'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Play

A landscape gardener had a look around the gardens the other day. He wasn't there in a professional capacity, but he couldn't help pointing out possible improvements. I didn't go around the place suggesting possible improvements to his wife. I don't know what place I'd have to go around to be in a position to make comments on his wife. I suppose I'd just have to walk in circles around her. I'd gladly do that. In fairness, there isn't much room for improvement there. But it's different with gardens. They wouldn't be any more enjoyable if they were perfect, and the process of perfecting them wouldn't be enjoyable at all.

My cousin Ronan's Amateur Dramatics Society were staging a play with the help of a guest director who once directed on the West End. Their first rehearsal took place on a Saturday morning. They were all slightly confused by the play, and a few hours in the director's company didn't help.

He was more confused than anyone. He eventually said they needed to break free from the confines of the theatre and let this play figure itself out naturally. So he sent them all out to go wherever they felt they should go and let this day write itself.

While the rehearsal was going on, a man wearing a red tie and glasses with thick black frames was walking around an office filled with morning sunlight. He was looking for something as he said to his secretary, who was following him around, "Marjorie is coming clean... about... I don't know about the toad... and the wallet... but fortunately... everything... it was a grey blazer..."

He walked up a spiral stairs, with his secretary just behind him. "I was able to buy my trousers back with some pears and... if everything was so... all these apostrophes..."

Most of the cast from the play headed for the fields after they left the theatre. The man playing the ghost of Rodney-now met the man playing ghost of Rodney-then.

"So who's Rodney?" Rodney-then said.

"He's... him," Rodney-now said, and he pointed at a man fading into the shadows of the trees near an old shed. They went over to him, but he just stood there, completely motionless. "Or maybe he's the ghost of Rodney-soon."

Ronan was playing the real Rodney, and when he arrived he went straight over to the man standing in the shadows and said, "I'm going to punch you."

Ronan slowly rolled up his sleeves. He didn't seem to be in a rush to punch him.

"Why do you want to punch him?" Rodney-now said.

"Because he put my wallet into a tin of paint."

"But how could Rodney-soon do something in the past? If anyone did it, it was Rodney-then."

"I didn't do anything," Rodney-then said.

"Everything you do is something you did."

"Okay," Ronan said to Rodney-then, "I'll just punch you instead."

Rodney-then took a step back and said, "Let's just think this through before we do anything rash."

Rodney-now said, "If anyone should be punching him, it's me. I'm Rodney-now."

"I'm Rodney," Ronan said. "Not 'now' or 'then' or 'someday soon'. Today, and for the rest of my life. Or until this play ends."

"You can't punch a ghost," Rodney-then said.

"That's right," Rodney-now said. "If anyone can punch a ghost, it's another ghost. So I should do it."

"Let's not do anything rash," Rodney-then said, and took another few steps away from the other Rodneys. They followed him, and so did the man in the shadows.

The man playing Gregory Tar was holding an ashtray when he left the theatre. He didn't know why he had the ashtray. He knew it had something to do with what the director told him about a DJ on the radio who used to smoke as she presented her show. The director said he could hear the smoke. Gregory listened very carefully without ever comprehending what she said, and he thought he could hear the smoke, but he wasn't sure.

He was with the Rodneys, but he wandered away from them as they argued about who'd get to punch Rodney, and which Rodney they'd punch. He stopped to look at three sailors saying goodbye to three women. He stared at them, and he forgot about the ashtray. He looked up at a bird in the sky and when he looked down again the sailors were gone. They had given the three women presents of silver pens.

He went over to the women. One of them had a table lamp. She told Gregory that she was going to give it to the sailor, but she forgot about it. As she spoke he paid more attention to the movement of her lips than what she had to say. He thought she said, "Everything goes away and comes back with this table lamp. I live in a marsh and sometimes I like to feel as if I'm sinking."

The director was standing in the fields with two Kathleens and an Anthea. He said, "Pieces of tennis fall out of me every so often and I beat people at tennis and they say, 'What's going to fall out of you next?' And I don't know."

The breeze carried his words away over the fields and he wondered who'd hear them, but only Anthea and the Kathleens heard.

Gregory was still with the woman who had the lampshade for her sailor. They stood under a tree on top of a hill. She talked about the places she'd been to with the sailor, and the fights he got into. "It was under this tree that he told me about all the things he's made from paper, which came as a surprise after he'd spent so long telling me about all the fights he's been in. A pleasant surprise. He made paper men and paper cats and dogs to go with their matchstick equivalents, and he never once set any of them on fire, which was another pleasant surprise."

Gregory still focussed on the movement of her lips. In his mind he heard the words: "It's all done with puppets and smoke, and most of the music is in the air most of the time. It's a mystery why the light goes and the garden stays when you press the buttons."

They watched seven Rodneys walk through the valley beneath them. The real Rodney, Ronan, was confused.

The director was a mile away with two Kathleens, an Anthea and a Marjorie. He was listening out for his own words, and he didn't pay any attention to Marjorie when she said, "I was painting the ground or the floor or a toad, and one minute I thought I was holding a jam jar or a toad and then I picked up the paint brush and I was holding someone's wallet all along..."

The man with the red tie ran towards her, followed closely by his secretary. He was holding a sheet of paper. "It's okay!" he said, and stopped to get his breath back. "You didn't... I have proof... You... whatever you did with the wallet... you didn't... You were... You didn't do it because... their beards... at the time..."

Two women walked by. They were looking at silver pens. The director said, "Ye're going the wrong way for the tea house."

"Oh. Thanks." They turned around and walked back the way they came.

"That fell out of me."

Gregory and the woman with the lamp were on the banks of a stream. "He can be so romantic," she said. "He sang to me here, in the light of the stars."

He thought she said something about a balloon.

The director saw an isolated pub on the side of a hill, and he headed in that direction with two Kathleens, an Anthea, a Marjorie, a band of Kevins, ten glove puppets pretending to be owls and twenty-two Rodneys.

They all went into the and saw people whose eyes said 'surprise!' or 'I'm surprised' or 'these eyes are my windows'. Ronan didn't take any notice of this. He was still concentrating on who to punch and who should punch whoever should be punched. It was getting more complicated all the time. After hours of thinking about the problem he said, "Well if Rodney-then, Rodney-now, Rodney-stupid, and the eight Rodney-bikers or the Rodney-new didn't do it, who did it?"

Marjorie said, "I think this is all because of what I did when..."

The man with the red tie and the black glasses stood up and said, "No no. No no no no no. You didn't. I have proof." He held up the sheet of paper.

"Well if she didn't put my wallet into a tin of paint," Ronan said, "who did?"

"Ah, well, y' see." The man with the red tie coughed to clear his throat, and looked at the sheet of paper. "It's, it's, it's all down to... when I was a boy... I think from all my... everything, so to speak, says to me... it was Rodney."

Everyone looked at Ronan. He said, "It's..." And then he ran from the pub. Everyone in the pub followed him. They chased him through the fields.

"That's what was confusing me," the director said.

Gregory was still with the woman, and she was still talking about the sailor. They danced in a field near the pub, in the light of the moon, with the lamp on the grass nearby. She was starting to run out of things to say, and Gregory was determined to kiss her during the next pause.

But before he got a chance, the sailor showed up. "Right," he said to Gregory, "I'm going to punch you now."

He slowly rolled up his sleeves, and this gave Gregory a chance to escape. Ronan ran past him, and a few seconds later Gregory was able to disappear into the chasing pack.

The woman with the table lamp was left alone with the sailor. "I got you this table lamp," she said.

The director was trying to direct the chase back towards the theatre. Now that the play had resolved itself, it was time to confine it again, but Ronan didn't like the idea of returning to a confined space.

The moose's head over the fireplace enjoyed his role in a play. Everyone agreed it was a strong performance. He was very convincing as an explorer. He was much more convincing than the man who was playing the moose's head over the fireplace, who kept looking back and forth as the other actors spoke, something our moose's head never does when he's over the fireplace. And he looked shocked when the moose's head (the explorer) returned from the Arctic after being presumed dead.