'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Jimmy Magee

I sat on a wooden seat in the garden. There seemed to be a lot more flowers and flower pots around the place. Of course, some of those things are explained by Spring. There's a squirrel with a small torch in a tree, and he's pretending he knows what to do with the torch, even though he clearly doesn't. I'm just going to put that one down to Spring and forget about it.

My cousin Charlie once fell off a trampoline and landed on a kennel, but he enjoyed it. One of the reasons he went on the trampoline in the first place was because he thought there was a good chance he'd fall off it and land on something. He was going out with a woman called Grainne who was always making fun of Andie MacDowell. He often told her about his fall, and every time he told the story he remembered details he hadn't remembered before. His friends made fun of the fall, when they weren't calling him 'Jimmy Magee'. They called him that because he once confused Ben Johnson with Andre Agassi. It was meant to be ironic, because Jimmy Magee, the sports commentator, would never make a mistake like that. Grainne wasn't bothered when they called him that, because she thought Jimmy Magee was the lead singer in a boyband, but that singer's name was made up entirely of capital letters and numbers.

She took him shopping for clothes one day, and she convinced him to buy a shirt with the writings of Thomas Aquinas printed all over it. It didn't take much convincing because he thought Thomas Aquinas was a footballer.

He wore it when they went to watch a football match that evening, and everyone was interested in the shirt. A friend of his said, "What's that line about the conflict between reason and faith?"

"I think it's something about resting players for a cup game to save them for the league."

A friend of theirs, Emily, was an optician. She was good at everything she did, and she had a habit of winning whatever competition she entered, but she only got the second prize in a charity draw. The prize was 250 kilograms of ice cream, and she was glad she came second because the first prize was 500 frogs.

She gave out free ice cream in her shop. If you knew her, you didn't even have to get an eye test or buy new glasses to get the ice cream, so her friends spent a lot of time there.

Emily's sister, Denise, never won anything. She felt inferior to her sister, but Emily did her best to encourage her. When Denise came up with her own recipe for a breakfast cereal, Emily gave out free samples with the ice cream.

But it looked as if Denise wouldn't need her sister's help to make her latest venture a success. The captain of a ship ordered three-hundred boxes of the cereal for a long sea voyage.

Charlie and Grainne tried some when they called in for some ice cream one day, and it wasn't bad, but you wouldn't find crowds rushing to an optician's to get free samples of it. And there was a big crowd there for the ice cream.

"The place has never been busier," Emily said.

"If you had really bad eye-sight you'd wonder if you were in the right place," Charlie said.

"Imagine what they're doing in the hardware shop with the 500 frogs."

Actually, they weren't doing anything in the hardware shop. They were just very scared.

Charlie tried on a pair of glasses. He looked at the writing on his shirt to see if the words were any clearer, and when he read them again, the penny dropped. The shirt had nothing to do with football. "A first mover which is not moved or changed by any other!" he said.

He understood it perfectly, or he thought he did. It wasn't about Roy Keane anyway. He came to the conclusion that the glasses had made him intelligent.

He bought the glasses, and he wore them for days. He felt wiser, and more serene. He wanted to pass on his knowledge.

Grainne's younger brother had formed a metal band. They were being mentored by a man called Fork who'd been in a rock band since the early seventies. Charlie heard him talk to the band in the garden one day, but there wasn't much to hear. Fork had clearly run out of things to say. He was just saying the word 'never' over and over again. Charlie decided to step in and take over the mentoring duties.

He said to the band, "Look all around you. That's how you learn, by looking. You see see these things every day, but do you really see them?"

He took them to the cinema, and as they watched the film he said, "Look at the images but don't look at them. Just look at the images."

They sat on the grass in a garden, surrounded by daisies and other wild flowers. Creepers covered a red brick wall nearby, and the shadow of a tree crept across the lawn. "Let things look at you," Charlie said. "And just let them look at you."

Fork didn't like being pushed aside, but he found another student in Dave, who'd left the band to pursue a solo career throwing stones at things. Fork taught him everything he knew about China, which wasn't very much, so he threw in everything he knew about Australia too and he pretended it was about China.

They met Charlie and the band later, and Fork said to Dave, "Tell them what you learnt about China."

"They eat rice and wrestle crocodiles."

"While you were teaching them about clouds and hugging trees," Fork said to Charlie, "he learnt about wrestling crocodiles."

"They learnt about life," Charlie said. "And the world. And how to look at things. And how to let things look at you. You wouldn't know about that because things don't want to look at you."

"Be careful what you say, my friend. I can outsmart you with what's inside my head, or I can just use the outside of my head and you won't know what day it is."

"You don't know what day it is anyway."

"Your shoes make you look like an ostrich." Fork changed the subject because he wasn't a hundred percent sure what day it was.

Denise called to see Charlie later that day. She told him about the ship's captain who had ordered her cereal. The order had fallen through because he got lost before the voyage even began. He was walking home through the fields and he was looking into a bottle of rum to see if there was any left. There wasn't any rum left, but there was something in the bottle. Whatever it was, it was moving. He kept walking as he looked into the bottle, and no one had seen him for days.

She needed to pay her suppliers, and she couldn't ask her sister because it would be humiliating. She asked Charlie for his help, because of his reputation for being wise. He looked around for ideas, and he got a shock when he saw the metal band right behind him. "The metal band!" he said. "We'll just get them to play a gig to raise the money."

Charlie organised the gig, but when the band were supposed to be on-stage, they were miles away at the edge of an orchard, facing the setting sun. They just stood there. In the past, they always thought they knew exactly what was going to happen to them, and they walked on with confidence, but they were confused after Charlie's lessons. They had a feeling that they didn't really know what was going to happen. And they didn't like the idea of everything looking at them either.

A man in the orchard started playing the musical saw. The band were completely motionless as they listened to the sad music. They thought about how a huge saw is more metal than any instruments they play, and it makes such sad and beautiful music.

A tree fell on the path ahead of them. It was just a small tree in a pot, but still, if they hadn't stopped, who knows what might have happened.

The man who was playing the saw became their mentor. He didn't say very much. He just played the saw. They didn't really know what that meant either, but it was much less confusing than their previous lessons.

When the band didn't turn up for the gig, the audience trashed the place, and Charlie was told he'd have to pay for the damage.

He tried to think of another plan to raise money. The only thing he could think of was organising another gig, but the band said they'd only play the saw. Charlie didn't think that was a very good idea with an audience of metal fans, especially after what happened the last time.

He still promised Denise he'd find a way of raising the money. He had the glasses to provide the extra intelligence he needed, although his thought processes were hampered by the continual taunts of Fork.

They were watching television one evening. Charlie was flicking through the channels, and Jimmy Magee appeared on the screen. One of Charlie's friends said, "Look, that's you, Jimmy Magee."

"That's Jimmy Magee?" Grainne said.


"Oh right. When I saw him there I just thought it was Andie MacDowell at first."

Charlie turned it over to another channel. A quiz show was on. Denise stood up and said, "That's it! We could get the money I need and the money you need to pay for the damage if we just entered this quiz show. And when I say 'we' I mean Charlie and Fork. I know it's a lot to ask, but if the two of ye put ye'r differences to one side and joined forces, there's no way ye could fail. How could two men with such wisdom fail to win a quiz show on TV?"

They solemnly accepted their mission.

Charlie wore his glasses on the show. Fork wore the headband he found on the street outside the dentist's surgery that Jimi Hendrix once went to. But neither of them could get any of the questions right. The third contestant kept buzzing in before them, and he got a good few wrong, but he got enough right to give him a healthy lead. Charlie thought he knew a question about China, but he didn't buzz in because he thought Fork would surely know. Fork said he missed it because he was adjusting his headband.

Charlie took off the glasses before the last round, and it was then that his luck started to change. The topics for each round were randomly chosen, and 'sport' finally came up. Charlie got every single one right, and he won the quiz with the last question.

When he met his friends later he said, "Who's Jimmy Magee now? I am."

The moose's head over the fireplace still looks tired after the final of the world snooker championships. Thirteen hours of looking at a green table. It was exciting, though. If it wasn't, you'd just look at the ceiling instead, which has become very exciting since the wife got a goldfish bowl. The lights are reflected onto the ceiling by the water. It's better than watching the goldfish. The goldfish must have enjoyed the snooker. They got all the tension and drama without the knowledge that they've been watching it for thirteen hours.