'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Seagull

It's nice to look at the birds around the garden. It's not exactly bird-watching -- it's just looking at birds. They'll come quite close to you if you stand still, until the dog frightens them away. You can look at the shed then, and that's nice too.

My cousin Charlie fell down a stairs once, but he couldn't remember how it happened. He remembered waking up on the ground with a sore head and wondering where he was, and he recalled the party on the previous night. And then as he was walking down the stairs he tripped and fell. He woke up on the carpet in the hall, and a woman dressed in black was tip-toing towards the front door.

She was a thief -- Charlie was able to determine that from the bag with 'loot' written on it. "You're a leper," was all she said to him.

He knew there was a fair chance he'd forget about her, after his fall and the alcohol in his brain from the prevous night, so he got out his notebook and made a note of the thief with the loot. When she asked what he was writing he said, "It's a poem about a seagull."

"The seagull is a leper too," she said.

He promised her he'd mention this in the poem. She suggested 'pepper' as a rhyme for 'leper'.

After she left, Charlie ran straight to the police station. He took out his notebook and read, "The seagull likes salt but not pepper. That could be because he's a leper."

The police said they'd sort it out, and they went to get their guns.

Ten minutes later, when Charlie's head was starting to clear, he realised he'd read out the wrong thing, and he'd put the seagull in danger.

But the police hadn't taken it literally. They asssumed that 'the seagull' was a reference to a man who played the bagpipes. They were just looking for an excuse to do something about him.

The thief was trying to blend in with the crowd as she made her way through the streets. She saw a group of nuns who were walking in formation, and she joined them because at least she was wearing the same colour as they were. But she left the group very suddenly when she realised they were leading her towards the police station.

The nuns went on to the police station to report the woman with the 'loot' bag. The station was empty, and one of the nuns said, "They must be after that poor piper again."

They knew a wrestler who could help the piper, so they went to see him. His name was Fredless, but people called him Fred. They thought he'd be enthusiastic about the prospect of a fight with the police, but he seemed sad. He spoke about a sense of time passing. The woman he loved was a model who posed in kitchens for ads in magazines, but the kitchens all seemed out of date then. He looked at his kettle a lot. It was just like a kettle in one of the ads. He preferred looking at his kettle to driving his sports car. She was in Japan then. He got a postcard from her, and she said she was closing her eyes a lot and smiling to herself.

He liked to look at birds too, and not just the birds who flew in circles around his head during wrestling matches. He found it just as relaxing as looking at his kettle. When the nuns told him about the police and the piper he just wanted to look at a bird or look at his kettle, or just close his eyes. He was in no mood for taking on the police, but he said he'd help because he couldn't say no to the nuns.

They noticed that he sounded very half-hearted, so they called up a comedian they knew to cheer him up. The comedian was called Gog Hope, but a lot of his jokes were about birds and kettles, and it did nothing for Fred's spirits.

Charlie found the seagull trying to choose an ice cream. He tried to be the seagull's bodyguard, but he decided not to mention the police.

The seagull nodded at some things and shook his head at other things. He nodded at most of the things in Charlie's pockets, like his wallet or a battery.

When Charlie saw the wrestler with the nuns he decided to stay close to them because they could protect the seagull better than anyone, but he was able to stop worrying about the bird when one of the nuns told him that the police were really after the piper.

They walked through the streets, hoping to find the piper or the police. The seagull nodded at all of the kettles in a shop window, which the wrestler liked, but he didn't like the way the seagull shook his head at most other birds. He also shook his head through most of a film in the cinema.

They eventually found the police and the piper. They were tip-toing around an information kiosk. The police had a feeling that they were just about to find him, but he kept moving around, and he was always just out of view. The woman in the kiosk nodded at the piper but she shook her head at the police.

Fred said, "We'll just have to wait until they're ready to do something to the piper before I can do something to them."

As they waited, Fred sighed and said, "She taught me to see with my eyes."

"What did you use to see with before that?" Charlie said.

"Lots of things. I threw a cup at someone once."

"A tea cup?"

"Yeah. It was more to do with the fact that it allowed me to express my disgust with the tea cup rather than with the person I threw it at."

"I suppose you get a lot of that in wrestling."

"You do. It's different when you use your eyes."

"I can imagine."

Fred turned around and closed his eyes. The thief saw him when she was passing by, and she couldn't resist the opportunity to steal his wallet. There wasn't much money in it, but it did contain a photo of the woman he loved, and this is why he was furious when he realised it was missing. Most people would go to the police in these circumstances, and so did Fred, in his own way.

His way made the police forget about the piper and run. Fred chased them. When the thief saw them she thought the police were chasing her, so she dropped the loot and ran. The police ran past the bag, but Fred stopped to look in it, and when he found his wallet he was happy again.

The police stopped too. They decided to chase the seagull instead, but he just flew away. That left either the nuns or Charlie, and they went for the latter.

The piper started playing to distract the police, allowing Charlie to get away. They focussed their attentions on the piper again, but the nuns started singing to the music, and the police thought they couldn't do anything then. They felt frustrated. One of them fired a shot at a pigeon. The seagull saw it all from the top of a nearby building. He shook his head. I don't know if he was expressing disapproval at the shot or at the fact that he missed.

Fred said, "I used to fight a wrestler called The Simpleton. He's in a tag team now. His partner is called Blue Blue, and she keeps saying 'use your elbow', and that's all very well and good, but when you use your eyes..." He stared off into the distance.

"You see things?" Charlie said.

"You do, but it's more than just seeing things."

Charlie nodded very slowly.

"And it's not as if you're going to see everything clearly. There's a wrestler called Bory Dully. He uses his eyes more than anyone else I know, and he once said that an accordion was just two guitars."

Charlie was able to give a slightly quicker nod to that.

"His tag team partner, Barry Duly, used to buy cheap perfume for his girlfriend and he used to see O's and F's and K's, and sometimes ABC's in the air around her when she wore it. He used to say, 'We are, will you, you will, we are,' And that was his way of saying he loved the way she smelled."

It all made perfect sense to Charlie. "I fell down the stairs," he said.

The moose's head over the fireplace is rehearsing for another part in a play, after his recent success as an Arctic explorer. He can express a considerable range of emotions, despite the fact that the changes in his facial expression are almost imperceptible. He's a much better actor than the surprised-looking hen in the painting, whose range is limited to looking surprised. The moose's head will be playing the part of a detective. He won't have any lines, but he can say much more through silence.