'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Singing in the rain

There are more leaves on the lawn every day, and less on the trees. The light in the shed keeps flickering. The dog is using this as an excuse to carry an ashtray everywhere he goes, refusing to give it back.

My Uncle Harry and Aunt Bridget bought a new chandelier for their hall, and Harry decided to install it himself. Bridget was very much against this idea, but he insisted that the operation would be a breeze with the help of his son, Ronan, and my cousin Hugh. They started the job one Saturday morning, and the only real worry on Harry's mind was the presence of Bridget. He knew she'd be constantly supervising them, telling them not to even dare try that thing with the rope and the gas. Hugh was given the job of getting Bridget out of the house, and he came up with the perfect plan.

A friend of his, William, was a tenor. William's girlfriend had left him a few weeks earlier, and after she left he spent a few hours in the pub drowning his sorrows. He came out at three o' clock in the afternoon and spent the next few hours singing in the rain. A huge crowd gathered for his free concert. When Bridget heard about this she told Hugh that she was sorry she missed it, because she had heard him sing before and he had a beautiful voice. There was something very appealing about the idea of him singing in the rain too.

On this Saturday morning, Hugh went to see William and told him that he'd just seen Ruth (his ex-girlfriend) in the park, laughing and running through the leaves with her friends. The idea of Ruth being so happy made William even more miserable. He went to the pub with Hugh, and an hour later (after numerous rounds of drinks bought by Hugh) William was singing outside the pub. A huge crowd gathered again, despite the wind and occasional showers.

Hugh called Bridget on the phone and told her about the performance. While she was on her way to the pub, Hugh went back to the house to help with the chandelier. She was very impressed with William's singing. He sang for over two hours, and his concert finally came to an end during one very heavy shower. The crowd left, but he stayed standing there. Bridget said to him, "I thought you were fantastic."

"Thanks," he said, staring off into the distance.

A dog had been sitting next to William during the entire performance, and Bridget noticed that the dog looked very sad. She mentioned this and William said, "He's sad because he lost his shoes. And I know that feeling."

Bridget said goodbye and walked back towards the house, but on the way she wondered what he meant when he said that the dog had lost his shoes. Would this imply that the dog used to wear shoes? When she got home and went into the hall, the ground was covered in cardboard boxes. Harry, Ronan and Hugh all looked towards her, but she didn't seem to notice the boxes at all. She was still thinking about the dog's shoes, and she decided to go back to William to ask him about it.

He was still standing outside the pub when she got there, and the dog still looked as sad as ever. She said to William, "Did you say your dog had shoes?"

"Well, they weren't really his shoes. He took them."

"Oh right... And when you said you know that feeling, does that mean that you lost your shoes too?"


"How did you lose them?"

"I don't know. And I don't care."

"Right... Is something wrong?"

"My girlfriend left me."

"Oh yeah. I remember Hugh saying something about that... Why did she leave, if you don't mind me asking?"

"I've no idea."

"No idea at all?"

"Absolutely no idea at all."

"Have you tried talking to her?"

"Yes. But she won't talk to me."

"Maybe I could try talking to her. I might be able to get to the bottom of it."

William said it was worth a try, and he told her how to get to Ruth's house.

Ruth was an artist, and she told Bridget about a painting she did a few weeks ago. When she'd finished it she stood back and looked at it, but something seemed to be missing. "It doesn't seem quite finished," she said. Then she stook a spanner through it. "Now it's finished."

William asked her where she got the spanner and she didn't know. She didn't really care either, but it was actually her uncle's spanner. He had been there to put a new handle on the door, and the spanner was in his tool box. He was keen to get it back too, because it was one of his favourite spanners, but Ruth refused to let him take it out of the painting. So he bought the painting to get it back. She said to him, "You're not just buying this to get the spanner back, are you?"

"No, no," he said. "I'm buying it because I really like this painting."

But when Ruth and William were visiting his house about a week later, she noticed something different about the painting. She looked closely at it, and then said to her uncle, "You've replaced the spanner with another one, haven't you?"

He denied this too, but he'd obviously just bought a new one in the shop and put it into the painting. He said, "What difference does it make? It's just a spanner. It makes no difference to the painting. I don't even know what it's a painting of."

"It's a woman looking at a bare tree," Ruth said.

"I'd say even without the spanner you couldn't tell that."

"William, you knew it was a woman looking at a bare tree, didn't you?"

"I thought it was a cow," William said.

This is why Ruth left him. "I know it might seem like an over-reaction," she said to Bridget, "but I'm very sensitive about my art. And he should know that."

Bridget went back to William and told him the story that Ruth had told her. He didn't know what to make of it at first, but then it all became clear to him. He took out a pen and showed it to Bridget. There was a tiny cow in the pen, but when you turned it upside down, the back half of the cow slowly moved away from the front to reveal two people dressed up as a pantomime cow. "I was looking at that," William said.

Bridget and William went to see Ruth. He waited outside while she went in with the pen. She told Ruth about William looking at the pen, and Ruth remembered that he'd been looking at it for over a day before that incident with the painting, and he was looking at it when he said, "I thought it was a cow."

Ruth and William were re-united, and Bridget was very happy with her day's work. Then Ruth took a pair of shoes from a bag and said to the dog, "A man with a pencil in his hat found these." The dog's tail was wagging so much, it was just a blur.

Bridget walked home with a smile on her face. When she stepped into the hall, there was a budgie balancing on a wire that extended from the bannister on the landing to the wall opposite it. Hugh was holding onto the bannister by his finger tips, and Ronan was standing beneath the budgie with a net. Harry was saying, "Now wait a second... Wait a second."

"The chandelier is lovely," Bridget said.

The moose's head over the fireplace has been doing his best to ignore the parrot in the room. The bird is owned by the wife's aunt, and we're looking after it while she's on holiday. The parrot keeps saying 'what are you looking at?' The moose's head just ignores it, but the hen in the painting doesn't know how to respond. It just stares back at the parrot, looking surprised. And the bird keeps saying 'what are you looking at?'