'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
Click here to buy the paperback or download the ebook for free.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Museum

There are mice in the shed. All of my attempts to catch them have failed. They don't even run away from me now. They just look at me, but I'm determined to have the last laugh. Not that mice laugh, but the laughter is implied in the way they look at me.

My cousin Rachel had a pencil that she liked, and when she wrote with it, light bulbs came on over her head. The lights frightened away the birds who were flying in circles up there. People often complimented the way she dressed, but she never put much thought into it. She often wore bright colours, but sometimes she dressed entirely in grey. She liked standing on concrete steps when she wore grey. She liked standing on concrete steps anyway, but especially when she wore grey. She met lots of interesting people on concrete steps. Some were attracted to the grey, like moths to a bright light. She felt that the words she spoke carried more weight when she said them from a concrete step. She didn't need the light bulbs to tell her that those words represented good ideas.

One day she met a group of people who were lost. They had maps in their heads but they didn't have enough light to see the maps. They were looking for the museum, so she said she'd take them there. When she was off the concrete steps she felt less sure about the location of the museum, but she thought she'd remember the route on the way.

She told them about the history of the city, or what she knew of it. If she'd been on the steps she probably would have known a lot more. They were hungry, so they stopped in a shop to get something to eat. Rachel bought crisps, but they all got apples. They seemed to be admiring the appearance of the apples just as much as they were appreciating the taste. Rachel was having trouble remembering the way to the museum. She thought of the silver apples she saw in the window of a restaurant nearby, so she suggested that they make a brief diversion to the restaurant. She thought that while they were looking at the apples she could use her pencil to draw out the route. She was sure she'd remember it then.

She stood on the concrete step at the front of the restaurant as they looked at the silver apples, but when she reached into the pocket of her coat to get her pencil she just found a crayon and a drawing of soup.

The crayon belonged to her niece and nephew, Daisy and Graham. They had used it to colour in cars and houses, but the colour never suited cars and houses. By chance they discovered that it was the perfect colour for soup, and after that they added soup into most of their drawings. They got tired of the same soup every day, and they wondered how they could introduce some variety to their drawings. Rachel was always talking about her pencil, so they decided to use that instead of their soup crayon. They took the pencil from her coat pocket and replaced it with the crayon and the drawing.

But the soup they drew with the pencil was grey. It looked depressing. They drew a soup kitchen around it, or their idea of what a soup kitchen would look like. There was a budgie in it.

Rachel tried to draw the map with the crayon on the drawing of soup, but it was hopeless. The soup showed a greater sense of direction.

She suggested they get something to eat, just to buy more time. They were yet to have their lunch, so they agreed.

A band called Playthoven were performing in the restaurant. They had a Beethoven CD that they played on a stereo. The lead singer had flowers in her hair. It looked as if the flowers were growing from her hair. She claimed that the flowers grew when she heard the music. The band were there to represent the sounds of a garden, but they rarely did anything. The manager of the restaurant didn't mind because he was in love with both the music of Beethoven and with the lead singer in the band.

While they were having coffee after their meal, Rachel left the table and she went over to the band. She said to the bass player, "Do you know the way to the museum?"

"I do."

"Could you tell me where it is?"

"I'll help you if you help me. I need to get out of here. Just create some sort of a distraction so I can run away."

"How's that going to help me find the museum?"

"I'll meet you outside and show you the way."

Rachel didn't know how she'd create a distraction, but she inadvertantly did the job anyway. She turned around and nearly bumped into a waiter. There were a few seconds of suspense when he lost his balance and tried to regain his balance without losing the plates in his hands. Everyone in the restaurant looked at him, and no one noticed the bass player leaving. Everyone noticed the guitarist running away. He was followed a few seconds later by the drummer.

The lead singer was left on her own. Everyone looked at her. She didn't seem to know what to do, until a flower fell from her hair. She ran away then.

The manager blamed Rachel. "I saw you talking to the bass player," he said. "You did that on purpose."

"I didn't. I mean, I was going to do something on purpose, but not that."

"You'll pay for this."

"I'm really sorry. I'll get them back."

Rachel left the restaurant with the group she was supposed to be guiding to the museum. She found the bass player on the next street. He was with the singer and the drummer, and they were all willing to go back to the restaurant because they were scared of life out in the open, but they didn't know where the guitarist was.

"City streets make him nervous," the drummer said. "He likes to look at a yellow bucket instead. It helps him calm down."

The owner of the bucket was a friend of his who worked in a book shop, so they went to see her. She said, "He hasn't been looking at the bucket lately. A neighbour of mine makes cider, and he started looking at the buckets of apples next door. And then he just started drinking cider."

He could be anywhere in the city if he was drinking cider. They walked around the streets, hoping to find him, and the singer eventually spotted him. He used to be in a country band who dressed up as cowboys. They rarely played country music, or music of any sort, but they loved wearing the cowboy costumes. They always moved in slow motion so people would wonder why they're moving in slow motion and not why they're dressed as cowboys.

He had re-joined his old band, and they were moving in slow motion down the street. Rachel said to him, "I think it's time you went back to the restaurant."

"I'm never going back. I missed the slow movement you get in a country band."

"But you get to stand completely still in Playthoven."

"That's too slow."

"I really think you should go back to the restaurant."


"Go back."

"No chance."

Rachel looked around and she saw about twenty concrete steps that led to a building on the side of a hill. She climbed to the top of the steps and said, "Go back to the restaurant."

"Okay," the guitarist said, and he returned with the rest of Playthoven.

From the top of the steps she saw a concrete plinth with a bronze sculpture of a ship on it. It might have been a coffin ship, but she saw it as the ship of an explorer, and it suggested a way to find a route to the museum. And the plinth was like a massive concrete step.

So she climbed on top of the plinth, and her plan worked. She realised that the statue was right outside the museum. "Here we are," she said.

The moose's head over the fireplace has an eye for a good shoe, which is odd when you consider the fact that he wouldn't have worn shoes even when he had legs. You don't even have to consider that fact to be able to say it's odd. He always seems to know the shoes I should wear for whatever occasion. He'd be as good as a butler if he didn't look at me in the same way the mice look at me.