'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A Goat in a Wig

It's after getting cold over the past week. One of the garden gnomes keeps falling over. I don't know if this has anything to do with the cold or the chimney brush he's trying to hold.

My cousin June once inadvertently agreed to direct a variety show for charity. She thought she was being asked if she knew what a variety show was, so when she said 'yes', she thought she was saying, "Yes, I do know what a variety show is." She had never done anything like this before, and she'd never have agreed to it if she knew what she was agreeing to. She asked everyone she knew if they'd take part in it, but they all understood what she was asking them, and almost all of them said no. Her sister, Rachel, agreed to play the violin. A friend of a friend was a ventriloquist, and he agreed to do his act in the show.

She came across another act in the supermarket when she was doing the shopping. A string quartet were playing there, and they were wearing paper hats. A classical music festival was on at the time, and they were asked to play in the supermarket to promote it. The viola player, John, said, "We'd love to play in a supermarket," in his most sarcastic voice.

The others were getting sick of his sarcasm. Sheila, the cellist, said, "Yeah, we would."

When John saw the supermarket he wondered how this could get any more demeaning. He said, "Why don't we just wear paper hats as well?"

The others all agreed to this.

When they finished playing a piece, June went over to them and said, "I'm putting on a show for charity, and I was wondering if ye'd be interested in taking part."

"Oh we'd love to," John said.

"Yeah, we would," Sheila said.

"That's great. Of course, it is for charity, so..."

"Oh we wouldn't dream of taking any money for it."

"Yeah, we wouldn't."

Rachel wasn't too happy when she heard about the string quartet. She wasn't a bad violinist, but she'd surely be upstaged by a professional string quartet. She was very nervous as she rehearsed on the stage on the night before the show, and she was distracted by a man telling a story of how he got through customs with just a wig and a marble statue of a goat in his suitcase.

On the day of the show, the ventriloquist was rehearsing as people were working on the set around him. They were setting up a piece of scenery that moved to the side, to give the impression that the cyclists on the stage were moving. The ventriloquist turned around and said, "Is that piece of scenery moving when I'm facing the other way."


"Well why do ye stop it every time I turn around to see it?"

"We don't. It's moving now."

The ventriloquist stared at it. The dummy was facing the other way, with a permanent smile on his face. It was the dummy who said, "Oh God! It's happening again."

He ran from the theatre, and was last seen running away through the fields.

June was with the string quartet when she was told about what happened. She said to them, "Would ye mind helping us look for him in the fields?"

"Oh we'd love to."

"Yeah, we would."

So they all went off into the fields, looking for the ventriloquist and his dummy. June had arranged a replacement act, just in case they couldn't find him. Rachel was back in the hall, looking at this act on the stage. It was the man who had been telling the story of the goat and the wig on the previous night. He was standing on the stage, holding the marble statue of the goat, and the goat was wearing the wig. It seemed to be a sort of a ventriloquism act too, with the man pretending to do the voice of the goat. He was just making it up as he went along. He'd ask the goat if he had done anything interesting yesterday, and the goat would say, "I went to the shop, and, ah... then I went to another shop and I met Bridie. And Bridie was telling me that she bought a torpedo from a man with an apple tree. I don't know what shop she got that in. Or maybe she bought it at an apple tree. I forgot to ask her about that because... because she had an apple on her head. That probably came from the apple tree too, when she was buying the torpedo. I forgot to ask her about that because... she was being followed by a rabbit."

Rachel looked on in horror. She'd never be able to concentrate on her act after this, especially after having to listen to the string quartet as well. She wondered how she could get rid of this man, and she thought it would be ideal if he got lost in the fields. So she suggested to him that they help in the search for the ventriloquist. And she told him to bring the statue of the goat with the wig as well, so he could practise his act on the way. She was hoping that a real goat would see the statue and attack the man. It was a bit of a long shot, she knew, but it was worth a try anyway.

June and the string quartet had found the ventriloquist near a pond, but he was refusing to come back to the show. When Rachel and the man with the goat arrived, June said to the ventriloquist, "This is great. Now you can see the act we've replaced you with."

The man with the goat did a bit of his act, and the ventriloquist said, "That was the biggest load of rubbish I've ever seen in my life."

"Me too," the dummy said.

The man with the goat said, "If it's good enough to convince a customs official with a stun gun, it'll work on an audience at a variety show."

Rachel saw the possibility of taking out the man with the goat in a fight with the ventriloquist. The ventriloquist would surely win because he wouldn't be lumbered with a marble statue of a goat, and the dummy looked much more mobile than the goat. She whispered to the ventriloquist, "He was just saying earlier that your act is the sort of thing he was doing when he was four."

The ventriloquist said, "I've seen stones that are more believable as a goat."

And the dummy said, "He's just a stone with a wig."

The 'goat' said, "Well you're just a piece of wood in a suit."

"Do you want to say that to my face?" the dummy said.

"What, the piece of wood under the wig?"

The dummy and the goat moved towards each other, but before they could fight, they saw a real goat running towards them. As the goat got closer, it became clear that he was running towards the man with the statue. He ran away, and the goat kept running after him. Rachel smiled.

June said to the ventriloquist, "Will you come back to replace him? You'd be doing me a huge favour."

"I don't know," he said. "The people who are there to see the string quartet will just look down on me."

"Not at all. You'd be the artistic highlight of the show." She turned to the string quartet and said, "Isn't that right."

"We'd be like Phil Collins compared to you," John said.

"Yeah, we would."

"They're right," the dummy said to the ventriloquist.

"Okay so," the ventriloquist said. "I'll come back."

As they walked back towards the theatre, Rachel wondered how she'd get rid of the string quartet. She looked around, but she couldn't see any more goats, and even if there were more goats, there was no guarantee that they'd attack the string quartet. But then she came up with another idea. She said to them, "Can I play with ye?"

"Oh that'd be just fantastic."

"Yeah, it would."

So she stood on the stage with the string quartet and pretended to play along. They got a huge round of applause at the end.

The moose's head over the fireplace looks in pain every time I play the violin. I'm sure he's just pretending. The sound can't be as painful as the process that took him from a healthy moose to a head on the wall. I hadn't played it in a few years until recently, and the moose's head clearly doesn't think much of my musical ability. Neither do I, but I don't like the idea of a moose's head expressing this opinion. So I've been practising a lot, mostly just to annoy him.