'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, June 29, 2005

A Monkey in a Tuxedo

I was playing fetch with the dog and I threw the stick into a hedge. He couldn't find the stick at all but he found a way of going right through the hedge, and he seemed to enjoy that. I didn't really want to get the stick back anyway.

My Aunt Bridget organised a birthday party for her husband, Uncle Harry, on one Saturday. June and Dan arrived with the kids at about noon. My cousin Jane arrived shortly afterwards, and she went for a walk in the fields with Bridget and Ronan, Bridget’s son. Jane was talking to her aunt all the time, but Ronan wasn’t paying attention to what they were saying. When they got to the top of a hill they stopped and looked around, and no one said anything for about a minute. It was Bridget who eventually broke the silence. She said something to Jane, and then Jane said something in response. Ronan wasn’t paying close attention at first. The words were floating around in his brain for a while before he finally noticed them. The way he remembered it, his mother had said, “Was it here you saw the monkey in the tuxedo?” And Jane said, “That’s right, yeah.” But he wasn’t sure of this, and he didn’t want to ask them in case he looked stupid. The wind was strong, and they walked back towards the house when the dark clouds approached. It started raining, and in the late afternoon they saw the first flash of lightning. Jane was talking to Hugh when the electricity went in the evening. She lit a match, and she was going to look for a candle but she saw what looked like a pony in front of her. She kept looking at that until she had to blow the match out, and then she said to Hugh, “Was that really a pony?” “I think so,” Hugh said. Jane lit another match. The pony was still there, and Jane kept looking at it again until she had to blow out the match. “Wait a minute,” she said, “was that really a pony?” She lit another match, and it still looked like a pony. When Ronan met Jane and Hugh, he decided he had to just ask about the monkey in the tuxedo or else he’d never find out. He said, “I don’t suppose ye’ve seen a monkey in a tuxedo?” Jane said, “No, but we saw a pony.” Ronan said, “Are you sure it wasn’t a monkey in a tuxedo?” And Jane said, “Absolutely… Although… Hugh, was that really a pony?” Hugh was fairly sure it was a pony and absolutely sure it wasn’t a monkey in a tuxedo, but Jane wasn’t convinced. They went to the living room, where Bridget and June were looking for candles, but they hadn’t found any. Bridget went to the kitchen to look for some more there, and Ronan, Jane and Hugh followed her. The pony neighed and trotted across the kitchen tiles, and Jane said, “See! It’s a monkey in a tuxedo.” June was still in the living room. She couldn’t see very much in the dark, but when lightning lit up the room she saw the goldfish bowl on a shelf right in front of her, and the two goldfish were staring at her. She remembered being in this room before when the goldfish were staring at her wherever she went, and it started to annoy her, so she got the cat and put it on the table nearby. The cat would stare at the fish and the fish stared at the cat. June couldn’t see the fish in the darkness and she was fairly sure they couldn’t see her, but the idea of them staring at her still annoyed her, so she put the cat on the table again, and that set her mind at rest. That peace of mind didn’t last long. When Ronan told her that there was a monkey in a tuxedo in the house, June couldn’t help imagining the monkey staring at her. Aunt Bridget finally found a candle in the study, and she went back to the kitchen. She had left a cake on the table, but the cake was in a bit of a mess. She asked Ronan if he knew what had happened to it and he said, “I bet it was the monkey who did it.” “A monkey?” “Yeah. A monkey in a tuxedo.” “Do you think I’m stupid or something?” “No it’s true. Jane, you saw a monkey in a tuxedo, didn’t you?” Jane said, “Well, I’m not absolutely sure about that. It did look a bit like a pony.” Bridget turned to Ronan and said, “A monkey in a tuxedo. That’s the worst excuse you’ve ever come up with.” “It’s not an excuse. I didn’t do anything. It was the monkey.” “Yeah. The monkey.” Ronan and Jane went to the living room. A lightning flash illuminated the cat on the table and Jane said, “Yeah, it’s a monkey in a tuxedo alright.” But Ronan wasn’t so sure about this. In fact, he was almost certain it was a cat, and not a monkey at all. The black and white fur looked a bit like a tuxedo. So it definitely wasn’t a monkey who ate the cake. Ronan had to come up with another story for that because his mother suspected him of it. He went back to the kitchen and said to her, “Now I remember what happened the cake. Someone asked me earlier on if they could have some cake and I said yes. I can’t remember who it was now. But I didn’t know it was this cake. And it must have been this cake that they ate.” “So it wasn’t a monkey in a tuxedo at all?” “No. It must have been the person I was talking to earlier. Actually, I think it was Jane.” “So there’s no monkey?” “No. I’d say not anyway.” Jane came back into the kitchen and said to Bridget, “There’s a monkey in a tuxedo around the house alright. We just saw him. Didn’t we, Ronan?” Ronan said nothing. His mother said to Jane, “Did you have some of this cake earlier?” “No.” “Yeah, I thought so,” Bridget said as she looked at Ronan, and then Jane said, “It was probably the monkey who ate the cake.” “Yeah,” Bridget said, “it was the monkey, wasn’t it, Ronan?” Ronan turned to Jane and said, “It was a cat. You were looking at a cat.” “It wasn’t. It was a monkey. You were the one who first said it was a monkey.” “It’s a cat.” Bridget said to Ronan, “And was it the cat who ate the cake?” Ronan thought about that for a while and then left. He met Hugh in the study and said, “That wasn’t a monkey in a tuxedo at all. It’s a cat.” In another flash of lightning they saw the pony and Hugh said, “Well I think that looks more like a monkey in a tuxedo than a cat.” “It’s not. It’s obviously a cat. You just think it’s a tuxedo because of the black and white fur.” Hugh thought about it and said, “No, it’s more than just the fur.” They left the study, and Hugh bumped into June in the hall. She got a shock, and she told him she was nervous because she can’t stop thinking that a monkey in a tuxedo is staring at her. Hugh said, “We just saw him in the study. At least I think he’s a monkey in a tuxedo. He’s more of a monkey than a cat anyway.” It was then that June thought of putting the cat, the goldfish and the monkey together so they could all stare at each other. She took the goldfish and the cat to the study and left them there, but the cat ran away as soon as he heard the pony. Bridget’s youngest daughter, Nicola, heard the pony too, and she went straight to the study. Hugh also told Jane about the monkey in the study, and she said to Bridget, “If you want to see the monkey in a tuxedo, he’s in the study now.” Ronan overheard this and he said, “Yes, if you want to see the cat, go to the study now.” The three of them went there, and Bridget brought the candle. They walked right past Nicola as she was trying to get her pony up the stairs, but no one noticed. They went into the study and walked very slowly across the floor. As they approached the desk, the candle lit up the two goldfish in the bowl. Bridget said, “Now, which one is the cat and which one is the monkey in a tuxedo?”

The moose’s head over the fireplace has attracted a bit of a fan club. Birds land on the windowsill and stare in at him. They don’t look in the least bit surprised at the sight of a moose’s head, but then they do look surprised when they notice the painting and see a surprised hen looking back at them. You’d think it’d be the other way around.