'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

First Aid

The wind and rain are back again. It's time to bring in any of the garden furniture that might get blown away. Most of it is either wood or metal, and one table is welded to a trailer. My grandfather did that after daring someone to steal the table. Then he realised that the trailer could be attached to a car and the table would be gone with it, so he tied a goat to the other end of the trailer. The sensible thing to do would be to tie the goat to the table, and forget about the trailer, but then daring people to steal tables wouldn't be an indication of sense either.

My cousin Ronan had a friend called Charlie who was training to be a doctor. Ronan's mother, Aunt Bridget, asked Charlie to give a first aid demonstration at a town fete one summer day. He asked her what a first aid demonstration would have to do with a town fete, and she said, "Well what do bikers with sinister looking budgies have to do with town fetes?"

Charlie didn't know how to answer this question, and Bridget took his silence as an agreement to do the demonstration.

On the day of the fete, he got the demonstration over with as quickly as possible. It was a bit of a nightmare because no one laughed at any of his jokes, but at least it didn't last long. He tried to enjoy the rest of the fete, and even he had to agree that the biker with the sinister budgie was much more entertaining than his performance with the first aid. But for Charlie, the most entertaining part of the whole day was when Ronan slipped on some ice cream and hit his head off a garden gnome.

Charlie laughed at that, but then he thought it wouldn't look good for a trainee doctor to be laughing at accidents. He thought he should at least try to administer some form of first aid, especially after his demonstration. And there were a few press photographers around too.

Ronan seemed to be more dazed than injured. He lay on the ground, looking around him. Charlie got out his stethoscope and put it to Ronan's chest because he thought people would be impressed by that, but he heard a funny noise coming from it. He wondered if the source of the noise was Ronan or the stethoscope, so he put the stethoscope to the stem of a sunflower, and he still heard the noise.

A photographer took a photo of him, and the next day he saw himself on the front page of the paper, listening to a sunflower through his stethoscope while an injured man lay on the ground next to him. It became a political issue, with the opposition claiming that it summed up all of the problems with Department of Health.

Charlie was furious with this, but Ronan said he had a plan to put everything right. Aunt Bridget had grown an exceptionally large tomato in her glasshouse, and a photographer from a local paper was due to photograph it on the following day. Ronan's plan was to stage an accident while the photographer was there, and then she could take photos of Charlie looking very competent in his medical response.

On the following morning, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. My cousin Jane and her friend, Claudia, were standing on the top floor of a tall building in the city, looking down on all the buildings around them, the sun reflecting off glass and rooftops. Claudia pointed at something and said, "What's that?"

An inflatable rabbit floated by. "It looks like an inflatable rabbit," Jane said.

They looked at it for over a minute, until it disappeared from view, and then they ran to the lifts.

The photographer arrived in the afternoon, and Aunt Bridget took her to the glasshouse. Ronan was on a ladder at the back of the house, pretending to look for something in the ivy. His brother, Alan, was reading a book in the garden. "I'm reading a book about a shovel," he said to Charlie. "It's a biography."

While the photographer was looking at the tomato in the glasshouse, Ronan got down off the ladder as quietly as he could, and then he went to the rockery, where he lay down on the rocks. Charlie put the ladder on the ground next to him. The plan was that Ronan would scream, the photographer would turn around and see him on the rockery, and assume he'd fallen off the ladder, and then Charlie would get to work with the first aid.

But just before Ronan screamed, he pointed at something in the sky and said, "What's that?"

Charlie looked up. "It looks like an inflatable rabbit," he said.

They kept looking up. Jane and Claudia were also looking up as they ran after the rabbit through the garden, but they fell into a hole. They dragged themselves out. They were bruised, and their clothes were dirty and torn. They crawled along the ground, looking up at the rabbit, trying in vain to reach up, with tears in their eyes and a look of desperation on their faces.

In the photo that appeared in the paper on the following day, it looked as if they were trying to get the attention of the doctor, who was just looking up at the sky, also ignoring the man who'd fallen off a ladder onto the rockery.

Charlie was furious with Ronan this time, but Ronan blamed it all on Alan, who had dug the hole. He said he got the idea from the book about the shovel. He had started reading it because he wanted to forget about the recent split with his girlfriend, Sonia. The book provided the distraction he was looking for until he came to the chapter about the shovel's starring role in a TV series about an athlete. The shovel played the part of the athlete. They used to throw the shovel to show him running, but the man who threw the shovel became disillusioned with his job. The more depressed he became, the more half-hearted were his throws, and the show took on a melancholic air. Sometimes the shovel would just drop on the ground in front of the camera and lie there, completely motionless in a field, with bare trees in the background. All this changed when he fell in love with the woman who was playing the athlete's girlfriend in the show. He was happy again, and his shovel-throwing was rejuvenated. The show lost its appeal because people liked the melancholic feel to it, but the man who threw the shovel didn't care, and neither did the woman who played the shovel's girlfriend.

Alan had never expected to find a love story in a book about a shovel, and this only made him depressed, so he didn't even respond when Ronan blamed him for the way the photo shoot went wrong.

Ronan convinced Charlie to have another go at his plan, and he convinced his mother to phone the photographer and tell her that the tomato had become even bigger. This time they were going to make it look as if Ronan had stood in a snare. Charlie thought it was unbelievable that someone could step in a snare in a garden, but Ronan said that in the previous year he'd seen at least ten photos of people stuck in snares in the local newspaper.

When the photographer called around again, my cousin June and her kids, Daisy and Graham, were there, and they had brought their pet duck, Sleepy. Bridget showed the tomato to the photographer. She said, "I think it must have shrunk again overnight, but I have a photo of another tomato you might be interested in. It's one my grandmother grew, and it's about twice as big as this one."

Bridget went into the house to get the photo, but Ronan still hadn't had his 'accident' with the snare, and they needed something to distract the photographer. Fortunately, Alan provided the distraction. He was throwing a shovel near the fence at the back of the garden, but his throws were very half-hearted because he was still thinking of Sonia. He'd throw it a few feet away, then look at it for a while, walk slowly over to it, and pick it up. Then he'd throw it back in the other direction. The photographer stood near by and watched him.

This was the perfect opportunity for Ronan to stage his accident. He lay down on the grass and put the snare around his leg. The spring on the snare was broken, so it didn't hurt him. He put fake blood on his leg to make it look realistic. Charlie opened his medical bag to make sure everything was there, but his stethoscope was missing. He looked around, and he saw that Daisy and Graham had it nearby. Sleepy was asleep on the grass, and Graham was holding the ear pieces of the stethoscope at either side of the duck's head. Charlie didn't want to have a sleeping duck in the photo, let alone a duck with his stethoscope, but he couldn't call out to the kids in case he'd attract the attention of the photographer.

Aunt Bridget's peacock was fascinated by the sleeping duck. He moved slowly towards Sleepy, and when he got there, Daisy put the other end of the stethoscope on the peacock's head. This was even worse than the sleeping duck with the stethoscope, Charlie thought.

But the photographer was still looking at Alan throwing the shovel. There was something very depressing about his throwing, and she asked him if something was wrong. He told her about how he split with Sonia because she said she'd rather listen to her cat fighting with the ironing board than the AC/DC CDs he plays in his car. He refused to play something else, and she always plays music he hates in her car. The photographer said to him, "Why don't ye agree to listen to the radio in both cars?"

"Yeah... Yeah, you're right. I'm going right over there now to tell her that."

Alan was happy again, and he wanted to throw the shovel as far away as he possibly could. He faced towards the field behind the garden and put all of his strength into the throw, but before he released the shovel he saw a rabbit floating across the sky above the field. He was afraid he might hit it, so he held onto the shovel. He couldn't stop himself falling over the fence and into a hole he'd dug at the other side.

The photographer turned around to see if Charlie was there, so he could provide whatever medical assistance Alan needed, but she saw Ronan lying on the ground with a snare and blood on his leg, the sleeping duck with the stethoscope held to his head, and the other end of the stethoscope on the peacock's head. Daisy and Graham smiled, and so did Ronan. Charlie was standing in the middle of all this. He didn't move, and neither did the photographer. She just stood there looking at the scene, and Charlie started to think that he might just get away with it. But then the peacock spread his feathers and she took a photo.

Charlie bought the paper on the following day, expecting to see himself on the front page again, but the photo wasn't there. They chose to go with the photo of Alan with his head stuck in a hole.

The moose's head over the fireplace has been trying to look as if he knows something I don't. He's been like that since I was looking in the sideboard for a pen and I found a half-full bottle of whiskey. I have a feeling I put it there but I don't know why or when. If it was full it would be more of a mystery. I don't know if the moose's head really knows something about how it got there or if he's just pretending to know in an attempt to make me feel as if there's something I should know. I've been trying to look as if I know too, but I think he sees through that. I wish the hen in the painting would stop looking so surprised.