'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A White Christmas

The weather fronts bringing wind and rain have finally decided to side-step the country, leaving us with freezing fog instead. I've been putting some Christmas decorations up around the garden. The lights illuminate the fog. Some of the neighbours have gone for very elaborate decorations. One of them has seven plastic dwarves riding the reindeer on the roof. Dopey is facing the wrong way. Another neighbour has hired a harpist to play in her garden.

My cousin Charlie was staying at his family home at Christmas. One evening, a few days before Christmas Day, Mrs. Door-Happily from down the road called around with a present. She was with her daughter, Yvonne, who was about Charlie's age. They all spent a few hours drinking and talking in front of the fire, and it was after midnight before Yvonne and her mother got ready to leave.

But when they opened the front door the world outside was almost invisible beneath a blizzard. Yvonne and her mother couldn't leave, so they had to spend the night with Charlie and his family.

Charlie and Yvonne stayed up for another hour. When the electricity went they had nothing to do but drink in the candle light. Yvonne said, "Do you want to look at my contact lenses?"

"Okay," Charlie said. He spent half an hour looking at her contact lenses. The electricity was still gone in the morning, so Charlie passed the time by looking at her contact lenses again. They did this in the kitchen, and then they did it outside in the garden. He kept staring at her contact lenses even as three wise men crept through the field just behind the garden. One of them was a woman.

They passed by in the opposite direction later when Charlie and Yvonne were in the field, but neither of them took any notice.

Yvonne and her mother went home in the afternoon. The electricity came back on. Charlie turned on the TV, but there was nothing good on. He turned it off again, and all he could see in his mind was Yvonne's eyes. "I'm in love!" he said.

He went out to the garden, and he was planning on passing the time by looking at the mental image of Yvonne's eyes, but the Three Wise Men kept invading that image, and it annoyed him. He wondered why they'd be creeping through the fields, and he knew that the only way he'd get them out of his mind was by tying up that loose end. He needed to find out what they were up to.

He walked through the fields himself. He followed tracks of footsteps in the snow, and he eventually met some shepherds. They told Charlie that they were from the Nativity play in the community centre, and they were out looking for the Three Wise Men, who kept disappearing from rehearsals. The Wise Men were looking for a turkey.

The turkey had been a prize in a raffle in the pub on the previous evening, and it was won by one of Charlie's neighbours, Paul. On his way home through the fields he kept falling over. Everything looked easy after a few drinks but staying upright wasn't as easy as it looked. Normally he'd use his arms to help retain his balance, but they were occupied with the turkey. So he left the turkey near a ditch, and he was going to come back for it on the following day but when he woke in the morning the fields were covered in snow. He tried re-tracing his steps but he couldn't find the turkey. It was lost beneath a white blanket.

"The Three Wise Men just want a free turkey," one of the shepherds said to Charlie. "They won't give it back if they find it. If you see them around, let us know."

Charlie was able to relax after he found out why the Three Wise Men were in the fields. The loose end had been tied up, and he could get back to thinking about Yvonne's eyes. But it wasn't long before the image of the turkey appeared in his mind, and this annoyed him even more than the Three Wise Men. He knew he needed to tie up this loose end as well.

The Three Wise Men were searching all of the different paths Paul could have taken between the pub and his house. They'd been looking for hours but they hadn't found anything. Charlie wondered if Paul had some reason for a detour, so he went to the pub and started walking in the general direction of Paul's house.

It was late in the afternoon, and it was starting to get dark. On a hillside about a mile away he could see the light's of Mrs. Hennessy's house. Her father was always trying to 'accidentally' burn the house down because it was insured for much more than it was worth. He tried everything. At Christmas he used to cover the house in lights, most of which he bought from a man with an eye patch. He liked to think that the injury was self-inflicted in an electrical accident, and that this was an indication of how reliable the lights were. He was always an optimist. He just assumed that if he nailed five thousand lights to the house, at least one of them would cause a fire. His daughter continued this tradition. Her house was visible from miles away.

Charlie remembered how Paul was attracted to bright lights. He often just stared at lights. His mother used to make him wear sunglasses when he was young. He was the coolest kid in school, but he wasn't really cool -- he was just attracted to bright lights. The second coolest kid used to push Lego up his nose.

Charlie thought that Paul must have been drawn towards the house. He followed that path, and he kept an eye out for the turkey. The Three Wise Men were taking a similar route, but they were going in the opposite direction. They were looking down at the ground. Charlie could see a turkey shaped object beneath the snow up ahead of him, and the Three Wise Men were closer to it than he was. The stars were starting to come out. Charlie said, "Look at that star," and pointed up at the sky.

While they looked up, Charlie tip-toed to the turkey, picked it up and then walked away quietly. One of the Three Wise Men pointed up and said, "What, that one?"

Charlie returned the turkey to Paul and removed it from his mind. He was finally free to think about Yvonne. He imagined her in a Santa costume that became smaller and more transparent the more he thought of her. He needed to find her to stop those thoughts. And if actions resembled those thoughts he wouldn't feel guilty because at least she'd know about it and approve of it.

The moose's head over the fireplace was the star of the show in the Christmas pageant. The reindeer were played by ducks who started fighting with each other, and you'd think this would be the highlight of the show, but it was the moose's head who got the standing ovation. Sherlock Holmes was booed off the stage.