'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Birds

The leaves are on the trees, the wild flowers are on the lawn, the smells, the sound of tractors on the road, all these signs of summer, like little pieces of a jig-saw that come together and you say, "Wow, it's a duck." It was meant to be Napoleon.

My cousin Charlie was going to the shop one day when he stopped and said, "Wait a minute. Where am I going again?"

A little voice in his ear said, "You're going to the shop. Owls can turn their heads almost all the way around."

"Oh yeah," he said, and he walked on again.

He met Jill before he got to the shop. She had red hair, and perched on her arms were little birds that said 'tweet'. Actually, Jill said 'tweet' a lot more than the birds, but they seemed to like her, in their own way. They didn't stand on her head.

Charlie said to her, "Are you doing anything this evening?"

She looked at one of the birds, who shook his head. She wasn't sure how to interpret that. She chose the most literal interpretation and she said 'no'. The bird shook his head again.

"Do you want to go to a show with me?" Charlie said.

"I'd love to," she said. She didn't consult the bird that time.

The show was about Cromwell, who was hit by twenty-seven custard pies. Apart from being hit by pies, the rest of the show was mostly just him keeping count of the amount of times he was hit by a pie. After the fourth one he started saying, "Surely I can't be hit by any more than four custard pies."

Charlie bought her dinner too, and he said he liked her dress, even though he had no real opinion on it. Even the bird who kept shaking his head wasn't shaking his head as often.

But it all went horribly wrong. He keeps count of these things, and there are sixteen occasions when it all went horribly wrong, including this one. There are twenty-three 'slightly wrong's and one 'disastrously wrong' when he spent three days in jail in Cuba. He would have put his date with Jill into the 'slightly wrong' file, but the birds all looked shocked, and that made it much worse.

All that happened was he told her about the time he said 'Blockbusters' for no apparent reason. He had meant to say 'Countdown', but there wasn't any reason for that either. Then he told her he said it at a wedding, and that's when the birds looked shocked.

At the end of the night he asked if he could see her again and she said, "I don't think so." The birds all nodded. Charlie chose to interpret this in a literal way, as a 'yes', but no, she really didn't want to see him again.

Charlie wasn't going to give up on Jill. He was determined to get back in her good books, or in the birds' good books. He just needed to show he was pro-bird.

One of his friends, Emmet, had made friends with one of the blackbirds in his garden. He suggested that they get this bird to land on Charlie's shoulder while he's talking to Jill. Charlie would act as if this sort of thing happens all the time. She'd eventually mention it and he'd say, "Hm? Oh that's just Lance. He's always landing on my shoulder. I think he likes the view."

The plan worked perfectly during the trial runs. Charlie put some bird seed on his shoulder and the blackbird always landed there.

They put the plan into action one evening when Jill was sitting on a bench in the park. Charlie went over to her and said hello. He got a very cold 'hello' in response. That's when Emmet released the blackbird, but Lance flew away in the wrong direction. Emmet kept watching him until he disappeared into the blue sky.

Charlie just stood there with nothing to say. Jill wasn't going to say anything either. The same applied to the birds. He said goodbye and left.

He still wasn't ready to give up. He tried to think of ways to impress Jill, rather than the birds. Emmet suggested playing tennis. "She's often at the tennis courts," he said. "She'll be impressed by seeing you win a game of tennis, and she'll be much more impressed by what you wear. The last time I played, my shorts caused two different women to faint and hit their heads. Joe says it was the same woman, but she told me herself it wasn't."

Charlie and Emmet waited at the tennis courts until Jill arrived, and then Charlie got out of his tracksuit and did his warm-up exercises in front of Jill. But his routine was cut short when Lance arrived. He was heading straight for Charlie's shoulder, but Charlie swung his tennis racket in the air to prevent the bird from landing. "You're too late now," he said. "You had your chance."

Lance flew away, and Charlie remembered Jill's birds. He looked over at them, but they were all nodding their heads. They didn't like other birds (Charlie hoped that this was the reason for the nodding, and not because they liked his shorts). Jill smiled when the birds nodded (Charlie hoped that his shorts had something to do with the smile).

He asked her if she'd like to go for a drink after his game of tennis, and she said she'd love to. The birds nodded again.

As for the little voice in his ear, he went to the doctor to get something done about that.

The moose's head over the fireplace has become an expert on kitchens. The wife is planning a new kitchen, and she made a few designs. She showed them to the moose's head to see how he'd react. I don't think he's reacting at all. I'm certainly not. Her uncle, William, has started saying the words 'morning on the Serengeti' to the moose's head, to see if he'll react to that. He doesn't, although it's more likely to get a reaction than the kitchen designs. William says it's reverse psychology, but he says that about everything.