'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, July 05, 2006


It's the perfect weather for eating ice cream in the garden, talking to birds or swinging tennis rackets. I haven't been swinging the tennis racket at anything in particular. We had a ball once. I swung at that and then we didn't have a ball. I suppose I wouldn't find tennis so boring if there was something there to hit and someone there to hit it back.

My cousin Charlie was walking through the park with a woman called Jennifer one summer day. Birds were singing, kids ran in circles after butterflies. Charlie and Jennifer walked with a spring in their steps, smiles on their faces. "Look at the sky," Charlie said, "and the dogs wagging their tails. Is that a bird, hello little bird."

The bird nodded his head.

They walked through the city streets, where people in multi-coloured clothes smiled and nodded. The mannequins in a shop window waved at Charlie and Jennifer as they walked by. The headlines in the newspapers all said 'Up!'.

An hour later Charlie walked back down those same streets, alone and depressed. The people on the streets were wearing dark brown clothes and dark glasses. The sky was grey. The newspaper headlines said 'Down'. The mannequins looked sad too, apart from one, who looked as if she lost her keys. The bird in the park shook his head.

It had been a perfect day with Jennifer until she introduced him to her fiance, and Charlie's world fell apart. He went to see Aunt Joyce. He liked listening to her talk about things as she worked in the glasshouse. He was always adding to a mental list of her best quotes, lines like 'Maybe she's born with it or maybe it's just something she strangled'.

He told her about his day. Joyce knew Jennifer's family, and she told Charlie not to give up hope. She thought Jennifer was unhappy with her fiance, Harry, because he's thick.

Some people who look after dolphins once said something must be blocking the light in Harry's brain, and Jennifer always reminded him of this because she thought that people who look after dolphins would have more authority than the man who breaks people's gates, who said he was a genius.

Joyce said they could easily bring about a split between Jennifer and Harry if they could make him look stupid and make a mess of things, and then have Charlie save the day. Her first idea involved a speedboat, but then she thought there was no need for something on such a grand scale. Something very small could be enough to make Jennifer see the light and leave Harry. A lightbulb came on over Joyce's head when she thought of turtles.

Jennifer often got Harry to look after her niece's pet turtles on Saturday afternoons, while she went shopping with her sister and her niece. This wasn't as easy as it looked, for Harry anyway. He could have managed one turtle without any trouble, but two made things more complicated. Jennifer tried to make it as simple as she possibly could for him. She said he just had to count the turtles every so often, and as long as there were two of them, everything was fine.

There was one other thing he had to look out for. There was an owl that lived in the trees behind the house. He liked sitting on the shoulder of a scarecrow because he liked scaring crows too. He also liked playing with the turtles, but Jennifer was afraid of letting the turtles play with the owl. "Don't let them play with the owl," was the one other thing she said to Harry.

Aunt Joyce called around after Jennifer had gone shopping with her sister and her niece. Harry was watching a match on the TV in the living room. The turtles were in the kitchen. Joyce had a box full of turtles, and she let them loose in the kitchen.

The next time Harry came in to count the turtles, he got to seven before he realised something was wrong. He counted fifteen in total. They were all over the kitchen. As he leant over the table to remove a turtle from the window sill, another one bit his tie and held on. He found two of them in the sink.

At first he was worried he had done something wrong, but then he thought he didn't need to worry about them at all if there was fifteen and there only needed to be two. He could watch the rest of the match without having to count them every few minutes.

He only returned to the kitchen when Jennifer came home. He was expecting to find the place crawling with turtles, but he couldn't see any. Joyce had removed them.

"Where's the other turtle?" Jennifer said. One of them was clinging to his tie.

"They were here the last time I checked," he said. "There were at least fifteen when I counted them then."


"Oh yeah, at least that."

Jennifer looked as if she was thinking of what the dolphin minders said. "You just had one thing to do," she said. "One thing, and you got it wrong. It was just counting two turtles and you counted fifteen."

"At least that."

That's when Charlie arrived. He was supposedly there to collect his aunt. He was holding a turtle and he said, "I found this turtle with an owl. It looked as if the owl was trying to start a fire."

He might have just rescued a dolphin, the way Jennifer was looking at him. It was enough to make her realise that Harry wasn't the man she should be spending the rest of her life with. She left the house with Charlie, and the sun came out again. The birds sang and people in bright clothes whistled as they walked down city streets. The mannequins in the shop window looked happy again, even the one who had looked as if she lost her keys, because she found her keys.

The moose's head over the fireplace is backing Italy to win the World Cup. That's just my interpretation of his facial expression. Other people say he's supporting France. They're just reading what they want to see into it. But that's just my opinion too, as they keep pointing out. They also say that as a result of my opinion there's a hole outside the back door, but that's just their opinion.