'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Briefcase

The days are getting longer, and warmer too. Summer and the finals of the rugby and soccer are just a few weeks away. It's Arsenal instead of Liverpool in the Champion's League final, but Munster have made it to the Heineken Cup final. It's great to have a home team in a major European final (it's never going to happen in the soccer) and it's even better that they beat another Irish team to get there. There are many home competitors in the final of the swan pocket billiards, which proved to be much more successful than the swan dating hockey.

My cousin Jessica is an art teacher, and she's a very good artist herself. She went to see her aunt Bridget one afternoon, and they went for a walk around the garden. Bridget pointed out a statue with its head missing, and she said she had no idea who broke it, but Jessica didn't seem to hear this. She just stared into space. She'd been doing a lot of staring over the previous few weeks.

She shared an apartment with a friend of hers called Leah, who was a typist. Leah wrote a play for raisons. There were twenty-six raisons in the cast, and each was known by a letter of the alphabet. The raisons all looked exactly the same, and only Leah knew which one was which. She did the voices of all the raisons, but each one sounded the same.

She rehearsed this play every night for a few weeks. Jessica always watched it because it was better than anything on TV, but she had no idea what was going on. She listened to Leah saying things like, "I thought A had the briefcase. No, A says J gave it to H. How did J get the briefcase? I don't know. T thinks M has it. No, I asked M. M thinks N has the briefcase, and M would know about N."

The pace of the play got quicker each night. It was up to fifty lines per minute, but the script was getting longer too. Each raison had an equal part, so if she added in a line for one raison, she had to add in one for the other twenty-five too.

It all became a blur in Jessica's mind, and it affected her art too. She paints very quickly, and she tries to re-create her impression of what she sees rather than rendering each detail exactly. When she tried to paint a small waterfall and an old wooden bridge over a stream, she ended up painting a marshland.

"Everything is becoming blurred in my mind," she said to Leah. "I need to do something to sharpen things up."

She tried painting a blue van, but it came out as the sea.

When she was in the garden with Bridget, the scene in her mind was set in a room. She saw someone hiding behind a lamp shade, someone else on the ceiling, and a woman with a stuffed fox under her arm, and she was happy with this scene because at least it was sharper than the marshland or the sea.

Bridget's son, Ronan, was performing in a play with his Amateur Dramatics Society. He told his brother, Alan, that he was playing Shakespeare in one of Shakespeare's plays.

"What play is that?" Alan said.

"I can't remember."

"I'm not surprised you can't remember, because I can't remember any Shakespeare play in which he appeared himself. I don't think he appeared in anything."

"They worked him into the script. I think it's sort of an amalgam of a few of his plays, so that gave them the licence to work him into the script."

Alan went to see a rehearsal, and in fairness, they did manage to include Shakespeare in a very seamless way. The scene was in a garden. A man was waiting for a woman there. She had been out looking for the three witches all day. A bloodhound knew where the witches were hiding, but they gave the dog a potion to make him sleep. When the woman arrived the man asked her to forget about the witches and marry him. As he was talking, Shakespeare arrived on the stage with a tray, and there was a piece of cake on the tray. She ate the cake, and she kept eating it as the man waited for her response. In an aside to the audience, Shakespeare said, "The witches have put a potion in the cake too. As you can see she's eating it very slowly because there's a funny taste from it. She'll be eating that for a while. I wrote this aside to fill the silence while she's eating. And I wrote the bit about the cake because I really like cake."

Alan told Jessica about how Shakespeare was worked into the play, and he worked his way into her memory too. In her mind she saw the room with the man on the ceiling and the woman with the fox. She imagined Shakespeare bringing tea and cakes on a tray, and the fox wasn't really stuffed -- he had been given a potion to make him sleep. The man on the ceiling said, "I thought you had the briefcase."

"Shakespeare said you had the briefcase," the woman with the fox said.

Bridget made some tea, and they sat down at the kitchen table. Alan said, "I remember a Japanese film where people drank tea a lot like this. They didn't say much. They just slowly lifted the tea cups to their mouths, took a sip, and slowly put them back down on the saucers."

"What happened then?" Jessica said.

"I can't remember. I know it ended with a sort of a monster chasing people through a city, destroying buildings and so forth."

Jessica looked up at the ceiling, and she imagined Shakespeare looking down at her. He said, "Hi Jessica. I wrote this tea scene to give me time to hide the briefcase. And I really like tea."

Alan's friend, Leo, was a roadie with a rock band. He had just returned from a world tour, and he had developed a fear of paint while he was away. If the guitarist in the band didn't like the colour of something, he got Leo to paint it. He once had to paint a cat green. The cat managed to avoid any of the paint, and it scratched Leo's arms in the process. He just bought a plastic cactus and pretended it was the cat. The guitarist said, "Does it have to look at me like that?"

Jessica offered to paint his portrait to help him overcome his fear of paint, and she had a feeling that the haze in her mind was clearing and she'd paint something sharp.

She painted a Japanese monster with laser beams from his eyes. The monster was chasing people who were wearing medieval costumes. A man with a Karate outfit was running away with a briefcase.

When Leo saw the painting he ran away saying, "This is just like Stockholm all over again."

Alan looked at the painting and said, "I'd have said Tokyo."

"At least it's something really sharp," Jessica said.

They went out to the garden to look for Leo, but there was no sign of him. In her mind, Jessica saw the man who had been hiding behind the lamp post, only he was hiding behind a tree now. The man who had been on the ceiling was trying to hide in the grass, but it was much too short. The fox was awake again, but the woman was asleep on the grass.

Ronan arrived in his Shakespeare costume. He was with some friends of his from the play, who were also wearing their costumes. When Jessica saw him walking into the garden, he walked into the scene in her mind too, and it all fitted together. Ninjas emerged from behind trees and bushes, but Shakespeare used his martial arts skills to fight them, flying through the air, kicking people on the head.

"It was you who broke the statue!" she said to Ronan. She was going to add 'and doped the fox', but she didn't.

She was the last person he expected to figure that out. She'd been talking in monosyllables like 'ahm' and 'who' for the past few weeks.

He thought his only hope was to pretend to be someone else. He already had the costume. So he put on a French accent when he said, "No, no, I do not know what you are talkeeng about."

She thought he sounded Japanese. "It was definitely you."

"No, no. I..." He ran away, and everyone else chased him.

They ran down the hill outside the house, past Leo, who was just emerging from behind the ditch where he was hiding. When he saw Shakespeare and his friends running by he thought it was just like Mexico, and he enjoyed Mexico.

The moose's head over the fireplace likes the snooker on TV. If you spend your days staring at a wall, I suppose you'd be in a good position to appreciate snooker. It's a great variation on staring at a green table. He enjoyed the rugby too, which is just men pushing each other on a field, one of the many varieties of that activity, but it's even better with swans.