'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006


It's great to have the long days again. Daylight is staying around long into what used to be night. The Champions League final is on this evening. It's Arsenal against Barcelona, two of the most entertaining teams in Europe, so that should be much more interesting than what the sky is doing, hopefully. You never know with European finals. Last year's final was the best thing the TV ever did, but Marseille against Red Star Belgrade in 1991 was like watching twenty-two men in a field.

My cousin Gary was once running down the street with his friends, Shelley and Andy. They stopped to get their breaths back.

"Are we in Galway yet?" Gary said.

Shelley said, "If we weren't in Galway five minutes ago, we're not in Galway now."

When Gary woke up on the following morning, there was a woman in a long white dress standing at the end of the bed, looking down on him. She had blue eyes and long blond hair.

"Where am I?" he said.

"You're in Galway."

"Ah. That makes sense... And who are you?"

"I'm Cynthia. Do you not remember the phone booth?"

"I can remember a phone booth."

"Well let me show you the phone booth."

She took him through the streets, towards the edge of the city. She told him about how she was in love with a man in a band called 'The Knitting Newsels'. "They did a song called 'Fighting Pigeons'," she said. "If it's even half true they could get into a lot of trouble."

Over the previous few weeks, the band had been spending most of their time standing still and smoking cigarettes. They forgot they were a band, and they thought they were thieves instead. People pointed out that even thieves don't just stand around smoking.

They had been like this ever since they all changed their names to either Smith or Jones. None of them could remember which one they were, and they started wearing similar clothes too. One of the band taped a plastic fork to his finger. He had to hold up his hand a lot so he didn't accidentally hurt himself.

She wasn't sure which one she was supposed to be in love with. She knew it wasn't the one with the plastic fork on his finger. She'd narrowed it down to one of two. Her heart went for one, but her head went for the other.

"You've got to go with your heart," Gary said.

"I don't know. I'm fairly sure he's not the one I used to be in love with."

"You still have to go with your heart. The one you used to be in love with is probably confused himself, if he can't remember his own name."


"Call him."

"I don't know."

The phone booth was in the middle of a field that was full of rocks, bricks from old buildings and the odd patch of grass. She showed him where he wrote his name on the glass of the phone booth. "I can't remember spelling my name with a 'fffff' before," he said.

He convinced her to phone the man in the band, the one her heart wanted her to phone. She was happy after calling him and asking if he'd like to go with her to the theatre.

Gary looked into the west. He could see as far as the horizon. "This is the sort of thing I expected to see in Galway," he said.

She didn't respond because she was eating a sweet.

"Where did you get that sweet?" Gary said.

She pointed at her mouth to indicate that she couldn't talk until she finished the sweet.

Shelley was in a cafe with a man called Neil, who was wearing a white suit. He stood at a jukebox. "I can't find Canada," he said.

Shelley explained the concept of a jukebox to him, and he chose a song by a singer called Lingel Bray, who only appears in public as a piece of cotton wool. His latest single was a song about wanting to go back to his hometown, Van Somethingsberg, because he'd been away too long. It sounded completely heartfelt, but people wondered why he couldn't remember the name if it's his own hometown. He wasn't sure what country it was in either, but he was fairly sure he was Irish.

His bad memory seemed more believable ever since The Knitting Newsels couldn't remember their names, and they just had to remember either Smith or Jones. The fact that people saw him as a piece of cotton wool (normally against a pale blue background) made the lack of memory seem more believable too.

"We met Lingel," Neil said, "myself, Cynthia and Ivan. Ivan kept singing that song as 'Van Halensberg and playing Van Halen songs. We were going to send Lingel a 'good luck' card when he launched his album, but we couldn't agree on the wording. Ivan wanted to include the word 'hellway', and he wanted to mention Van Halensberg too. It's typical. We hardly ever get anything done because of these disagreements, or because of Ivan putting plastic spiders into apples."

Andy was with Ivan, who was dressed in black. They were walking down a long red corridor. On the walls, there were paintings of people with huge eyes.

"People think what I do is all about putting plastic spiders into apples," Ivan said, "but nothing could be further from the truth."

"Why do they think that?"

"Because that's what I tell them when they ask me."

"Right. What do you do?"

"I put plastic spiders into apples." He winked a few times.

He was a long way from the truth when he said 'nothing could be further from the truth'. This is the conclusion Andy came to when he saw Ivan putting plastic spiders into apples, and then putting the apples into a box with 'good apples' written on it. As he did this, he sang a song about putting plastic spiders into apples.

Shelley and Neil left the cafe. They walked down a street, and looked through the black iron railings into a small park, where the grass hadn't been cut for about a month. They saw a man dressed as a Mountie. He was standing next to a woman holding a small Canadian flag.

"Is that what you were looking for earlier?" Shelley said.

"Maybe. But I'd have preferred to have found it on the jukebox."

They walked on, towards the edge of the city where Gary and Cynthia were. On the way, Shelley spoke about the benefits of co-operation, and how they'd never get anything done until they put their differences aside for the sake of getting things done.

Andy and Ivan were on their way to the phone booth too. They stopped in a pub for a drink. Andy put a coin in the jukebox and selected Belgium, but nothing happened. He listened carefully and looked around. Then he started smelling the air.

He kept smelling the air until he met Gary, Shelley, Neil and Cynthia near the phone booth at the edge of the city. Cynthia finished the sweet and said, "A car salesman gave it to me. He didn't want it."

Shelley told them about the benefits of co-operation, and Gary agreed with her.

"It smells more like Germany to me," Andy said.

Gary said, "It smells like Galway."

"If we weren't in Galway yesterday," Shelley said, "and we weren't in Galway the day before that, and we weren't in Galway the day before that..."

"We were in Galway the day before that," Gary said. "And we're in Galway now."

She looked confused. "What are we doing in Galway?"

"We're... Oh God!" He remembered why they were running away. They had come across a group of performance artists called The Thursdaves, but their performance was really just stealing carpets. A few days ago, Gary, Shelley and Andy prevented them from stealing a carpet by standing on it. The Thursdaves promised revenge.

"They're in Galway now too," Gary said when he saw the van approaching.

Himself, Shelley and Andy ran away. Cynthia and Neil didn't notice because they were thinking about what Shelley said, about the need to co-operate. Ivan just didn't care.

When Cynthia noticed that Gary and co were gone she said, "Where did they go?"

"They were chased away by people in a van," Ivan said.

"Right," she said, "we've got to help them, and this time we just have to co-operate."

They split up in their search. Cynthia found Gary, Shelley and Andy standing outside the locked entrance to an abandoned building. They were surrounded by The Thursdaves. The leader of the group was saying, "This is a very auspicious day, a very, very auspicious day. For us, not for ye. It's a very, very inauspicious day for the three of ye. Oh yes. Very auspicious for us. But for ye, when ye look back on this day, if ye look back on this day..."

Cynthia went over to him and said, "Would you like a sweet?"

"Thanks." He started eating the sweet, and he pointed at his mouth to indicate that he couldn't continue his speech until he finished the sweet.

Cynthia phoned The Knitting Newsels and said, "Listen, ye are thieves. Okay?"

"Yeah. I mean, we knew that."

"Good. I need ye to do a job of me. It's stealing something, so it should be exactly the sort of thing ye're used to doing."

The leader of The Thursdaves was still eating the sweet when the band arrived. The one with the plastic fork on his finger distracted The Thursdaves while his band-mates stole the van. He just stood there trying to think of a way to distract them, with his non-fork index finger on his chin. He poked them with the fork if they started to turn around, and said, "Hey, don't turn around."

They all turned around when they heard the engine of their van starting up. They watched the band speed away in the van, and there was nothing they could do, until Ivan arrived in another van. "I didn't steal this," he said, and winked a few times. "Get in the back, and we'll catch them."

The Thursdaves got in the back of the van. Neil locked the door. Ivan turned off the engine and got out. He handed the keys to the Mountie, who arrested the occupants of the van. He sang 'Van Somethingsberg' as 'Van Halensberg', and a woman next to him waved a small Canadian flag. Ivan's laugh was almost maniacal. He paid the Mountie to sing it like that.

They went to a pub to celebrate. Andy selected 'Van Somethingsberg' on the jukebox. When he heard the music he took a deep breath to smell the air. "Hmm, Canada," he said.

Ivan wondered if this was what he was trying to achieve. He thought about it for a while, and he didn't really know, but he laughed anyway.

He didn't laugh at all when Cynthia made a toast to co-operation, and to all the things they'd get done in the future. He knew she wasn't thinking about Van Halen.

The moose's head over the fireplace is a Liverpool fan (he doesn't have much choice in that), so there won't be any scarves to support Arsenal this evening, but he wouldn't mind if Arsenal won anyway, because they're not United or Chelsea. There will be scarves to support Munster in the rugby on Saturday. Not only are they Munster, but they're not Leinster too, which is almost as important as being Munster.