'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Snow White

I was out in the garden, watching the dog walk across the lawn. He stopped suddenly, as if he was trying to listen to a sound. I recently acquired a megaphone, so I used that to tell the dog there was a horse just behind him, but he just stared back at me.

My cousin Rachel was learning to play the violin. She practised every day, but not everyone appreciated her efforts. Her mother, Aunt Bridget, had a party one Friday evening, and Rachel played a song at that. She got a round of applause at the end, but when she picked up her violin to practice on the following day, there was a fork stuck to the back of it. She met her sister, June, later that day, and she said, "Someone stuck a fork to my violin."

"To your violin?"

"Yeah, someone glued a fork to my violin."

"Are you sure someone didn't stick a fork into your violin?"

"Yeah, it's definitely glued to the back of it. I've no idea who could have done it."

"Lots of people could have done it if the fork was rammed into your violin. Are you sure the fork is glued to it?"

"Yeah. But I'm going to find out who did it. This is going to take a bit of detective work. Detective work led by intuition."

They walked around the house looking for clues, and they came across nothing unusual until they looked under the stairs. There were match sticks on the floor.

"What's your intuition telling you?" June said.

"I can't help thinking this has something to do with an affair."

"I don't see that at all."

"They were in there, and they were having an affair, whoever they were, and they dropped their match sticks."

"How can you infer an affair from match sticks?"

"They were lighting matches to see each other. Whereas if they'd been married for years, or if they'd been going out for a long time, they wouldn't want to see each other at all."

June couldn't find a flaw in that logic. She noticed a shovel under the stairs too and she said, "How do you explain that?"

"I don't know about the shovel, but it probably ties into the affair in some way."

Their brohter, Ronan, was a member of an Amateur Dramatics Society, and they were due to perform a musical version of Snow White. A woman called Brenda and her friend, Nigella, auditioned for the part of Snow White. Nigella was a ballet dancer, and she was hoping that her dancing skills would help her get the part. Brenda was the better singer, and she got to play Snow White, but she insisted that a part be created just for Nigella. The director agreed to let her make a brief all-dancing appearance as Snow White's cousin who pays a visit. She'd dance to a song with her boyfriend and then leave.

She hadn't consulted her boyfriend when she agreed to take the role. He was speechless when she told him he'd be in it too - speechless with delight, she thought. But the next she heard from him was a text message on the following day which said: 'I'm leaving the country. Goodbye.'

Ronan was also learning how learning how to draw and paint at the time. Jessica, his cousin, is an art teacher. She gave him a few lessons, and then he joined her art class with a friend of his, Fred. One day the class had to draw a scene that consisted of a man sitting on a chair, smoking a cigar, and a rugby player looking into the distance. A balloon was stuck to the rugby player's head. He looked a bit dazed, as if he'd just been in a tough game, and he didn't seem to notice that the balloon was stuck to his head.

Ronan drew the scene, but he left out the balloon. He wondered if he should add it in at the end. He looked around at what the others were doing, and they had all left out the balloon too. Each of them seemed to be waiting for someone else to draw the balloon first, but no one did.

Jessica didn't know if she should mention it either. She looked back and forth between the drawings and the rugby player. She said to the class, "Are ye sure ye've drawn everything in the scene?"

No one said anything. "Okay so," Jessica said. "I think ye've all done a really, really good job."

Aunt Bridget's party was that evening, and she invited Jessica and the rest of the art class along because she thought it would be nice to have drawings of the evening instead of just photos. Fred was very eager to go when he heard that Brenda would be there - she had just come back from a holiday. He liked Brenda, and drawing her was the perfect excuse to stare at her for long periods of time.

Nigella was there too. She had been depressed since her boyfriend left, and she pulled out of the musical because she couldn't find a partner. Fred said to her, "Why don't you dance with a shovel? I once saw that in a film - someone dancing with a shovel."

Tears welled up in her eyes. Ronan said he'd get her a drink, and as he went to get it he wondered how long it would take to get a ballet dancer drunk. He mentioned it to Fred, and Fred suggested placing a wager on it. Ronan thought it would take less than an hour and Fred said it would take more. They agreed that the point at which they could say she's drunk would be when she agrees to dance with a shovel.

When they weren't filling up her glass, they were drawing scenes from the party with the rest of the class. Jessica suggested drawing Daisy, June's daughter, who had a plate with a piece of cake in her hand. Ronan asked her to hold out her other arm, and all of the class drew a balloon on a piece of string in this hand. It seemed to cancel out the balloon they'd removed from the scene earlier in the day.

It took forty-two minutes for Nigella to agree to dance with a shovel. It took another two minutes for her to actually dance with a shovel. Ronan went to the shed to get one. The class drew her as she danced, but they all felt guilty about drawing the shovel, so they left that out.

Ronan put the shovel under the stairs when she finished her dance. The drawings looked very bare with just the ballet dancer on her own, so they decided to add in a human partner. They chose Fred to be the model for this, and he was reluctant at first, but then he agreed after Ronan told him he wouldn't have to pay the twenty quid for losing the bet if he posed for the drawing. He also posed with Brenda later on, but they all drew a shovel in his place.

Nigella didn't say much for the rest of the evening, but then after midnight she asked Ronan and Fred if she'd been dancing earlier.

"You were," Ronan said. "And you were very good too."

"But who was I dancing with?"

"Fred. And he was very good as well."

Ronan showed her the drawing. Fred looked very happy in it, probably because he'd just avoided paying twenty quid to Ronan. Nigella smiled at it. She said to Fred, "Does this mean you'll dance with me in the show?"

"I..." Fred didn't know how to say 'no', and she took it as a yes. When she suggested that they keep seeing each other after the show he knew that 'no' was the only appropriate response, but he could only manage an 'I' again, and she took this to mean 'I'd love to'.

She was happy and he was depressed then, but not depressed enough to miss another chance to draw Brenda at the rehearsal on the following day. She came back from her holiday with a tan, and when she showed up at the rehearsal, the director said to her, "How can you possibly play Snow White when you're not even white?"

"Yeah well the dwarves aren't exactly dwarves either."

The director had chosen the smallest men in the group to play the dwarves, but he only had eight to choose from. He tried to think of some rejoinder to this line, and half an hour later, he was ready to deliver his response. He decided to get balloons to play the dwarves instead. He blew up seven balloons and drew faces on them. He put them on the stage.

This confused the art class when they arrived in the hall. Jessica got them to draw the scene, but they all left out the balloons. Ronan started drawing seven shovels instead, and the others copied him, apart from Fred. He drew himself and Brenda dancing on the stage.

When Brenda saw the stage, the director said to her, "You're right. They're not dwarves. They're balloons."

He smiled because he thought he'd won, but half an hour later she looked at the drawings and said, "They're not balloons. They're shovels. Look."

She showed him Ronan's drawing. He didn't know what to say to this, but it had taken her half an hour to come up with her response, so he had plenty time to get seven shovels.

Rachel was coming to the end of her investigations around the house. The only clues she had found were the match sticks and the shovel. She went to the hall with June, and she looked through Ronan's sketch book. She saw the one of Nigella dancing with Fred, Daisy with the cake and the balloon, and then Brenda standing next to a shovel. She knew there was something odd about all three of these drawings, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it.

Brenda and the director were arguing as she looked through the sketch book. The director had replaced the seven balloons with seven shovels. He said to her, "You're right. They're shovels."

"Do you even know what dwarves are?" she said.

"They're small people."

"Yeah, but who's playing them? Is it shovels or balloons?"


"You don't even know."

"I know what's going on here," Rachel said, with a look on her face as if she knew what was going on there. "My initial intuition proved correct. An affair is at the heart of this. Fred is having an affair with Brenda."

"Yes!" Fred said, thinking that his drawing had come true. Then he noticed that Nigella looked shocked so he said, "I mean, no." Then he remembered that 'no' was the perfect response to get out of the show and dating Nigella last night, but today it's the other way around, so he said, "I mean..."

"I noticed a few alterations to the drawings," Rachel said. "Nigella danced with a shovel last night, but in the drawing she's dancing with Fred. And then when Fred posed with Brenda, he was replaced by a shovel. Fred didn't want Nigella to see him spending time with Brenda, so he used a shovel to take his place in the drawings, and a shovel took his place in the dance while he was under the stairs with Brenda, having an affair."

Fred could only smile at that thought. Brenda was too confused to say anything.

Rachel said, "Fred was worried that Nigella would figure out that the man represented by the shovel was having an affair with Brenda, so he replaced all of the dwarves with shovels to make it look as if any one of them could be that man."

The director was fairly sure that he had replaced the dwarves with shovels, but Rachel's reason seemed like a much better explanation.

"Which just leaves the fork stuck to my violin," Rachel said to Ronan. "I knew there was something wrong with the drawing of Daisy holding a balloon. There were no balloons at the party. She was holding a plate with a piece of cake in her right hand, and in her left hand she was really holding a fork to eat the cake, not a balloon at all. You took out the fork and replaced it with a balloon. You needed somewhere to put the fork, so you stuck it to my violin."

"To your violin?" He could vaguely remember doing something to her violin with a fork. He was drunk at the time. "I was drunk," he said.

"So was I," Fred said to Nigella.

Nigella had been more drunk than anyone and she couldn't remember what happened at all, but she was still upset.

Brenda looked confused. She said, "I can't remember any of this."

The director said to her, "How can you accuse me of not knowing who's playing the dwarves when you don't even know who you're having an affair with?"

"There's a balloon stuck to your head," Brenda said. The director looked dejected. He knew he'd never think of a response to that.

The moose's head over the fireplace is finding it difficult to stay awake now that we've started lighting the fire again. I tried using the megaphone to keep him awake. I told him there was a horse behind him, but he just stared back at me too. The wife's uncle left the megaphone here. He says he got it from a former girlfriend. He once told her she was too loud, and she never said another word to him until she got the megaphone and said, "What did you say?" He wouldn't tell us how he had got it from her. I know exactly how the wife got it from me. She buried it in the garden and blamed it on the dog.