'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Dog with the Glasses

I can't remember the last time we had a day without rain, but it's always like that at this time of year. There's a wooden table in the garden that's survived countless winters. My grandmother bought it at an auction, but my grandfather never liked it. He once stood at the table with a saw in his hand, as if he was about to do something to it. And he did, but apparently he ended up breaking a pane of glass in the glasshouse instead. I don't know what he did to the table, but it sounds like my grandfather alright.

My cousin Isobel once dropped her handbag outside her back door, and most of the contents fell out. The dog came along to help her pick everything up, but he was more of a hindrance than a help. When she saw that he had her glasses in his mouth, she moved towards him very slowly and said, "Just put them back down on the ground very gently." But the dog moved away when she moved towards him.

Her fiance, Jack, saw all this from the kitchen. He got out his phone and called Isobel. When she answered he said, "Can I speak to the dog with the glasses please?"

"It's for you," Isobel said as she handed the phone to the dog. He was able to hold the phone and the glasses in his mouth at the same time. Jack looked on in shock. He had never expected that to happen. He was expecting Isobel to laugh and say it was very funny, like she did with all of his jokes. Or some of them anyway.

He said into the phone, "Put the phone and the glasses down on the grass." The dog didn't know where the voice was coming from, and he ran in circles, but he didn't give up the phone and the glasses.

Jack came outside and said, "Why did you give him the phone?"

"I wasn't thinking," Isobel said. "I was trying to figure out how to get my glasses back. And now I'll have to get my phone back as well."

My cousin Jane called around, and she said that she knew just the person to help. She called her cousin Mike because he had once been in a similar situation when a goose managed to get hold of his car keys, but he refused to even talk about that. He suggested calling June, and she suggested offering something else to the dog in exchange for the glasses and the phone.

Isobel put a cheese cake on the ground near the dog, but he didn't look in the slightest bit tempted by it. Jane kept calling other friends and relatives to see if they had any ideas. Uncle Harry offered to come around with his gun. Jane didn't ask what he intended to do with the gun, but she had a fair idea, so she said she'd call him back if they didn't find a better plan.

Her cousin Albert said he'd be there in minutes with a much better plan. He'd been at the greyhound track with his new girlfriend, Lisa, a few days before this. Albert placed a huge bet on the dog that kept looking at the hare as the dogs were being paraded before the race. But when the traps opened, the other dogs ran after the hare and the dog Albert bet on, Pencil Case, jumped over the fence and ran towards something in the centre of the track. "Oh yeah," Albert said. "That's not a hare at all."

Albert lost a lot of money that night, but he didn't mind because he had a great time with Lisa. After they left the track, they stood near his car in the car park, and he was just about to kiss her when Pencil Case ran by, closely followed by a group of people. Albert thought that Pencil Case couldn't be much of a greyhound if people were able to follow him so closely. The dog had a hat in his mouth. "So that's what it was," Albert said.

Lisa followed them to see how they'd get it back, and Albert had to follow too. The people running after the dog stopped when they got tired, and the dog stopped too. One of the men there said, "I know how to get it back. I have the best looking female greyhound you've ever seen."

Albert thought it looked just like every other greyhound, but Pencil Case was very impressed. He dropped the hat and ran towards her. So Albert decided to use a similar technique to retrieve the glasses and the phone from Isobel's dog. His neighbour had a female King Charles Spaniel, and he asked if he could borrow that for an hour or two. Albert had trouble understanding the concept of a female King Charles Spaniel. He thought it didn't sound female enough, so he tied a ribbon in a bow around the dog's neck. Then he wondered if that's just what a dog uncertain about his or her gender would do, but Lisa said that the other dog wouldn't think about these things at all.

He brought the dog to Isobel's house, and as soon as her dog saw the King Charles Spaniel, he dropped the glasses and the phone and ran towards her, just like the greyhound. The King Charles Spaniel looked frightened, but they managed to stop Isobel's dog before he got to her.

While Isobel was complimenting Albert on his plan, he got a call on his phone. It was from a man who asked if he could speak to the tree. Albert looked all around for the tree, but then he realised it was Jack on the phone. He was just about to tell Jack where to go when he noticed that the King Charles Spaniel had run off while he'd been looking for the tree. The dog was running away through the fields, followed very closely by Isobel's dog. Albert ran after them, and the others followed. The chase lasted a few minutes, until the King Charles Spaniel got tired and stopped, but when Albert got there she was growling at Isobel's dog, who slowly backed away. Albert said, "Well she's definitely a female anyway."

As they walked back towards the house, Albert said to Lisa, "Someone should take that phone away from Jack. People like him shouldn't be allowed have phones." After the success of his last plan, he thought about adapting it slightly to get the phone off Jack. He asked Lisa if she'd act as the female distraction, but she refused. She suggested using Jane. Albert said, "Maybe... I suppose putting a ribbon on her wouldn't do any good... It's worth a try anyway, I suppose."

He asked Jane if she'd take part in his plan and she said, "How am I going to distract him?"

"Just talk to him, about anything at all. Ask him something about airplanes. And smile."

Jane went over to Jack and said, "Ahm... Is that an airplane?" She pointed up and smiled. Albert moved towards Jack, and he was just about to reach out and take the phone from the pocket of his jacket when Jack turned around.

"It's an airplane alright," Albert said.

He wondered what they could do to make Jane more of a distraction. He thought about make-up, or doing something with her hair, but he ruled them out because there was too much work to be done. And then he came up with the perfect idea: get Jack very, very drunk.

There was a pub down the road, and Albert suggested that they go there for a few drinks. After three rounds, Albert made another attempt to get the phone. The phone was still in the jacket, which was hanging on the back of Jack's chair. Jane was listening to him talk about someone he knows who can slam a car door on his own head as often as he wants, and she was smiling a lot. Albert moved towards the chair as quietly as he could, but Jack noticed him.

He made another attempt a few drinks later. Jack was starting to slur his words, but he still noticed Albert.

Albert went back to Lisa, who was standing near the bar. He said to her, "This is useless. I knew Jane wouldn't work as a distraction. He'd be more distracted by the barman. Even a very ugly barman would be more of a distraction."

"That's not fair," Lisa said. "Jane is very pretty."

"We'll see about that," Albert said as he got out his phone. He dialled Jack's number, and when Jack answered he said, "Can I speak to the woman who looks like an ugly barman?"

Jack passed the phone to Jane and said, "It's for you."

Instead of saying 'I told you so' to Lisa, he said, "Run, Jane. Run!" into the phone.

She stood up and as she was running towards the door she said to Jack, "I've got your phone."

They all followed her outside. The chase came to an end in a field near Isobel's house, when Jack was too tired to run any further. Albert and Jane found it very funny, but he stopped laughing when Lisa gave Jane a stick and said, "You'll need this to hit Albert. He asked to speak to the woman who looked like an ugly barman."

Albert was getting ready to run away when Jack said, "I thought you asked to speak to the woman who looks like Ingrid Bergman."

Jane said, "You think I look like Ingrid Bergman?"

"Yeah," Jack said. "I mean, Ingrid Bergman when she was young. Not now."

"That's really nice of you to say," she said and giggled.

"Well it's true. And not just in terms of looks. I always thought, ow!"

Jack had been too distracted by Jane to notice Isobel take the stick from Jane's hand. She aimed for his knee. She managed to hit his knee several times, even as she was chasing him through the fields.

The moose's head over the fireplace has looked disappointed with me for the past few days. The wife's uncle called around and told a story about playing tennis with a broken neck. I told him about how in my rugby-playing days I once kicked a drop-goal with a squirrel clinging to my leg. I think the moose's head is disappointed with me for making up that story, but he'd probably be more disappointed if he knew the whole truth.