'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Steve’s Pass

I walked all around the garden, by the old red brick wall, and then the fence at the very back of the garden. The fields are full of cattle. Fields normally don’t get any more exciting than that, but then gardens don’t do very much either.

My cousin June went into her back garden one evening and she noticed something odd in the field behind it. There was a donkey running through the grass, and he was pulling a red kite behind him. Her kids, Daisy and Graham, stood near the fence and watched him run back and forth. June said to Graham, “Isn’t that your kite?”

“It is.”

“How did the donkey get it?”

“I don’t know. He must have just… I don’t know.”

A few weeks before this, June’s husband, Dan, had been watching an international soccer friendly on TV with some of his friends, and they were all bored out of their minds. Dan suggested watching the kids’ pet rabbits instead, just to see if they were more interesting, and they were. His friends often came over in the evenings to watch the rabbits on the grass. On this evening, June’s sister, my cousin Rachel, arrived with Uncle Harry, and he brought a bottle of brandy that he’d found in a shoe box in the attic. He joined Dan and his friends watching the rabbits, and the brandy made them even more entertaining. Rachel joined them for a few minutes too, but she didn’t really understand rabbits, and she kept asking questions like ‘which way are they playing again?’. Then one of Dan’s friends asked her if she’d seen his shoes. “I’m afraid I’ve lost them,” he said.

“How did you lose your shoes?”

“If I knew how I lost them, they wouldn’t be lost.”

Rachel thought there was something wrong with that statement, but she couldn’t put her finger on exactly what it was. She left them and went over to June, who was able to get a much closer look at the donkey now. She said to the kids, “How did the donkey get into the garden?”

“I don’t know,” Daisy said. “The same way he got the kite, I suppose.”

“I fell off a donkey once,” Rachel said.

“How did you do that?”

“If I knew how I fell off a donkey, I… I just fell off a donkey.”

She tried to avoid the donkey after that, but the kids found him very entertaining. He was more exciting than the rabbits anyway. They sat on the swings as they watched him. They were eating marshmallows, and they gave names to the marshmallows as they ate them.

The donkey seemed to become part of the rabbits’ game. He stood on the grass and stared at the rabbits, and they stared back at him, which was more exciting than the rabbits on their own, which was much more exciting than most international soccer friendlies. But the game really came to life when Rachel walked onto the pitch. She wanted to get past the donkey so she could go inside, and the rabbits liked Rachel, so they followed her. The donkey wanted to avoid Rachel too, but they kept getting in each other’s way. The kids were still calling out the names, and it sounded like soccer commentary. And then Dan noticed something familiar in the pattern of play. He said, “This looks just like the build-up to Carlos Alberto’s goal in the 1970 World Cup.”

The donkey was the defence, and the rabbits were the Brazilian team. Rachel was the ball. Daisy and Graham were calling out names like ‘Deirdre’ or ‘Window’, but it still seemed just like Carlos Alberto’s goal. Daisy called out the name ‘Polly’, and they all thought that sounded like ‘Pele’, even though he wasn’t supposed to get the ball for another few passes. When ‘Pele’ (or ‘Steve’, as Graham christened him) finally got the ball on the edge of the area (Rachel was looking at the donkey, with one of the rabbits at her heels) he kept it at his feet for a while, then played the perfect pass to Carlos Alberto, who was coming up behind him (Rachel took a step to her right, and the other rabbit ran towards her), then Carlos Alberto shot towards the bottom corner of the goals (Rachel ran past the donkey). The donkey didn’t move as Rachel flew past him, but she went the wrong side of the goal post (a flowerpot). All of the spectators cheered anyway because Steve’s pass was so perfect. When they looked up, the donkey had a pair of shoes in his mouth. “Give me those,” Dan’s friend said as he took his shoes back.

The moose’s head over the fireplace is getting ready for the big match tonight (Ireland are playing France in a crucial World Cup qualifier). He’s wearing his green scarf. All of the experts are saying that it won’t be a good game, but it should be very exciting anyway. The hen in the painting will have every right to look surprised if we get anything as good as Carlos Alberto’s goal, but you never know with Zidane or Duff on the pitch.