'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, December 28, 2005


It was another nice Christmas this year. All the usual things - lots of relatives around for dinner and so forth. We all went for a walk in the gardens after dinner. The wife's niece was wearing antlers with lights that flashed on and off, and they kept her occupied for hours. It was the wife who came up with that idea after seeing the way the moose's head over the fireplace was fascinated by the tinsel in his antlers.

My cousin Rachel once went to a fortune teller, who told her, "A man will fall in love with you after seeing your photograph, and a sheep in a hat will ignore a plastic flower."

When she got home she tried to find a good photo of herself, but the best one was of her laughing at a dog who'd fallen out of a box. The worst one was of her running away from the dog. So she asked her sister, June, to take another photo, and she was very careful in her choice of background. And foreground too. She wore a green dress, and she stood in the garden, looking off into the distance.

She was delighted with the photo. It was much better than any of the others, but then she noticed a dog in the background, and the dog had one paw in the air. She had wanted to avoid another photo with a dog, especially one of a dog with a paw in the air. When she showed it to people, they thought the dog looked disoriented, and no one said a word about how good she looked.

The weather forecast predicted a heavy snowfall, and she thought the snow would be the perfect backdrop for a photo of her. When she woke in the morning she looked out the window, and the land for as far as she could see was white. June called over with her kids, Daisy and Graham, and they walked around the fields, looking for the best setting for the photo.

The kids got into a discussion on gravity after Graham wondered why the snow falls slower than rain. He thought gravity must have less of an effect on snow. Daisy said that gravity has an equal effect on everything, and ever since then she'd been pointing at things and saying, "That's affected by gravity."

My cousin Hugh was out in the snow with his friends. While he was on his way down a hill on a sled, he noticed a little yellow note stuck to the sled. It said 'Don't use this sled on this hill'. "I wonder if that's about this sled and this hill," he said to himself.

Daisy was still pointing at things. "That's affected by gravity, and that's affected by gravity, and so is that." She stopped when she saw Hugh flying through the air on a sled. When he disapeared behind a tree she pointed at a gate. "And that's affected by gravity..."

Rachel thought she had found the perfect spot for her photo, but when she looked at the result on June's digital camera, she noticed Hugh flying by on a sled in the background. "Damn!" she said. "No one's going to fall in love with me after seeing a photo like that."

As they looked for another setting, they saw Hugh's friends, who were looking for Hugh. Rachel wondered if one of them would be the man who'd fall in love with her. But they had to get the photo first, and they thought they'd found the perfect setting near a tree, but there was a skier stuck in the tree. Daisy pointed at a fence post and said, "That's affected by gravity, and..." She stopped when she pointed at the tree. The two kids just stood there, looking up at the skier.

He said to Rachel and June, "I was wondering if ye could help me at all. I seem to have..."

"There's no way we can take the photo here," Rachel said.

"What about next to the stream. It's frozen over now."

"That sounds perfect."

The kids stayed at the tree as Rachel and June went to the stream. Rachel looked around to make sure there wasn't anything like a dog or an airborne cousin in the background. She saw a sheep in the snow, which was somewhere in between the two. She was ready to leave and look for another setting, but then she remembered the second part of the fortune teller's prediction, and she wondered if this would have to come true for the first part to come true too.

She went over to the sheep and put her hat on its head. "How are you going to get it to ignore a plastic flower?" June said.

"Well we'll need a plastic flower first of all."

Rachel went home and got a plastic flower. When she came back, she showed it to the sheep, but the sheep was fascinated by the flower. This was going to be more difficult than she thought, and no one would fall in love with her after seeing her trying to get a sheep to ignore a plastic flower.

She went over to the skier in the tree. The kids were still looking at him, and Daisy was pointing at him. He said to Rachel, "Ah, hello there. I was wondering if you could..."

"Could you distract anyone who comes along?" she said.

"Oh. Okay."

"Just make sure they don't look towards the sheep."

She went back to the sheep, who was still fascinated by the flower. When Hugh's friends came along, the skier started telling them about a cat with an extremely long tail he saw recently, and then he sang a song.

Rachel came to the conclusion that the sheep would only ignore the flower if there was something else to distract it. June had a bar of chocolate. Rachel held the chocolate and the flower in front of the sheep. Just one brief glance towards the chocolate would qualify as ignoring the plastic flower, but the sheep went for the flower. It ran away with the flower in its mouth, and Rachel followed it.

June had taken a photo of the sheep in the hat. She went over to Hugh's friends at the tree and said, "Does anyone want to see a photo of my sister?"

When Rachel arrived back after chasing the sheep, June said, "Where's the flower?"

"It's gone."

"Did the sheep eat it?"

"It's gone."

"She was half-right anyway." June showed her the photo of the sheep in the hat and said, "I've been showing everyone your photo. I don't know if they'll fall in love with you now. In fact, I'd be worried if they did."

Rachel didn't find it funny.

They saw a lamb walking through the snow, saying 'maaa'. "I think it's looking for its mother," June said.

It didn't seem to notice the sheep in the hat at all. "Maybe it doesn't recognise its mother because of the hat," Rachel said, and she lifted her hat off the sheep's head. The lamb got a shock the next time it looked in that direction. It said, "Maaahahahahaha," and ran over to its mother.

They looked around for another setting for the photo. June suggested going back to the frozen stream. Rachel took her hat back off the sheep, and they walked towards that.

But when they got there they noticed that the lamb had followed them all the way. "She thinks you're her mother now," June said. "Because of the hat."

June took a photo of them. When Rachel and the lamb went to look for the sheep, June went to Hugh's friends again and said, "This is a photo of my sister with her daughter."

They looked at the photo on the camera. This one was even more confusing than the last one, and none of them said anything.

Rachel couldn't find the lamb's mother, so she put the hat on a snowman, and the lamb stared at that.

She went back to June and said she was ready to give up on this mission.

"You haven't even spoken to them yet," June said. "They're not going to fall in love with you if you haven't even spoken to them."

"The fortune teller never said anything about speaking to them. She specifically mentioned a photo. That would suggest that I shouldn't talk to them at all. Which makes perfect sense."

After a lot of persuasion, June convinced her to talk to Hugh's friends. They were looking at the lamb and the snowman in the hat. One of them said, "She looked more lifelike in the photo."

Rachel went over, stood behind them and coughed to attract their attention. They turned around. They got a shock when they saw her, and they all ran away, which was more-or-less the opposite of what she was hoping for.

The lamb kept looking at the snowman. Rachel put the hat on the lamb, and it walked away.

Hugh's sled slowly came to a rest in the snow, followed closely by Hugh. He lay there for a while, and he looked at the lamb in the hat wandering aimlessly around. The lamb stood on the sled, and looked down at Hugh from beneath the hat. When the sled started moving, Hugh tried to stop it, but it was just beyond his reach.

Rachel went back to the skier in the tree. He said, "I was wondering if you could just help me out here. I seem to have..."

"I should never have listened to that fortune teller," she said. "It turned out to be a complete disaster. They seem to think that a snowman would be more believable as me than me. I wouldn't mind so much if it was a snow woman. And as for the pig... it's just a complete disaster."

One of Hugh's friends, Daniel, came over and said to her, "Sorry about the way we reacted there. You just caught us by surprise."

"That's okay. It was my fault."

"I wouldn't mind, but we actually built that snowman earlier on. It's just that when we saw it with the hat, y' know..."


They saw the sled with the lamb in the hat sliding down the hill towards them. "And I think we made that as well," Daniel said.

The sled came to a stop near the tree. When the lamb jumped off, Daniel screamed and ran away, but Rachel called after him, "No, look, it's just a lamb."

He laughed when he realised his mistake. "I'm very sorry about that," he said. "Is it yours?"

"The hat is mine. The lamb is hers." Rachel pointed at the ewe. When she removed the hat, the lamb ran over to its mother.

"We're going for a drink in the pub to warm up," Daniel said, "if you'd like to come along."

"I'd love to," Rachel said.

As they walked away, the skier in the tree said, "Awww... If you could just... hello... Damn."

He looked down at Daisy and Graham, who were still looking up at him. He said, "Is there any chance at all that ye might just... y' know... no, it doesn't matter."

Daisy finally stopped pointing at him, and a few seconds later they both walked away from the tree.

The skier was alone again. He sighed, and then he listened for the sound of voices, but he heard nothing at all in the snow-covered land. Until he heard the sound of the branch breaking, and the snow-covered land was approaching very quickly.

"And so is that," Daisy said.

The moose's head over the fireplace enjoyed Christmas, despite being constantly annoyed by the wife's grandmother. Her hearing isn't the best, and every time I said something intelligent, she looked at the moose's head and said, "What?" And most of what I said was intelligent. Although she did look at me when I said the dog was lost in someone's hat. If she'd been listening to what I'd said before it, she'd have understood what I meant, but she saying 'what?' to the moose's head then.