'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The Vase

The grass is growing quickly again, but it still feels as if summer hasn’t quite started yet. A few weeks ago I was predicting that we’d be looking into winter around about now, so maybe summer has come and gone. It wouldn’t be the first time.

My uncle Ben has a reputation for being the clever one in the family, and people are always asking him questions. My cousin Hector was visiting one day with his twin daughters, Alice and Grace. The twins asked Ben why the sun rises and falls. He picked up a vase and said, “Let’s say this vase is the sun and my head is the earth.” He looked at the vase for a while and said, “No, I’ve lost it now… Let’s say the globe is the earth and my head… No, let’s leave my head out of it. I’ll need that.” He thought about it for a minute and said, “Give me some more time to figure this one out.” The girls went back to working on a Lego model of a bunch of flowers they’d brought with them and Ben went for a walk in the garden to think about the problem. The Lego flowers were just starting to take shape when Grace decided to put them into a vase on the mantelpiece, but they were too heavy and the vase fell over. Alice caught it before it hit the ground. The remaining pieces of Lego were on the table. Alice was holding the flowers in her right hand, and her left hand was under the vase. She used her left hand to pick up another piece of Lego from the table, and she only remembered that this hand was supporting the vase when the vase broke on the ground. When Ben figured out how to explain the earth and the sun, he went back inside. He saw the broken vase and asked what happened, and Alice said, “Let’s say I’m me and… and the vase is your head, so… and let’s say the globe is the sun.” Alice smiled then and Ben said, “Oh right. I see.” He left them again in case they realised that he didn’t understand what they were talking about. The girls left the room too. Ben went back outside, but a few minutes later, his wife, my aunt Greta, came out and asked him what happened to the vase. He said, “Let’s says I’m… I’m me, and my head is… the globe, and the vase is…” “You broke it, didn’t you?” “No no no. At least I’m fairly sure I didn’t.” Greta said, “That’s exactly the same explanation you used when you broke the lampshade,” and Ben said, “Maybe I did break it.” He tried to figure out how he broke it, but it was a bit of a mystery to him. The girls had nearly completed their model of the flowers, but they were missing one piece. Grace said to Alice, “That piece must have fallen off when you dropped the flowers in the living room.” Alice said, “But I dropped…” She was going to say that she dropped the vase, but she didn’t want to admit to that, and when she thought about it then she wondered if she’d dropped the vase at all. They went back to the living room and looked all around the floor, but they couldn’t find the missing piece. Grace noticed the cat outside the window and she said, “Maybe the cat took it. She was in here at the time.” So they went outside to look for the piece in the garden. Just before this, my cousin Mike arrived with his wife, Louise, and his son, Scott. They were on their way to a school play that Scott was acting in. He was playing a rabbit, and his parents wanted Ben and Greta to see him in his rabbit costume. Scott wasn’t too keen on anyone seeing him in his rabbit costume, and when he found out that Alice and Grace were there he refused to get out of the car because he knew they’d make fun of him. His parents went inside, but a few minutes later Alice and Grace appeared around the front of the house. They were looking at the ground, and they didn’t seem to notice the car at first. When they did, they walked towards it, and Scott tried to hide his face. The girls had noticed a rectangle of dust on one of the windows and it was shaped just like the piece of Lego they were looking for. They stared at that. Scott remained completely still in the car. At first he thought they were looking at him, but then he realised that they didn’t seem to notice him at all. They walked away and started looking at the ground again. When they went around the back of the house, Scott finally got out of the car. His father was talking to Hector in the back garden. They were looking at the cat walking towards a tree, very slowly, taking careful steps, and Mike said, “Didn’t that cat play in midfield for Inter Milan?” The cat stopped and looked towards them. Hector looked at Mike and said, “It’s a cat.” “Oh yeah,” Mike said, “I just thought… Never mind.” The idea of a cat playing for Inter Milan sounded stupid then, but Mike knew he had something in mind when he said it. He just couldn’t remember what it was. Louise was talking to Ben in the kitchen. Aunt Greta came into the kitchen holding a flowerpot and she said, “Has anyone seen my glasses?” They said they hadn’t seen them, and Louise asked what type of flower was in the flowerpot. Greta looked down and got a shock when she saw what she was holding. “How did that get there?” she said. She gave the flowerpot to Ben and went outside to look for her glasses. Scott was in the back garden playing football with the cat. Normally the cat would run after the ball (it never did anything with the ball - it just ran), but on this day the cat kept staring at Scott in his rabbit costume. It took no notice of the ball every time Scott kicked it away. Mike saw this and said to Hector, “Y’ see, that’s why I thought… never mind.” He thought about suggesting that this was an example of Inter Milan’s ‘catenaccio’ counter-attacking strategy, but he decided against it. Then he realised that there was ‘cat’ in ‘catenaccio’ and he wished he had said it, but it was too late then. Greta thought her glasses might be on a red brick wall in the garden because she thought the flowerpot used to be there. She got Scott to stand on a step ladder to look for them. As soon as he got to the top of the ladder, Alice and Grace appeared in the back garden, and on top of a ladder in a rabbit costume was the last place he wanted to be with them around. But they were looking for something on the ground. They walked all around the step ladder and never looked up once. He remained completely still and silent and they didn’t notice him. When they were far enough away, he came down from the ladder and went back to playing football with the cat. Alice and Grace went around to the front of the house, but they still couldn’t find the missing piece. When they went around to the back again, Ben was there. The football fell out of the tree and bounced on the grass towards him. He went to catch it, and he only remembered that he was holding the flowerpot when it broke on the ground. “That’s how I broke the vase,” he said. “I didn’t even know I was holding it.” Greta looked at him, and Alice and Grace looked down at the ground, but everyone’s attention was diverted towards the cat shortly afterwards. The cat followed the football out of the tree and Mike said to Hector, “See!” Alice and Grace ran away when the giant rabbit climbed down from the tree.

The moose’s head over the fireplace seems to enjoy listening to Bach, or at least Bach holds his attention. The wife’s niece has started gliding by the window on roller skates to confuse the moose. She’ll glide by, stop and crawl back under the window, then glide by again. We just put on some Bach for the moose and he takes no notice of her, and she can go on like that for hours. It’s really a way of keeping her occupied rather than the moose’s head.