'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Owl and the Puppy

The trees are starting to look brown. The fish in the fish pond still keep the dog entertained for hours. He used to enjoy looking at the washing machine just as much, but I suppose he's outgrown it now.

When my cousin Ronan was going to college, he couldn't afford a car of his own, but his girlfriend, Audrey, had a small car, and she used to drive him around the place. He hated it because it was a tiny car, his girlfriend was driving it, and to make things even worse, she had little stuffed animals 'asleep' on the back seat (she used to say that they were sleeping).

He always found fault with her driving from the passenger's seat. One day, after going around and around on a roundabout, they finally made it back to his place. When they came to a stop, she turned back and said to the animals, "Did ye enjoy that?"

There was silence from the animals. Ronan reached back and picked up a koala. He said in the voice of the koala (his best Australian accent), "You changed lanes at a continuous white line."

"She doesn't talk like that," Audrey said.

That evening they went to see a magician who was famous for performing with an owl. He'd get the owl to draw pictures and he'd interpret the pictures himself. When Ronan and Audrey were there, the owl drew a few indecipherable lines, and the magician said, "He's drawn a tarantula on Sesame Street eating Big Bird's legs. Again." A dog had recently joined the act, and he drew Steve McQueen killing the tarantula.

Ronan saw a way for the toy animals to express their thoughts in the drawings. On the way home, he drew a picture of a car on a road, and when they stopped he said, "The panda drew this. I think he's trying to say that you were in the wrong lane coming up to the roundabout."

Audrey didn't say anything, but when they met on the following day she showed him a drawing that looked vaguely like a house. She said, "The squirrel drew this. He's not much of an artist, but I think what he was trying to express was that he doesn't like the way you laughed at that woman with the hat."

More drawings followed. Ronan did one illustrating the dog's displeasure at its owners slow speed on dual carriage ways, and Audrey responded with one supposedly from the koala that made fun of Ronan's ability to open tins.

Audrey's sister, Carol, had been asked to pose for a portrait of her eyes. She had been reluctant at first because she was hoping the artist would be interested in painting more of her than just her eyes, but she agreed to do it, and she was delighted when she first saw the finished painting. Then she looked closer at it, and in her eyes she saw the faint reflection of a dog with a box of chocolates in his mouth.

"Are you trying to imply that I'm looking at a dog with a box of chocolates in his mouth?" she said to the artist.

"Yes." He nodded.

"But I've never seen a dog with a box of chocolates in his mouth."

"You have now."

"Yeah, but... It's not really a representation of my eyes because I'd never see things like that."

"That's the sort of thing that people see all the time, but they just don't notice these things. If you look at everything in a literal way, then everything is just going to be walls and trees and things, but if you're willing to look at the underlying poetry of things, then you'll see dogs with a boxes of chocolates in their mouths."

Carol wasn't entirely sure what that meant. It started to make a little bit more sense when she went to see the magician with the owl and the puppy. She couldn't make out Big Bird or Steve McQueen in the drawings, so she assumed that they must be there in the underlying poetry.

Someone from the audience said to the magician that he was just making up these interpretations, and that the owl and the puppy didn't know what they were drawing. Carol was sitting in the front row, and the magician called her onto the stage. He showed her a drawing that was just a few lines and a red dot, and he said to her, "Tell me what you see in this drawing. Do you see a puppy? Look at the little puppy."

Carol looked at it and said, "I see a dog."

"Yes, that'll do," the magician said. "And what's the dog doing?"

"He's... holding a box of chocolates in his mouth."

"Very good. And what about this one?"

"I see a dog giving a box of chocolates to another dog."


He showed her a few more drawings, and in each one she saw a dog doing something, mostly with a box of chocolates.

After Audrey had done a drawing on behalf of the dog in which Ronan's hair was compared to a hedgehog, Ronan did a drawing of Audrey falling over outside a church at a friend's wedding. The panda was in the background, pointing and laughing at her. Ronan showed it to her and said, "The panda has just done this, and I think it's one of his best, from an artistic point of view anyway, but..." He noticed a tear in Audrey's eye, and he thought he might have gone too far this time, so he said, "As you can see, he's drawn a picture of you falling over at the wedding, and he's drawn himself in the background, crying because he's sad. Obviously he can't actually cry himself, so he's drawn this picture to show that he's really, really sad about what happened to you."

"It looks to me as if he's laughing," Audrey said.

"No, no. He's definitely not laughing. Look at how sad he is."

"He looks happy to me."

"No, no. He's definitely not happy."

When they got back to Audrey's place, she showed the drawing to her sister and said, "What do you see in this?"

"I see a dog running away with someone's pogo stick," Carol said with absolute confidence.

Ronan looked at it again and said, "Yeah, that's what he's trying to depict."

"Is that really true?" Audrey said to the panda.

Ronan got the panda to nod.

"What were you thinking?" Audrey said, again to the panda.

Ronan tried to get the panda to shrug its shoulders, which seemed like the only appropriate response.

The moose's head over the fireplace has looked slightly surprised recently, ever since the wife's uncle called around and he told a story about buying a pair of suede shoes. He said he left them in the hall when he went to renew his gun licence, and when he came back they were at the top of the stairs. Ever since he tied them to the table they've remained in the same place. The surprised-looking hen in the painting didn't look quite as surprised as I thought it would.