'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

A Song in his Head

I cleaned all of the panes of glass in the glasshouse. A lot of dirt and dust had accumulated since the last time it was cleaned. My grandfather used to grow strawberries in there. My grandmother said it was just an excuse to talk to his left knee about the strawberries, or to the strawberries about his left knee, probably the latter. He didn't get on with his left knee. He said it was down to 'political differences', but he used that same euphemism to explain why a goat ate a pair of driving gloves.

My cousin Gary kept whistling a tune one morning. He couldn't get that song out of his head, and he couldn't get rid of his headache either.

It was a song he heard in a ditch, so there must have been someone else in the ditch. He couldn't remember much about the ditch because of all the alcohol he'd consumed, hence the headache on the morning after.

He tried to remember what happened on the night before. He was at a party at his friend Susanne's house. She was in a dance group that consisted of happy and sad dancers. The sad dancers wouldn't be very helpful when it came to creating a party atmosphere, but the happy ones would more than compensate for them.

Susanne had also hired a cowboy to help create a good mood. He's laughs almost all of the time, as long as you pay him every five minutes, otherwise he'll play sad songs on the harmonica, and tumbleweed will roll by.

The cowboy kept pointing at Susanne when he laughed, but he wasn't actually laughing at her. He just wanted to say something about her nose.

She refused to pay him, and this killed the atmosphere at the party. Even the happy dancers were sad. The sad ones were happy, in their own way. They just didn't show it.

This went on for about an hour, but someone eventually paid him and the party got going again. It was wilder than ever, to make up for lost time.

Gary remembered talking to Wendy, one of the dancers. She told him about a man who kept asking her to marry him and she kept saying, "I don't think so." She got some firemen to say 'no' for her, and they said they'd let him down gently.

Wendy composed a little theme tune for herself, and Gary remembered her singing it to him. He was horrified by the thought that this could be the song in his head, because that would mean he was in a ditch with Wendy. The man who kept proposing to her wouldn't like that, especially if the fireman were unable to tell him she didn't want to marry him.

Gary needed to hear Wendy's theme tune again, to see if it was the same as the song in his head. He found the dancers on a street, and he said hello to Wendy, but she said, "Shh," and put a finger to her lips.

The dancers were all standing completely still as they listened to Whispering Dave. Gary listened in too. Dave said, "Language is to be envied. Days in Spring are days in Spring. Winter is light blue and full of cold metal surfaces. An afternoon of buying shirts and putting them in boxes and thinking about shirts while they read Shakespeare, and being depressed. I envy them too. I envy words that float away like bubbles. I don't envy the cowboy just because he appeared on TV with Flunkey the Zebra..."

"Did he just say that the cowboy appeared on TV with Flunkey the Zebra?" Wendy said.

"I think he did," Susanne said. "Let's go and ask the cowboy if it's true."

They found the cowboy upside down in a barrel, with his feet sticking up in the air. They got him out and Susanne said, "Is it true that you appeared on the Flunkey the Zebra Show?"

"I don't know. Maybe a little money would help me remember."

Susanne paid him and he started laughing. Through the laughter they heard Flunkey's name, and he tried to communicate through hand gestures, but he failed. At the end of the five minutes he said, "Yes, I did."

Gary finally got a chance to ask Wendy about her song. She was only too happy to sing it for him. She sang, "I'm Wendy and I know it and you'll know it too, when you've heard my little song. You can't go very wrong, with Wendy and her little song. That's me and my song, and my feet that dance and dance, and frighten little ants..."

She was one of the happy ones. This wasn't the song in Gary's head, and he was relieved.

Gary hummed the song for them, but they didn't know what it was, and they didn't know where the ditch was either. Susanne suggested that they ask Polly, because she was at the party too and she doesn't drink.

When they went to Polly's house, her sister, Stacey, was making cakes for nightingales. Polly kept saying, "You..." and pointing at Stacey. What she meant to say was, "Why are you making cakes for nightingales?"

Stacey left the house with a cake in a box. Gary asked Polly about the ditch, but all she could say was, "She..." and point at Stacey.

"Maybe this means we should follow Stacey," Wendy said.

They followed her to a ditch, and Gary was sure it was the one he had been in on the previous night. She entered the ditch through an opening near a gate. Gary, the dancers, the cowboy and Whispering Dave followed her in.

The ditch was full of paths and clearings, and a few tunnels too. They came across Stacey in a small clearing. She was sitting on a bench with a man called Adrian, who said, "Ah, ye're back again."

Stacey made the cakes for all of the birds and animals in the ditch, but this was just an excuse to meet Adrian, and the cakes were really for him too. She said she was 'making cakes for nightingales' because it sounded more romantic than 'making cakes for mice'.

"So what are you doing in the ditch," Gary said to Adrian.

"I'm just... It's a bit like..."

"For the cake," Stacey said.

"That's right. We're here to feed the nightingales. And the... And all the birds. There were these two birds at home and... The twin birds on our mantelpiece got into the washing machine, and they seemed a bit dazed when they got out. So... I gave them a towel, but it was like talking to the wall when I was explaining that they'd catch cold and so forth. They said they'd have some tea alright, annnnd... I was having trouble with my circular saw..."

"Are you sure it doesn't have anything to do with the whiskey still that's been set up in this ditch?" Gary said.

"No, no, no. It's the birds, and the cake, and the circular saw."

"Right. Do ye ever come here just to sing songs?"

Adrian told Gary about their friend Anneka, from 'Anneka and the Stupids'. People always thought Anneka was in a band, but she was really just a dress-maker. There were no Stupids. Adrian and Stacey pretended to be her backing band, not that a dress-maker would need a backing band, but her name suggested that she did, and she's been much more successful as a dress-maker since she acquired the band. It makes sense of the name.

They wrote their own song, and Gary asked them to sing it. It went: "The twin birds on our mantelpiece, they both got into the washing machine, and they seemed a bit dazed, very dazed when they got out. I gave them both a towel..."

It was the song in Gary's head alright. He wished he had Wendy's song up there instead. Stacey tried to sing along too, but she didn't know most of the lyrics. It hurt Gary's head. He felt a need to forget it.

He interrupted them and said, "How much for a glass of whiskey?" And the party got underway again.

The moose's head over the fireplace thinks I'm trying to patronise him when I explain things to him with glove puppets, and he's dead right. I have to do something to compensate for the way he looks down on me when I play chess or Scrabble. Yesterday I explained democracy to him using two glove puppets called Pat and Mick. He looked down on them too.