'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Hat Stand

The wind has been strong over the past few days and it's brought some much needed action to the garden. The clothes on the line look as if they're trying to escape. When I was young my grandfather used to say that the clothes were inhabited by ghosts who got dressed to go to a play and then found that they couldn't go anywhere. He shot them to put them out of their misery.

My uncle Cyril once found himself face to face with a goose, although he refused to accept that the goose had a face. He said that'd be giving too much credit to the goose. His refusal to accept that the goose stole his credit card denied the goose the credit it deserved. Seeing as I've used the words 'credit' and 'goose' too much already, I'd like to tell the story of Aunt Joyce and the hat stand instead. There isn't really a story about the goose and the credit card until Cyril tells it.

Aunt Joyce once bought a hat stand because she thought it looked like herself. During the summer she used to put a red wooly hat and a scarf on it because it reminded her of winter. In winter she put a straw hat on it to remind her of summer. Cyril put a bowler hat on it once and said, "Now you look like Liza Minelli in Cabaret." She bought a cactus that looked like Cyril and stuck a knitting needle in it.

She gave the hat stand a completely new look just to get rid of the image of Liza Minelli. She put a red dress and a silk scarf on it.

One of Cyril's friends, Myles, used to stand on chairs when he had something important to say. Everything in his life was unimportant but it all became important when he was drunk. He could never stay standing on a chair when he was drunk. These basic facts explain why he often has a bandage around his head and a dazed look in his eyes. He's often on medication too, and this doesn't mix well with the drink.

He went to a party at Joyce and Cyril's house one evening. When he first saw the hat stand in the hall he thought it was Joyce. She looked beautiful, and she seemed to be beckoning him towards her. The thought that Cyril was otherwise engaged with the goose broke down his resistance.

The hat stand was in a dishevelled state when Joyce saw it later. The next time she met Myles was at the house of a mutual friend. When he mentioned their encounter in the hall she said, "What encounter?"

"Don't pretend you didn't enjoy it," he said.

"Enjoy what?"

"Don't pretend you don't remember."

"Remember what?"

Myles forgot what he was talking about for a while, but he eventually remembered. "Our little encounter in the hall," he said. "That's what. We kissed. We started fires. We created small explosions."

Joyce remembered the hat stand and she put two and two together. "That wasn't me!" she said.

"I've heard that before. It won't work."

"It was the hat stand."

"In fairness, I haven't heard that one before. But I have heard 'it was inflatable', so excuses like that won't work."

She had to stand on a chair to get away from him.

She wondered what she could do to quench his passion. He had never shown any interest in the hat stand when it was dressed only in the wooly hat and scarf. She couldn't wear nothing but the hat and scarf herself. That might completely quench his desire, but it might have the opposite effect too. Joyce thought the latter was much more likely. She wasn't prepared to do that anyway.

She wore the hat and scarf with a rain coat, but it didn't put him off. She tried many different looks, including the bowler hat. When he saw that he said, "I have a caravan on the coast. Let's go there now."

But she was able to direct the aim of his affections elsewhere, entirely by chance. One of her friends, Ursula, called around to collect old clothes for charity. The cupboard under the stairs was full of old coats and hats that Joyce wanted to get rid of. Ursula stood outside the cupboard as Joyce went through the contents of it. Myles saw Ursula there. She was holding hats in both hands, and she had another one on her head. Coats hung from both of her shoulders. An umbrella was leaning against her legs. She reminded Myles of Joyce when she seduced him in that very hall. He fell in love with Ursula. Later in the kitchen he stood on a chair to ask her out to a French film. He fell off when she said yes, but he didn't mind then.

The moose's head over the fireplace will be playing the part of Santa in a Christmas pageant. His attachment to fireplaces got him the role. The only other candidate was drunk at the audition and he accused everyone of being anti-communist. He'll be playing Rudolf instead.