'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Winter has started. The land for miles around was covered in snow on Monday. There's no point in spending so much time and money on the interior of a house, an interior that you're stuck with for years, when the exterior is constantly changing and yet always remains beautiful, and on top of all that, every so often it all turns white, without any effort on your part. That's my excuse for not picking up the things I drop on the carpet.

My cousin Hugh once walked along a narrow country road on a beautiful summer evening. He wanted to fill his mind with as many of the sights, sounds and smells as he could fit in his head. When he was young he used to fill his pockets with pebbles and look at them later. He threw the ones he didn't like at people he didn't like. Nowadays he collects memories and sensations, the sights, sounds and smells, and he goes through them again at home when he's sitting on his armchair.

The only problem with this is that he's stuck with the memories he doesn't like. Some memories are like smooth shiny pebbles (those are the ones he likes) and some are like ugly rocks (they'd be the people he doesn't like).

As he was walking down the road on this summer evening he met one of the ugly rocks. It was Killen, a man who lived about a mile away from Hugh's house. It was impossible to stop him talking after he started. He spoke slowly and relentlessly, like a frieght train going up a hill. The effort Hugh put into avoiding Killen had just as much urgency as he'd put into avoiding an on-coming train. He had climbed gates and jumped into ditches to get out of Killen's way in the past, but he had no time to get out of the way on this evening. He turned a corner and there was Killen.

After talking about his doctor and what his doctor said and what his doctor said he did and the way he said it and what they did to him anyway (all it really amounted to was that his doctor was angry about a defective DVD) Killen started talking about a woman who was staying with his next-door neighbour, and he used the words 'that actress in the ad where a spider steals her biscuit'. Hugh's subconscious took note of those words and it presented for his conscious mind an image of a beautiful woman walking in slow motion towards him. He enjoyed that image for a few seconds before he realised that it was only in his mind because of something Killen had said. He started listening then, and he discovered that the actress was staying with Killen's neighbour.

Hugh thought she'd be just the sort of sight he'd like to have in his mind, and possibly the right sort of scent too. She could be the smoothest and shiniest of all pebbles. He said he'd like to meet her, so they walked towards the house where she was staying.

Her name was Diane. She was just about to go for a walk with her friend, Monica, when they met her. She was certainly smooth and shiny. The sound of her voice was another welcome addition to the sounds he'd stored in his mind. She asked Hugh and Killen to join them on their walk, and they both agreed.

They walked down the road and they stopped at the bottom of the hill, at a small stone bridge over a stream. Diane told Hugh about a shampoo ad she'd just finished filming. "Smell my hair," she said to him.

The sound of those words was another welcome addition to his mind and so was the smell of her hair. But this was immediately followed by a very unwelcome sound. His fiancee, Annabel, had been driving by when she saw him smelling Diane's hair. She stopped and got out of the car.

The feeling of an engagement ring ricocheting off his face was nothing new to Hugh. The ring normally landed within a three-foot radius of his feet, so it was always easy enough to find. But this time she missed his face completely. It went to the right of his head and it landed in the field next to the stream.

"I'm sorry," she said. "That's the fist time I've ever missed."

"Don't worry. I'll find it."

Hugh went to see his cousin Charlie, who had a metal detector. They both went to the field and they searched for the ring with the metal detector, but they didn't find it. They only spent ten minutes searching for it because they forgot about the ring when they found a box full of old silver coins.

They didn't know what to do with the coins. They could bury them again and pretend they never found them, but they knew they wouldn't be able to forget about them. They were worried that if the coins were found in their possession they could be accused of theft, so they decided to hide them somewhere else. They went to another field and buried them near a tree.

It was dark then. They went to see a band play on a farm nearby. The farmer got a local punk band to play in an old cattle shed because they were cheaper than hiring someone to demolish the shed. Then he realised that people would actually pay to watch them, so he made a profit out of it. Some of the band's fans paid to listen to the music.

The gig started the punk revolution in the area. Almost everyone at that gig was inspired to pick up a sledge hammer and make music. Hugh had gone through his punk phase in his teens when he graduated from throwing pebbles to throwing stones. He out-grew that as well, but he still enjoyed the gig. Even Killen found that he had something interesting to say, and he wanted to express it by throwing bottles at a wall.

Hugh met Charlie again on the following day, and they came to the conclusion that the coins must have been buried there a long time ago and forgotten about. So they could claim the coins and they wouldn't be accused of stealing them.

They went to the tree to retrieve the coins, but when they dug up the ground, the box with the coins was gone.

Someone must have seen them bury the coins, and they suspected Killen. From his house he could see the field next to the stream. They thought that he must have followed them to the tree where they buried the box. He had arrived at the gig about half an hour after they did. He seemed unusually animated that night. At first they put this down the the influence of the music, but looking back it seemed suspicious.

They went to see him. He had definitely changed, but they couldn't tell if this was down to the influence of punk or to having recently acquired a small fortune. He was always on the lookout for things to throw bottles at, which was probably down to the music. But the next time they saw him he was wearing a gold medallion, and that wasn't very punk at all.

As they thought about what their next move would be, they went back to searching for the ring. This search lasted less than a minute, and again it ended without them finding the ring. Charlie moved the metal detector over the place they'd found the coins and it started to beep again. They dug there and they found the box of coins.

"Killen must have thought the same thing we did," Hugh said. "He was worried he'd be accused of stealing them, so he buried them here, the last place he thought we'd look."

"How can we be sure it was him?" Charlie said.

"There's only one way to prove it, assuming he's watching us now. And you can be sure he's watching us now if he buried the coins here."

They took the coins to the tree where they'd buried them the last time, and they buried the box in exactly the same place. They left the field. They waited on the road outside, and they looked over the ditch towards the tree. They expected to see Killen arrive with a shovel, and after nearly an hour of waiting the shovel did arrive, but it was in the company of Monica and Diane. Hugh and Charlie went into the field. "So it was ye who stole the coins," Hugh said.

"This isn't what ye think," Diane said. "This is really Monica's money."

"That's right," Monica said. "My grandmother gave the coins to my mother, and she buried them near the stream decades ago when my father became addicted to pottery." She started crying, and Diane comforted her. "She was afraid he'd find the coins and sell them to buy more clay. The coins have been buried there ever since. I don't want to have them in the house because they bring back so many bad memories."

"We're really sorry," Hugh said. "We had no idea."

"That's okay," Monica said. "I think it's time I sold them. It's the only way to draw a line under that time."

Monica and Diane left with the coins. Charlie and Hugh left too. When they got back to Hugh's place, Annabel was waiting. She asked if they had found her engagement ring. Hugh made the mistake of saying they'd been searching for something more important. She picked up a pebble and threw it at his face, but she missed. "I've never missed before," she said.

"That's what you said the last time."

When she picked up a stone, Hugh and Charlie ran away. They went back to the field near the stream to look for the ring. They met Killen at the bridge. They told him all about the coins and how they really belonged to Monica.

He said, "Her parents never lived here at all. She only moved into that house two years ago. She was brought up in Mexico."

"I was wondering why she had that accent," Charlie said.

"We've been swindled," Hugh said, but he wasn't too keen on trying to get the coins back because Monica and Diane were clearly more cunning than a man who was happy throwing bottles at things. "At least she let me smell her hair," he said.

The moose's head over the fireplace always enjoys listening to the wife's uncle, but I think even the moose's head has trouble believing some of his stories. The latest one involved a woman who could communicate with walls. He says she fell in love with him with the unanimous approval of her kitchen.