'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Climbing a Stepladder

I cut the grass and trimmed the hedges. Some of the garden seats need to be painted. We could do with a bit of rain to get me out of painting them.

My cousin Mike’s wife, Louise, keeps geese, and they’ve almost become part of the family now. Louise has given the geese names and she could never kill them. Their son, Scott, treats them as pets, just like the cat or the dog, but sometimes they don’t do very much. My Aunt Bridget has peacocks, and they can do a lot without much effort just by showing their feathers. The geese had nothing like that, so Scott decided to teach them things, like climbing a stepladder. He put the stepladder up next to one of the geese and pointed to the bottom step. He said, “Climb. Climb.” The goose just stared back at him, so Scott pointed to the top of the ladder and said, “Step onto this. Stand on the steps.” The goose stared back at him for a few seconds and then it stood on a pencil on the ground. Scott put his hand over his eyes and shook his head. He went inside and got an Action Man figure he likes to play with. This Action Man has fangs and wears a cloak. Scott always talks in a Transylvanian accent when he plays with it. He went outside and spoke to the geese in this accent, but they didn’t have a clue what he was saying. In the fields behind the house a film crew were shooting a scene from a film where a man and woman have a picnic in the shade of a tree. They were waiting for the leading lady to arrive, but she hadn’t been seen since dancing on top of a minibus on the night before. After waiting for nearly an hour, a wolf walked onto the set. No one knew what to do at first, but then the director said, “Action,” and they started filming. The leading man still didn’t know what to do. The director told him to improvise, but he wasn’t great at improvising at the best of times, and being confronted by a wolf was far from the best of times. He started saying all the lines he was supposed to say to the leading lady, like ‘you have beautiful eyes’, or ‘I never knew kerb stones could be so interesting’. The director put a hand over his eyes and shook his head. The wolf looked at the actor for a while and then moved on. The film crew followed the wolf and kept filming him. Scott was sitting on the fence at the back of the garden with his Action Man. He saw the wolf coming but he didn’t move. He had been frightened by his aunt’s Jack Russell once when he thought it was a wolf, so he pretended not to be scared of the real wolf, and he stayed sitting on the fence. The wolf stopped a few yards away from Scott and stared at him. Scott didn’t know what to do at first, but then he remembered his Transylvanian Action Man. That seemed as good a way as any to communicate with the wolf, so he started talking in his Transylvanian accent and he moved the Action Man around in his hand as he spoke. He said, “Tonight ve vill travel into town and frighten the horses.” The director thought this was brilliant, and the actor was ashamed of himself for not being able to come up with anything like that. The camera turned on the wolf and everyone waited for his reaction. He just stared back at Scott for a few seconds, and then he stood on a pencil. Scott shook his head and clicked his tongue at the wolf.

The moose’s head over the fireplace always looks annoyed when he listens to documentaries on TV about dolphins and how intelligent they are. No one ever says that about a moose, and yet he seems to understand how this year’s hurling championship works. How many dolphins would know who the losers in the Munster Final will play?