'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
Click here to buy the paperback or download the ebook for free.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Storm Singers

I saw a mouse in the garden the other day. I told the dog to attack it, but that didn't work. I told the wife that the dog is afraid of mice, and I said it loud enough for the dog to hear, but that didn't work either.

My cousin Ted and his wife, Anne, agreed to look after some of their nieces and nephews for a day. It started out with just Daisy and Graham, because their parents were going to a wedding. And then Hector asked Ted if they'd look after Alice and Grace too. Ted and Anne agreed because they thought that if you could find something to keep two kids occupied, then it would work on four just as well. They agreed to take Scott because five was just one more than four.

They both looked badly shaken when they got home that evening, after taking all the kids home. They stood in their living room and just smiled with the relief of the silence. They heard the clock ticking, and the breeze outside.

Then Anne remembered that my cousin Craig was supposed to be on television. He had formed a vocal group called The Storm Singers, and they were appearing on a talent show. Ted and Anne wanted to appreciate the silence for as long as possible, but they knew they had to watch Craig and his group, so they turned on the TV. They kept the volume low.

But the nerves were affecting The Storm Singers. The show was being filmed in a garden, and they just stood there in complete silence. This came as a huge relief to Ted and Anne. The sound of the breeze on the TV was in perfect harmony with the breeze outside their window. They went to the kitchen and turned on the TV there, just to see the trees in their back garden moving with the trees on TV. It was like a sympony of breeze and branches, rising and falling in harmony.

My cousin Rachel called on the phone that evening. She had missed Craig's performance, and she asked Anne if The Storm Singers were any good.

"They were fantastic!" Anne said.


"I never thought they'd be as good as that."

Rachel was looking for a band to play at a party she was organising with some friends to mark the retirement of one of their former teachers. She had booked a local band called 'Coal Shed' because she liked an album they released.

After she booked them for the retirement party, she said to the lead singer, "I love the last song on the album. It's the perfect way to end it."

"That one's about buying a greyhound with a box of bananas," he said.

"Oh... I love the first song too. It's sort of a love song, isn't it?"

"No, that one's about buying a greyhound with a box of bananas too."

"What about 'A Little Blackbird'? Isn't that a song about a blackbird, a little one?"

"That one's also about buying a greyhound with a box of bananas."

"Oh right."

"The whole album is about buying a greyhound with a box of bananas. That's why we called it 'Buying a Greyhound with a Box of Bananas'."

"Yeah, I was wondering about that... What about 'I Love Her Eyes'?"

"That one's about buying a greyhound with a box of bananas too."

She regretted booking them for the party after this conversation, and when Anne told her how good The Storm Singers were, she decided to give the gig to them instead. She told Coal Shed that the whole party was cancelled, but Craig knew the lead singer of Coal Shed. A rivalry had been developing between the two bands, and Craig told them about their performance at the retirement party.

The Storm Singers were delighted to get the gig, but Craig wondered why they got it after their silence on TV. Rachel said they were fantastic on TV, and he tried to figure out what it was about their performance that was so good.

He called around to see her one evening to discuss the details of the party, and when he was leaving, he met Uncle Harry in the garden. Harry was looking at a hole in the grass. Craig asked him about the hole and Harry said, "A jazz band dug it."


"I don't know. I've never understood jazz."

That's when Craig figured out why their silent performance was so good. "It's jazz!" he said. "That's what we were doing."

So when they got on the stage at local hall, where the retirement party was being held, Craig said, "We'd like to do a jazz number we've been working on. It's called, ah... It doesn't really have a name."

They stood in silence. Coal Shed were near the front, trying to intimidate them, but it didn't work. After three minutes, Craig said, "Thank you very much."

Ted and Anne applauded, and everyone else joined in. None of them really understood jazz.

They all went back to Bridget and Harry's house, and Anne suggested that The Storm Singers perform near the trees in the garden. They stood there in silence again. This time there was no breeze, but they still got a huge round of applause at the end.

Coal Shed were jealous, so they offered to 'perform' a song. They went for a jazz version too, but after a minute of silence, the bass player's phone rang. He answered it and said, "Hello... How many times have I told you, it's in the bloody attic."

They waited in silence for another minute, and then the lead singer said, "That one was about buying a greyhound with a box of bananas."

No one applauded.

Hugh was in the kitchen experimenting with the drinks. A friend of his had made a drink with orange juice, cream, and a lot of alcohol. Hugh was trying to recreate this. He had made a few attempts at it already, but it was never exactly right. When he had finished mixing his latest effort, he said, "Did I add in the alcohol?"

He drank the drink in one go just to test it for alcohol, then he looked at the empty glass for a few seconds and said, "No."

He staggered to the table to get the whiskey, and he mixed another drink.

He was walking very carefully when he went out into the back garden a few minutes later. Coal Shed were getting ready to perform another song. Rachel wanted to avoid a repeat of their last performance, so she said to Hugh, "Will you sing us a song?"

"Okay," Hugh said. "Any requests?"

"Just sing whatever you want to sing."

"Right." Hugh looked up at the sky as he tried to think of what to sing. He noticed the stars coming out above and he completely forgot about the song. He spent the next three minutes staring up at the sky. When he looked down again he remembered where he was and said, "Did I just sing a song?"

"You did," Rachel said, and everyone applauded.

Hugh's fiancee, Annabel, came out into the garden and saw everyone applauding him. She wondered if he'd just sung a song, and she remembered the last time he sang in the pub. It started out as a song about love, but he couldn't remember all of the lyrics, and it ended up as a song about the time she tried to open her front door with a spoon. He made up the bit about how she found the spoon.

She said to Uncle Harry, "Did Hugh just sing a song?"

"He did."

"Did he sing the song about me opening the door with a spoon?"

"Ahm... he..."

"He did, didn't he?"


Then she went to Hugh and said, "Did you sing the song about me opening the door with a spoon?"

"I... ah..."

"You did, didn't you?"


She found a shovel nearby and she chased him around the garden with that. The chase came to an end when Hugh fell into a hole. "At least there's a tune to that one," Harry said.

Annabel threatened to hit Hugh with the shovel if he tried to get out of the hole. Everyone stood around them, watching the stand-off, and the lead singer of Coal Shed said, "We have a song that's perfect for this occasion." The guitarist strummed his guitar and the singer sang. "He was the quickest greyhound that night. Our box of bananas was heavy. That poor doggie looked so sad in the light..."

The moose's head over the fireplace has been smiling at me over the past few days, ever since I tripped over a box on the ground. I had put the box on the ground about three seconds before I tripped over it. I explained my side of the story to the candle stick - that I was distracted by the sound of the phone ringing. Not that I was expecting any sympathy from the candle stick. It was really just so the moose's head would hear my story, but he's still smiling at me. I would have spoken to the hen in the painting rather than the candle stick, but the constant look of surprise on the hen's face makes it difficult to keep a conversation going.