'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Reading Ulysses

I walked around the garden in the evening sun. The fields are full of rabbits again. I think they enjoy taunting the dog. They run around the open fields and they look like easy prey, but they always make it back to the ditches before he gets to them. He knows they’re taunting him.

My cousin Gary got a copy of Ulysses from his aunt for his birthday. His sister Chloe thought it was hilarious because he never read books, but he pretended to be very happy with the present, and he said he looked forward to reading it. He was reading the newspaper at the kitchen table a few weeks later when Chloe asked him if he’d enjoyed Ulysses. He had made an attempt to read the book, but he was stuck on the first word. He couldn’t admit this to his sister, so he told her it was one of the best books he’d ever read, and she asked him what it was about. The newspaper was open at the sports pages. He had been reading a preview of an upcoming Gaelic football match in which all the players were profiled, so he took a quick glance at that and said, “It’s about a man called Billy Green, who’s the sales manager in a car dealership. He’s twenty-eight years old and he’s six foot two. His interests include rowing and golf. And then there’s another man called Eddie ‘The Hatchet’ Moriarty. He owns a bar and he’s thirty-one years old. He’s five foot eleven. He says he doesn’t have many interests outside football, but he loves shooting.” The dog came into the kitchen and did a little dance. Then he walked on again. “But anyway,” Gary said, “there’s another man called Shane Duignan. He’s twenty-two and he’s a builder. He’s five foot ten. He can play on the half-back line or at full forward. I mean, he can ‘build’ on the half-back line or as a full-forward.” Gary went through a few more of the player profiles and he said they were all trying to find a valuable diamond after it had been stolen from a bank, and he found it hilarious that Chloe believed him. On the following day he bought a copy of War and Peace and he told her he was reading that. It looked as if there were a lot of characters in it, more than fifteen anyway, so he looked at the player profiles in his guide to English football for the 2001-2002 season. He told his sister that War and Peace was about Juan Sebastian Veron, Szilard Nemeth, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Alan Shearer, amongst many others. But all of the characters were professional sportsmen. And they were all men too. If it was just called ‘War’, Gary thought, all of the characters could easily be men, but there’s the peace section too. Chloe looked slightly suspicious by the time he got to the end of his synopsis. When Gary looked through the book later he saw a lot of Russian names in it, and he wondered how likely it was that a professional sportsman in Newcastle called Lomana Tresor Lua Lua would appear in a 19th century Russian novel about war and peace. The next book he bought was The Great Gatsby, and when Chloe asked him what that was about he said, “It’s about a man called Roger Federer, and…” He noticed that she looked very suspicious then, so he said, “But I’ve only just started reading it and I don’t know much more than that.” Gary decided that the best way out of this was to actually read a bit of the book, and at least it was much shorter than War and Peace or Ulysses. He had a feeling it would be more entertaining too. Chloe’s boyfriend, Bill, arrived at the house one Saturday evening. He looked very dazed and dishevelled. He gave a red rose to Chloe and said, “I won it in a game of rugby.” Chloe said, “But you don’t play rugby.” “And I don’t even play rugby,” Bill said, and Chloe looked very suspicious. Bill had a habit of getting into tricky situations, usually with the aid of alcohol. Gary saw a way of helping him out and making a fool of his sister at the same time (he was really more interested in the latter) if he just explained Bill’s situation by telling the story from The Great Gatsby. He said, “I actually know what happened here. I’ve been following this story. Bill has acquired a fairly substantial amount of money. I’m not entirely sure how. But anyway, he fell in love with a woman who’s married to an American footballer. Or maybe he’s a rugby player. Yeah, that’s make more sense. I don’t know what his height is. There were lots of parties and drinking and all that. He had an affair with this woman, but her husband looked down on Bill for being a bit too common - you know what rugby players are like. And then…” Gary hadn’t got to the end of the book yet, and he was about to make up something about stealing a diamond, but then he noticed that Chloe looked very angry, so he said no more. Bill was still too dazed to know what was going on. The dog was lying on the ground, and Gary said to him, “Now would be an appropriate time to do your dance.” But the dog didn’t move.

The moose’s head over the fireplace is already wearing his Liverpool scarf for tonight’s Champions League final. He’s staring at the painting on the opposite wall, almost as if he’s daring the hen to support AC Milan. The hen still looks surprised, and we’re all a little bit surprised to find Liverpool in the Champions League final.