'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2006


The days are getting longer. Spring can't be too far away. Last Spring the wife suggested I talk to the flowers to help them grow, but I think that was just to stop me talking to her for a while. My great-grandfather used to talk to the flowers in German. It didn't work, but he couldn't really speak German. I don't think the real purpose was to speed up the flower's growth. Apparently the words 'der ladder' often cropped up, normally within earshot of the person who'd lost his ladder.

My cousin Hector's sister-in-law, Nadine, came to stay with them for a week in the summer, and she attracted a few other visitors to the house as well. Hector's brother, Albert, always visited more often when Nadine was there. He used to walk with her through the fields and laugh at her jokes about rabbits, even when he didn't get them. Hector was perfectly happy to have her out of the way - he didn't get any of her jokes.

His cousin, Gary, started calling around more often too, and Albert became worried that she'd go for Gary instead of him. He was there one afternoon when Gary arrived wearing a hat, and Nadine was very impressed with it. She spent over half an hour looking at it. Albert wondered if he should tell her about the potato he found that was shaped like a horse. He was going to have to do something if he didn't want to be outshone by Gary.

He came up with an idea that seemed even better than the horse-shaped potato. Gary could never refuse a dare or a drink, and Hector had recently found a bottle of something unidentifiable in the attic. These facts came together in Albert's mind and he dared Gary to drink from the bottle.

Gary poured a glass and drank it in one go. It seemed to have no effect on him, so Hector drank a glass of it too. Albert was about to tell Nadine about the potato, but he remembered a time when he gave roses to a previous girlfriend, and she said, "They're made out of paper."

"Oh yeah."

"And there's a drawing of scuba diver on one of them."

"I didn't notice that before. Look at him - he's waving." He sensed that things were going wrong, so he told her about the potato, and that was the last he ever saw of her.

The potato story was a last resort. He tried to think of some other way to eliminate Gary, and he ended up going for the most obvious method of all. He said, "I'm sure I saw a box full of bottles behind the shed."

Gary said he was going to look for it, and Hector went too. They went into the back garden. They made their way around the shed, and then in the dark of the shed Hector said, "I thought we went around the shed."

"So did I."

"Do you think this is because of that thing we drank?"

"Quite possibly."

"So how do we get out?"

"I don't know."

"Do you think that's because of the thing we drank?"


Albert was supposed to be fixing an old table lamp (this is the excuse he used to visit his brother's house for the fifth time that week). Work on that had come to a halt when he lost the pliers, which provided a good excuse to spend time with Nadine. They went for a walk in the field behind the house, and they met a group of people who were staying in a nearby. They were just standing in the field, facing a gentle breeze.

"I was talking to them earlier," Nadine whispered to Albert as they walked towards the people. "They're looking for something, but they can't remember what it is they're looking for."

Albert asked them if they had any luck in finding whatever it is they're looking for, but they didn't answer. "I'm looking for a pliers. It wouldn't be a pliers, would it?" They said nothing. "Have ye seen my pliers?"

As Nadine and Albert walked away she said to him, "They're looking for a hat. I found it earlier on, but don't tell them that. I can't stand them."

"I don't like them either."

"I wonder where Gary and Hector got to."

They were still in the shed. Hector pointed at something above them and said, "What colour is that airplane?"


"What about that one?"

"That's cream too."

Nadine and Albert went back to the garden. Four men were working on an archaeological dig nearby, but every single day they managed to get wet, even on sunny days when they were nowhere near water. Nadine didn't like them either. She saw the four of them approaching through the field, and when they got to the garden she said, "Ye got wet again?"

"Only because we were being chased by your dog."

"Inky? He wouldn't hurt a fly."

The dog ran by with a baseball bat in his mouth.

Nadine said to one of the archaeologists, "Yeah, well you probably just had a traffic cone on your head. The dog always runs after people with traffic cones on their heads because he just wants to say hello."

"I did not have a traffic cone on my head. And as far as I know, none of us did. Did ye?"

The others shook their heads.

"I bet one of ye had a traffic cone on ye'r heads, and ye didn't even notice it."

"That's ridiculous."

Gary and Hector finally emerged from the shed. Gary had a flower pot on his head. Nadine said to him, "Do you know there's a traffic cone on your head?"

"Ahm... Yeah."


One of the archaeologists said, "That's just..." He pointed at something, but he didn't know how to finish that sentence and he didn't seem to know what he was pointing at either. The four of them walked away.

The people who had forgotten what it is they were looking for were there, and they shook their heads at Nadine. They always took sides with the archaeologists. Nadine ignored them. She turned to Gary and said, "Well done, Gary."


Albert came very close to telling her about the potato, but he decided to go away and think about this before doing anything rash.

He met Hector's wife, Liz, and she asked him how he was getting on with the table lamp.

"Work is at a standstill," he said. "I've lost the pliers."

"That's a pity."

"Nadine is very funny with the way she doesn't get on with those people in the field or the archaeologists."

"She's always been like that. She finds fights in the most unusual of places. And she can never just let them lie."

"I've got it! I can have a go at the people in the field and the archaeologists at the same time."

"Yeah. That doesn't really help you find the pliers, though."

The idea was to pour a bucket of water over the hat that the people in the field were looking for, and to blame it on the archaeologists. Nadine applauded when she heard it.

She got the hat and he poured the water over it. They went to the people in the field and Albert said, "We found this hat and we thought ye might be looking for it. One of the archaeologists tried it on, and he tried to do an impersonation of ye, like all of ye at once. He was doing a little dance and saying, 'I'm a Nazi, w'hey!' when he fell into a barrel of water. And that's how it got wet."

They said nothing. Then Gary arrived with a radio on his head and one of them said, "The radio! That's what we were looking for." The others nodded.

The archaeologists arrived. They were wet again, and blaming Nadine again too, but before they could get to that, the people who'd just found their radio told them about what Albert had just said. Before they could get into too much detail, Inky appeared and ran towards Gary, who ran away, and the owners of the radio ran after him.

"He just wants to say hello," Nadine shouted at Gary.

"So what's this about one of us wearing a hat and falling into a barrel?" one of the archaeologists said.

"There's a perfectly good explanation for this," Albert said. His mind went blank, so he put his hands in his pockets in search of inspiration. He took out a paper clip and a match stick. These were the only things he remembered to bring with him, and he didn't exactly remember them either. He didn't think about it. If he had, he wouldn't have brought a paper clip and a match stick at all. He said, "It's like with this paper clip and this match stick... I once found a potato that was shaped like a horse and I gave it the name 'Baa'. Actually someone else gave it the name 'Baa'. I'd never have given it that name myself. But it was very funny. Its legs were a bit uneven, and it didn't have a tail. Unless you counted one of the legs as a tail, but then it would only have three legs. Everyone thought it looked like a horse as soon as they saw it. No one ever thought it was a sheep. But then someone in a pottery class said they could make a horse that looked ten times more like a horse than the potato, and someone else said I should donate my brain to science, which I'm sure was an insult. A friend of mine had a radio-controlled airplane, and we put it in that once. It fell down the stairs in the end... But this paper clip and this match stick... they're like..."

One of the archaeologists said, "Someone once threw a potato at my shoes."

"Because they were on your head!" Albert said.

"I... it was... I just put them there for a laugh."

"Aha!" Nadine said. "You had shoes on your head. Think of that the next time you blame Inky."

The four of them tried to think of a response to that, but they couldn't, so they walked away.

Albert was left alone with Nadine, who kissed him on the cheek and said, "You were fantastic."

The moose's head over the fireplace looks very pleased with himself these days. I found a pen in his antlers the other day, and he looks much happier without it. I suppose I'd be happy too if I had something removed from my head that had been there for a while. The wife would say there hasn't been anything there for a long while.