.” The others nodded. Annabel told Hugh to put the hat and the scarf back on the goat so the kids could see it, and then she said to the goat, “Remember, Mr. Goat, he wants to kick you.” Hugh tiptoed towards the goat and the kids followed him, tiptoeing just behind him, moving slower and slower as they got closer to the goat. About two feet away, Alice shouted, “Now!” Hugh got a shock, and the goat got a bit of a shock from the shocked looking Hugh, and Hugh got a very big shock from a slightly shocked goat. Hugh ran around the front of the house. All the relatives in the front room saw him and went to the kitchen to see what was going on. Annabel had put a hat on the goat. She and the kids were standing back, just looking at it. Aunt Bridget said, “I wonder where that goat came from.” “What goat?” Mike said. Uncle Harry laughed and said, “I think I can explain this. That drink I gave you earlier, the man who sold it to me said it once made his horse fall off a car.” Then Mike saw Scott outside and said, “Which one’s Scott?” Harry said, “I’m very sorry about this. I’ll throw that drink away.” But he was really wondering where he could get more of it.

The moose’s head over the fireplace looks very serious when you put glasses over his eyes. He seems to enjoy looking serious, so we’ve left the glasses there for the past few days. The hen in the painting on the opposite wall looks more surprised than ever. Of course, it’s always possible that it’s just a painting of a surprised hen, but I don’t remember it looking that surprised until it saw a moose’s head over the fireplace. I don’t remember it looking particularly surprised at all.