'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Painting Deer

I sat on a garden seat in the evening. The dog sat on the grass and stared at me. I tried staring at him too, but nothing happened.

My cousin Jessica is an art teacher, and she’s a very promising artist herself. A friend of hers gave her tickets to a lecture by a diplomat on painting deer. Jessica had no interest in listening to a diplomat talk about painting deer, but she went along rather than let her friend think that she was ungrateful. Jessica was giving art lessons to my cousin Ronan. He has a friend called Fred who always seems to be in luck. He won five-hundred euro on a horse whose neck was stuck in a small gate, and he won even more than that betting on ducks. So Ronan asked Fred to pick his lottery numbers. Fred wrote the numbers on a piece of paper, and he said he chose them based on the number of owls he killed in the past week. Ronan told his family that he was confident of winning because it was Fred who chose the numbers, but he couldn’t tell them how the numbers were decided, even though he didn’t believe that Fred had killed any owls at all. He told his sister, Rachel, that Fred chose the numbers based on the amount of swans he’s saved in the past week, and she said, “Well which number is that?” Ronan saw the flaw in Fred’s story about killing owls then, but he had to come up with an explanation. He said, “The first one is for swans, and the second one is for… rabbits…” It took him a few minutes to come up with animals for each number, and then the final one seemed obvious. “And the sixth one is owls.” Rachel looked at the ticket and said, “He’s saved thirty-four owls in the past week?” “Yes,” Ronan said and nodded. “How did he save thirty-four owls?” “I don’t know. I suppose someone must have been trying to kill them, and he must have prevented this person from killing them.” “Thirty-four times?” “Yes.” The dog managed to climb onto the roof of the shed one day, and he seemed quite happy up there, but Rachel thought he needed to be saved. She knew just to man to save him too. When Fred called around she asked him about saving the owls. He said, “Well I don’t know about saving them. I have killed a few.” “So you were the one trying to kill them, not the one trying to save them.” “I didn’t notice anyone trying to save them.” Rachel turned to the dog on the roof and said, “Stay up there. Stay.” The dog looked as if he had every intention of staying on the roof. Rachel put up her thumbs and smiled at him. When she met Ronan later she said, “The dog is on the roof because he knows your friend is around. And he’s wondering how many dogs Fred is going to try to kill to get his lottery numbers.” Jessica wasn’t expecting much from the lecture on painting deer, but the diplomat showed her how you could paint just about anything and turn it into a deer. She decided to demonstrate this by painting the dog on the roof. When Ronan saw the finished painting of a deer in the woods, he said to her, “You just painted that from memory.” She said, “No, it’s this technique I learnt from the diplomat. I’ll show you how.” So she showed him how to do it and he decided to have a go himself. He sat down with a sketchbook and she said to him, “Just draw what you see using this technique, and it’ll come out like a deer.” Ronan concentrated on drawing the scene in front of him and applying the diplomat’s technique. When Jessica came back to look at the finished drawing, he had drawn a deer in the woods, but next to it was Fred with a golf club. Rachel said, “You definitely just drew that from memory because I’m sure you would have seen that about… twenty-seven times over the past week.” Fred said, “I was just giving a biscuit to the dog. When you give a biscuit to a dog on the roof of a shed and draw it using the diplomat’s technique, it must come out looking like someone holding a golf club next to a deer.” Jessica suggested that he give another biscuit to the dog, just so she could see what it looks like. So he got another biscuit, and climbed the stepladder next to the shed. Jessica tried to visualise what it would look like if it was drawn using the technique she learnt in the lecture. Rachel was worried about what Fred would do to the dog, so when he got onto the roof, she shouted, “Attack!” The dog stood up and growled. Fred got a shock and fell off the shed, and his foot got tangled in the clothesline. He hung upside down from the clothesline and swayed from side to side. Jessica said, “He’s right. That does look like someone holding a golf club next to a deer.”

The moose’s head over the fireplace has a very superior look about him these days. I showed him photos of other moose’s heads in a book of Great Houses in Ireland, and he looked very unimpressed with all of them. Most of them looked either bored or dazed, so the ability to look unimpressed did make him look more impressive than any of them. He has every right to look superior.