'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Rain Appreciation Society

The days are getting shorter and the leaves are turning brown. I'm looking forward to Autumn. It always puts on an inspiring show in the garden. It inspired my grandfather to write a song about the season, which he performed during a very uninspiring show in the village hall. 'Autumn, You're a Lady' got a lukewarm reception from the audience, which he blamed on the cat-balancing act he had to follow. No cats were balanced.

My cousin Charlie bought a van, and he joined a Van Appreciation Society. They used to meet on weekends and appreciate each other's vans. Sometimes they put things in their vans just to see how much you could put in there.

He met a woman called Imelda there, and she told him about the Rain Appreciation Society she was a member of. They liked to stand in the rain. They stood in fields, or they walked around in ever-increasing circles, through whatever pool of water that appeared in their path, however deep it was. They'd wade their way through it and get to the other side with wetter feet, but happier in the head. When they went to bed they loved the sound of rain on the roof. They loved to open the curtains in the morning and see a watery world outside. Many of the society's members wore glasses to see the rain drops up close on the lenses, and to see the whole world altered through a tiny drop of water. They rarely used umbrellas. A hood was all they needed. They held their meetings in the rain. They never kept minutes because the paper would get wet, and the only thing they needed to write was 'It rained and we appreciated it'.

Imelda could close her eyes at any time and imagine the rain -- the sights and sounds were all recorded in her brain. She could form any rain-soaked scene in her head. She thought it was much better than the drink-soaked scenes in the heads of friends. Drink kept them indoors when they could be out in the rain.

They also liked to lean in the rain. Sometimes they leant to the left and sometimes they leant to the right. They also leant backwards, but rarely forwards. They'd just see the ground if they lean to the front, and they left that to their friends in the Ground Athletic Association, who always look down. They also leant on each other. One couple got married after eight years of leaning on each other in the Rain Appreciation Society.

For years there had been a good relationship between the Rain Appreciation Society and the Ground Athletic Association, but Imelda told Charlie that tensions had been rising lately. The Ground Athletic Association started using Sports Flakes, a type of fake snow that fell much quicker than normal snow. Each flake had the company logo on it, and each one was exactly the same. They looked at the ground as the Sports Flakes fell, and it made the ground more interesting.

The Rain Appreciation Society were horrified by this. Not only were they abandoning the principle of appreciating the ground for what it is, they could have used rain if they wanted something that fell quicker than snow. They said they'd seen rain on the ground thousands of times and it had lost its appeal. This infuriated members of the Rain Appreciation Society.

Imelda's brother, Barry, had been playing chess with a friend of his called John. Their game reached a stalemate, but neither of them were prepared to accept a draw.

Barry's nephew had been building a Lego model of something (he wouldn't know what it was until it was finished). The model was on the ground in the living room. When Barry saw it he added another piece to it, after carefully considering where to place it. John picked up a piece and he took even longer to think about where to put it on the model. He smiled after adding the piece. Barry picked up a red brick. He stood back from the model and looked at it. He paced the room as he thought about it. After fifteen minutes he placed the piece on the model and said, "Aha!" to John.

They kept adding pieces, and they forgot about the chess. Neither of them knew the rules of this game, but they both knew that the other player's moves were intended as an attack on their own position. It started to get serious when Barry balanced a spoon on the model and said, "Check."

After carefully considering his response, John put a bigger spoon in it. Barry then put a candle on the model, and John tied a piece of string around the candle.

Imelda had seen this new game, and it gave her an idea to attack the Ground Athletic Association. "We just have to do something that seems like an attack," she said to Charlie. "It could be anything at all, as long as they interpret it as an attack on them and their lack of principles. This is how we can take a stand."

Imelda, Charlie and a few other members of the Rain Appreciation Society went to one of the Ground Athletic Association's practise sessions. "This is what we think of the way ye sold out," Imelda said. She tied a candle to a fence post and said, "So there!"

She left with her fellow Society members. The Ground Athletic Association stood in silence for a few minutes before someone eventually said, "Wait a minute. They insulted us."

Imelda and Charlie went back to her house. Her delight with their attack evaporated when she saw Barry and John fighting in the garden. She realised that this was the ultimate outcome of a series of attacks and counter-attacks when neither side knew what they were doing. Tensions would rise, and they'd reach a point where putting a spoon on a piece of Lego wouldn't suffice, and only violence would express the way they feel.

The Ground Athletic Association responded to the candle on the fence post by putting the candle in a bucket. Imelda and her friends responded to this by digging a hole. The Ground Athletic Association put the bucket with the candle into the hole.

Tensions grew with each attack and counter-attack, and they found themselves on the brink of a fight. Some of them thought that fighting would be much better than looking at rain or at the ground.

The two groups met, but just as violence was about to break out they were distracted by the sight of Barry chasing John. John ran all around them, then around a tree and back around them again. The chase came to an end when John tripped. The spectators were expecting violence -- that was all they could think of at the time -- but Barry just gave John an ice cream. After pausing for a while to get their breaths back, the chase began again. This time John took a twenty-cent coin from his pocket and chased Barry.

Exhaustion had ended their fight earlier in the day. When they were too tired to hit each other, Barry took a chocolate bar from his pocket and gave it to John. When John took it, Barry said, "Check." John tried to give Barry a cigarette lighter, but he ran away.

The need for violence faded amongst the Rain Appreciation Society and the Ground Athletic Association as they looked at Barry and John chase each other just to give each other presents. They enjoyed just looking at the chase. "This is what we all do," Imelda said. "We look at things, and we say, 'Look at that.' It doesn't matter who wins or loses, or what equipment we use. As long as we enjoy looking that's all that matters."

She got John and Barry back to the chess board with a similar speech. She told them it was all about looking, not who wins or loses. So they returned to chess, but this didn't last long because they preferred chasing each other to give each other presents.

The moose's head over the fireplace has been making the decisions on adjustments to a Banzai tree we got from the wife's uncle. He says he got it from a seven-foot tall woman he met in a taxi. I was looking forward to cutting bits off it, but the moose's head always looked as if I was about to do something regrettable every time I went to cut it. I doubt very much that I'd regret trimming a Banzai tree, but I never went ahead with it anyway. I kept making attempts until he approved of my decision, and then I finally went ahead with the cut. I've made many adjustments through this process, and the tree is starting to look like the antlers on the moose's head, which I think is confusing the surprised-looking hen in the painting.