'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, June 01, 2005


There’s an old stone wall in the garden that doesn’t really do anything apart from look like an old stone wall, but people are always admiring it. No one ever admires the garden gnome with the javelin and he’s doing a lot more than the stone wall.

My cousin Ronan went on a holiday with some friends of his, and they spent most of the time drinking or recovering from the drinking so they could drink some more. When he came back he looked through the photos they took and he noticed one of the whole group with a cheetah, and the cheetah was wearing a policeman’s hat. That came as a bit of a shock to Ronan. He could remember the cheetah, but he couldn’t remember anything about the policeman’s hat, and he wondered how it could have got there. His friends couldn’t explain it either. The next time they met up they were drinking in a pub in the middle of nowhere. The countryside around the pub was just fields and limestone rocks, with just a few trees. They were staying in a house about a mile away, and at two o’ clock in the morning they walked towards the house down a narrow road. They passed a pay phone, and Ronan noticed that the receiver was hanging down. He went inside and picked it up, and he heard a dog barking at the other end of the line. On the following day, Ronan couldn’t remember who came up with the idea to put a sheep into the phone booth, but that’s what they did. There were hundreds of sheep in the fields around them, so they put one of them in and said, “It’s for you.” They took a photo and then they put the sheep back in the field, but when they looked at the photo on the following day, the sheep was wearing a hat, and none of them remembered seeing the hat on the night before. No one said a word about it just in case they were imagining it. When Uncle Harry and Aunt Bridget were having a party at their house, my cousin Rachel asked her boyfriend, Robert, to go with her. He agreed to go, but he wasn’t looking forward to it, because Rachel’s nephew, Graham, once threw a paintbrush at him. Graham was really throwing the paintbrush at the top hat on Robert’s head, and he had no interest in throwing anything at a top-hat-less Robert. But Robert was still worried that Graham would throw something at him. Graham’s mother, my cousin June, bought a tiny top hat for her pet duck, Sleepy. She took Sleepy to Harry and Bridget’s party and put the top hat on his head, and then she told Robert that he had nothing to fear from Graham because he’d be distracted by the duck in the top hat. Ronan was more distracted by Sleepy than anyone. He spent a long time staring at the tiny top hat, but then another sight distracted him from Sleepy. My cousin Chloe invited a friend called Emily to the party, and when Ronan saw her he completely forgot about the duck in the hat. She was in the orchard when he met her, and she said she was just admiring the apples. He picked an apple from a tree, and then he took out his Swiss army knife and cut the apple in half. He offered her a piece, but he noticed she was looking at the knife. “I found it in a swimming pool,” he said, and she declined the offer of the apple. He managed to stay by her side for most of the evening. She hardly said a word but he spent the time drinking and talking. Drinking always helps him talk, but it doesn’t help him listen to what other people are saying, or not saying. He didn’t notice her silence at all. Around midnight they were walking through the back garden, and he was pointing out the stars in the sky. The drink also made him think that one of the constellations was called Rain Man. As they were walking down some steps, he was pointing at a constellation above when he heard an odd sound on the ground. He looked down and saw that his foot was in a bucket. He pointed at the bucket and said, “And that’s me standing in a bucket.” Only he found that funny. He had trouble getting the bucket off his foot - that’s another thing the drink didn’t help him with, and it didn’t aid his balance either. He fell into a fish pond and Emily finally saw her chance to get away. She said, “I’ll just go and get someone to help you,” and she walked very quickly back towards the house. She did send someone out to help. She met my cousin Jane at the back door, and when Jane heard that Ronan was in the pond with a bucket stuck to his foot she went to get her camera. Ronan had once taken a photo of her when a donkey was chasing her around a field. He was out of the pond when Jane got there, but the bucket was still stuck to his foot, and he was covered in mud and water lilies. Just as she was about to take the photo he said, “Wait a minute. What are you doing?” “I was just going to take your photo.” “I don’t know about this.” “Why not? It’s just a photo.” Ronan thought about it for a while and said, “It just doesn’t seem like the right time.” Sleepy walked by with the top hat, and he stopped when he saw Ronan, who said to Jane, “Now you can take my photo.” He smiled for the camera, but Sleepy just fell asleep.

The moose’s head over the fireplace is still recovering from the excitement of last week’s Champions League final, when Liverpool won on penalties. “If you wrote a little essay about it, no one would believe it.” Those were the words of John Giles on Irish TV after the match. The moose’s head looked devastated at half-time when Liverpool were three-nil down. So was I, but the wife didn’t really care. It was raining too. Who would have believed a comeback like that was possible? Who would have believed that instead of kicking the ball into an empty net, Andriy Shevchenko would choose to hit the Polish man sitting on the ground. Needless to say, the hen in the painting looked surprised.