'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Highlights

The wind and rain have returned. Things are back to normal once more. Things were very far from normal there for a while. The wife's aunt was working on a painting in the garden while the place was dry. And if that wasn't bad enough, the wife was talking about putting lanterns around the garden and getting her aunt to paint that. It was probably for a bet.

My aunt Joyce inherited an old house, and her nephew, Gary, agreed to do some of the renovation with a friend of his called Chris. They started on the living room. Joyce drew a picture of how she wanted the room to look and they got to work.

They spent most of the first day scraping paint from the window frames. Gary stopped to look at the picture. He went back to the window and scraped away more of the paint, then he looked at the picture again. "We're still miles away from that," he said.

"This is stupid," Chris said. "And look, this crossword even says we're stupid."

Chris had written the words 'we're stupid' into a crossword.

They met their friend Tracey after they finished work for the day. As they were sitting on a bench in the park, another friend of theirs, Sam, went by, but he didn't stop to talk. He just walked quicker when he saw them.

Sam was trying to hide something under his jumper. He was using a fake arm to hide the fact that his real arm was under his jumper, holding whatever he was trying to hide. They knew for sure that the arm was fake when he said hello and waved with his other arm - a very exagerated wave to compensate for the lack of movement in the fake arm.

They went back to Tracey's place and tried to figure out what he could be hiding. Tracey had a book called 'How To Find Out What A Man With a Fake Arm Is Up To'. She looked through the chapter on hiding things.

Gary was convinced he was trying to hide someone else's cat. "You'd be amazed at the amount of times I've come across people trying to hide someone else's cat."

Tracey pointed at something in the book and said, "I've highlighted this bit here, where it says 'You can't hide someone else's cat under your jumper'." She had used a yellow highlight pen on that line. "I went over the words 'You can't' about ten times."

"That book could be out of date by now."

"It was only written last year."

"Just because it's in a book it doesn't mean it has to be true."

"I don't know. It makes a lot of sense to me."

"It was a cat. I'd put money on it."

"I'm having a bath," Tracey said, and she let the book slip out of her hand as she turned around and walked away.

"She's always dropping things like that after making grand pronouncements," Gary said.

"What's grand about having a bath?"

"Well she didn't need to say it."

They looked through the book, especially the notes in the margins and the passages that Tracey had highlighted. The highlighting gave Gary an idea for the room they were working on.

On the following day they finished working on the windows and Gary got to work on the drawing. He used the pen to highlight the windows in the drawing, and he erased just about everything else from it.

Tracey called around with her friend Ariel, who was an artist. Gary showed them the drawing, which was just a room with luminous yellow windows and a chair. And the room around them was just a room with recently-painted windows and a chair.

Gary hummed a song, and he moved his hands around to the tune in an attempt to give the impression that there was more than just a chair in the room. The doorbell rang. Two men were there when Gary opened the door.

"We're here for the chair," one of them said. They stepped inside and took the chair.

"Why did they do that?" Tracey said to Gary.

"They just don't like me."

The room was completely bare without the chair or Gary's humming.

"Look what I did," Chris said. He showed them the crossword where he had highlighted the words 'we're stupid'.

"Let's go to see Sam," Tracey said. "There's an easy way to get to the bottom of this fake arm thing."

Tracey told Sam that she needed a way to hide a small box. "I'd hide it under my coat," she said, "but I have no way of holding it in place. If only I could come up with some way of holding it under my coat."

"That's a tricky one alright," Sam said. "But... but maybe..." He picked up an accordion, "I don't know if this will help, but..."

He played a tune on the accordion. There was silence for a while when he finished, until Ariel said, "I'm going to add Death into the painting I'm working on at the moment."

After they left, Tracey said to Gary, "Before you ask, I've highlighted this passage in the book." She showed him the line 'You can't hide an accordion under your jumper'.

Ariel made the addition of Death to a painting of cows in a field, and she invited Sam around to her apartment to see it. "As you can see," she said, "I've painted Death with just one arm, and he's playing the accordion. He's smiling."

The two men who took Gary's chair were in the painting too. One of them was holding Death's scythe, and the other was playing the keys on the accordion that Death couldn't get to because of his missing arm.

Gary ran away when he noticed that the two men were looking at the painting too, but they were quite happy with the way they were portrayed. "I love the way you captured my hair," one of them said.

Tracey said to Sam, "How would Death only have one arm? Do you think he could be hiding it inside his robes?"

"I don't know. I'd say it's very easy to lose an arm if you're carrying a scythe around the place all the time."

The two men left, and Gary returned. They went to a pub, and then another pub. They spent the evening drinking at various places around the city, and they ended up back at Ariel's apartment.

Sam sat on the sofa with Tracey. Chris was transfixed by his shadow on the wall, and Gary just stared into space. All he could see in his mind were bright yellow words like 'You can't' and 'we're stupid'.

When Gary and Chris were working on the room on the following day, Tracey called around and said, "I think I've figured out what he had under his jumper. A friend of Ariel's was saying she saw him at the school of music once and he was trying to hide a violin. Last night when I was talking to him he was telling me all about classical music. And look at this." She showed them a book called 'Fifty-six Reasons to Hide a Violin'. "I've highlighted the important passages."

Gary read through the yellow lines in Reason Number Twenty-Two. It suggested that someone who teaches the violin would try to hide this fact and gladly play the accordion because of an inverse snobbery about classical music. There was a big yellow circle around the word 'accordion'.

They met up with Ariel, and they all went to the school of music. Tracey had her camera to take a photo of Sam with the violin. They stood in the lobby of the building, a huge room with glass walls, filled with light as the sun descended. They waited there for two hours, but there was no sign of Sam.

Tracey dropped the camera, and as she walked away she said, "I really don't care why he was using a fake arm to hide something under his jumper."

The others were about to leave too, apart from Gary. He was looking at the sky through the glass, and in his mind all he could see were bright yellow words like 'accordion', 'inverse' and 'violin'.

Chris ran away when the two men who took the chair arrived. Ariel just pulled up her hood to hide. She had made another addition to her painting. She added in speech bubbles so it looked as if the men were saying 'We're stupid', and she highlighted the words in yellow too.

Gary was too distracted by the yellow words in his mind to notice their arrival. When he finally saw them it was too late to get away.

"We just saw the painting," one of them said to Gary. "You think we're stupid, do you?"

"What are you going to do about it?" the other one said.

Gary had to give them a table to get out of that one.

When Joyce came to inspect the work, she looked back and forth between the drawing and the room around her, but her attention was mostly taken by the drawing. Gary had written the words 'Joyce's plan for the living room' on the drawing, and he highlighted the line with the yellow pen. She looked at that for a long time, and then she nodded her head.

The moose's head over the fireplace has been winning me some money recently. I've never been good at poker because I can't seem to act casual when I've got a good hand. The surprised looking hen in the painting looks less surprised than me. But there isn't anyone on the planet who can act more casual than the moose's head, so I let him play for me instead. I tried playing against him once and I nearly lost the house.