'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Tap Dancing

We've had a few days without any rain. The ground is dry again. The wife has been trying to convince me it would be a good idea to build a bird house. I've been trying to convince her that it wouldn't be a very good idea for me to build it, but my arguments haven't had much effect. I've had a look through some of my great-grandfather's DIY books. He added in a lot of his own notes in the margins, and very few of them had anything to do with DIY. One of them is about ignoring a horse. Apparently he used to consult these books when people asked him things like 'what the hell do you think you're doing with that begonia?'.

My cousin Charlotte once auditioned for a part in a musical that required a little bit of singing and a lot of tap dancing. She was much better at the singing than at the dancing, so she wasn't too hopeful of getting the part.

She lost all hope when she saw some of the people who danced before her at the audition. They were all much better than her, and the choreographer only called one of them back for a second audition. The choreographer was judging the dancers by the reaction in his shoulder. He knew nothing about tap dancing, but he could feel something in his shoulder when people danced, and over the years it had proved to be an infallible method for spotting talent. He thought it was because he once slept on his shoulder in the snow, and the shoulder became very sensitive after this.

Charlotte's audition went badly. She was expecting a definite 'no' from the choreographer. His brain was expecting that too, but his shoulder was saying she's fantastic. He stared at her in silence for a while, wondering what to do. His shoulder had never been wrong before, but his brain was getting it wrong all the time. So he went with the shoulder and told her she'd get a second audition.

She was delighted at first, but the more she thought about it, the more unlikely it seemed that she'd get through the next audition. She had somehow fooled his shoulder. She had no idea how, and there was no guarantee that it would work again.

She asked a lot of people if they had any ideas as to how she fooled the choreographer's shoulder, and the best theory put forward was that his shoulder was happy for some reason. But this only raised the question 'why was his shoulder happy?'.

Someone suggested a visit to Aunt Joyce. Joyce used to judge poems by their smell, and Charlotte asked her if she had any idea why her tap dancing should be judged favourably by the choreographer's shoulder.

"I don't know about that," Joyce said. "Why don't you dance for me."

Charlotte did her dance. Joyce thought about it for a while and said, "I can't smell anything."

"I suppose I'll just have to hope for the best at the audition."

"Maybe not. I know someone who might be able to help you."

This was half true. She didn't know anyone who could help Charlotte, but she did know someone. The son of a friend of hers had recently split up with his girlfriend, and Joyce thought of setting him up with Charlotte.

When she introduced them she said to Ryan, the friend's son, "Charlotte has a sort of a puzzle she wants to solve and I thought you'd be just the man to do it."

She left them alone, and Charlotte told him her story about the tap dancing, but before she got to the end, Ryan's phone rang. He answered it and said, "Hello... No... No, I'm not... No chance... There's absolutely no way I'm giving it back to you." He hung up and he said to Charlotte, "That was my ex-girlfriend. I won a ring at a fair, and it had these little snakes on it. One of them had red eyes. I gave it to her. Not because I thought the snakes were appropriate for her or anything, although it did turn out that way. When we split up she threw the ring at me, and now she wants it back. She says it's hers because I gave it to her. The ring isn't worth anything. It's just spite. But there's absolutely no way I'm giving it back to her."

In court, the judge pointed at Ryan and said, "Give the ring back to her. And I told you before, stop smoking."

Ryan dropped the cigarette on the ground and he glared at the judge as he stamped it out.

His ex sold the ring to some friends of hers who were making a film. Charlotte suggested they just buy the ring back from them.

They were filming in the park one evening. Charlotte and Ryan went to see them, and Ryan asked if he could buy the ring, but the director said, "We can't sell it. We've already started filming with it. It'd be like selling one of the leading actors... Do ye want to be one of the leading actors?"

Charlotte and Ryan sat on the swings in the park and thought about what to do next. "I've got to get that ring back," he said. "I can't let her beat me on this one."

Stealing the ring was the only thing he could think of, but Charlotte came up with a better idea. Her father knew a magician who once did a trick where he covered various objects with pieces of cloth. The idea was to switch them around without anyone noticing, but he ended up coming home with someone's watch. "We could get him into the film," Charlotte said. "They're looking for actors. And then he could switch the ring with something else."

"I like it," Ryan said. "I mean, it is effectively stealing, isn't it?"

"Effectively, yeah."

"I like it."

They went to see the magician and told him their plan. The sidekick in his act was a pear, and he said to the pear, "What do you think of it?" He spent the next thirty seconds staring at the pear, and then he said, "I didn't think of it like that. I'll do it."

The director was delighted to have a magician in his film, and the rest of the cast were delighted when he offered to do a trick because they'd spent the last three hours waiting for the camera man to put in one of his contact lenses.

The plan was that he'd use the ring, a watch and one of his shoes in the trick, and the ring would end up in his pocket. But in the middle of it, someone started playing the violin behind him. The violinist was practising for a scene in the film where a couple have a romantic dinner in a restaurant. When the magician heard the music he stopped to listen. When the music ended he said to the pear, "Did you do that?"

After listening to the pear's response, he remembered the trick, but he couldn't remember what he was supposed to switch and what he was supposed to take.

When he met Ryan and Charlotte later he said, "Here's your cat," and he handed Ryan a cat.

"It was the ring!" Ryan said. "You were supposed to get the bloody ring, not a cat."

They needed to find another way to get the ring, and they wanted to off-load the cat too. Charlotte came up with another plan. "We could get jobs as extras on the film. Then we alter the script of the leading lady. Just put in a line telling her to give the ring to the man with the cat and take the cat from him. Then we run."

"Would she really be stupid enough to do that?"

"The magician says she thought his pear was a hamster."

"Let's do it."

They got the jobs as extras, and when no one was looking they added in the line to the script. It was in a scene on the beach, but because of the ever-decreasing funds, filming was due to take place in a field with a bucket of sand. The camera man would kneel in the grass and point the camera upwards. They had plenty of blue sky in the field, and to create the illusion of the beach the leading lady would take a handful of sand from the bucket and let it fall through her fingers, saying, "Look at all the sand."

Then she'd find a ring on the 'beach' and say, "I wonder where this came from." This is where Ryan added in the line about the man with the cat.

The director told her to drop the sand back into the bucket because they needed it for a desert scene later, but the wind blew it off-course during the filming. It was at this point that Ryan made his entrance with the cat. He was walking behind her just as she said, "I wonder where this came from." She turned around and gave him the ring. He gave her the cat and ran. Charlotte ran with him.

The director was playing a mummy in this scene, and he ran after Ryan and Charlotte, but his movement was hampered by the costume. They stopped to let him catch up with them, then they ran for another few yards and stopped again.

This went on for a few minutes until Ryan got sick of it and threw a shoe at the mummy. He fell over and lay in the grass for a while. He sat up and said, "Alright, ye can keep the bloody ring." He was starting to think that the cat offered many more possibilities than the ring anyway.

After calling to see his ex to show her the ring, Ryan took Charlotte out for a drink. They spent an hour laughing at his ex's reaction to seeing the ring, but then Charlotte remembered the tap dancing. She sighed and said, "I still have this audition tomorrow. Unless I can figure out how to influence his shoulder, I don't have a hope."

"Leave that to me," Ryan said.

Charlotte's dance at the audition was even worse than the first one. The choreographer's brain obviously thought so, and this time it looked as if his shoulder agreed too. He shook his head slowly when she finished her dance, and he had the same look on his face that he had when he said to the last dancer, "That was even worse than when my dog fell out of a tree."

When he finally stopped shaking his head, he said to Charlotte, "That was..."

That was as far as he got because Ryan threw a shoe at his shoulder. The choreographer fell backwards and landed on the floor. He held onto his shoulder and screamed in pain. When the scream died away there was silence. He stayed where he was on the floor. "Okay, you've got the part," he said to Charlotte.

The moose's head over the fireplace always seems to know what batteries to get for things like remote controls or clocks. I just hold up different types of battery, and for the correct one, the expression on his face will contain marginally less pity than the others. He's good with foreign currency too, but his weakness is clothes. He's taken an instant disliking to my new suit, and he's completely wrong about it. Knowing about batteries and foreign currency is no indication of taste.