'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
Click here to buy the paperback or download the ebook for free.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Rain

The rain is a bit of a novelty after a month without it. I didn't know what to make of it at first. I didn't know where to put my feet. If I knew where to put one foot the other would follow, but I didn't know which foot I should move first or where I should put it. So I got wet, but I didn't mind.

My cousin Isobel loves the rain. She often stands in the rain and smiles. On a wet May afternoon she was looking at the ripples of rain drops on the surface of a pond in the park when a bird landed on the hood of her rain coat. A photographer from a newspaper was passing by and he took a photo of her. This was the start of a sequence of events that ended with her being cast as a life guard in a film. She got lots of offers for other roles, and she couldn't talk about anything else for a few months, but the thrill started to wear off eventually, and she started listening to her friends again. She caught up with what they'd been up to over the previous few months.

One day she met a friend of hers called Caroline who hid behind a blank expression she wore to match her designer glasses. She adjusted her tone of voice to match the expression, and she didn't speak about things that wouldn't be in keeping with the monotonous tone, but sometimes some thoughts just needed to get out and she found herself almost unconsciously talking about things she wanted to keep inside. She started talking about the dust on the breeze but she wandered into other areas and she ended up saying, "He says his name is Joe or Alan, depending on who's asking, and if Rebecca's asking he's not in the country right now but if she'd like to leave a message he'll get back to her. If Alice is asking, they'll be rowing down the river in a row boat and she'll be saying 'ooh' a lot, or words to that effect. And I was just another item on the list of women's names, someone to spend a weekend in a country guesthouse with, or to go for a trip down the river. I was nothing more to him."

Isobel said, "I could kick his knee for you, if you like."

"That won't be necessary," Caroline said. There was so little emotion in the way she said it that Isobel assumed she really meant 'If you wouldn't mind, thanks'.

So she went to see Alan or Joe and he said his name was Neil. "I've seen you in that film about the mummy," he said. "I thought you made the other actors look like bits of driftwood."

He was tall and handsome and he made her say 'ah', which could roughly be translated as 'I see', which meant 'so that's why the list of names is so long'. He had the good looks she was accustomed to seeing in the actors they put in front of her to tell her to be strong in between shooting helicopters while jumping out of moving cars. He spoke in a way that matched his good looks. This tone of voice made it difficult for him to talk about anything that didn't relate directly to himself, but that still left him with plenty to talk about.

They watched the ships go by on the river and she listened to him talk about the time he fell off a bus. He took her to a lake in the country where he liked to go to relax. They met a man with a greyhound. He wore a brown suit with white shoes. Isobel told him she had a brown dog with white paws. The only way he could think of responding was with the silent words in the cigarette smoke he exhaled. She didn't like what he said. She expected Neil to say something in her defence, but he wasn't able to speak smoke and the words had gone over his head, rising to the sky and dispersing. He patted the greyhound's head and said, "Good doggie."

They walked away through the fields on the side of the mountain. He told her about his own brief film career. He appeared as an extra in a scene where he had to sit in the back of a police van. "They made me wear a hat," he said. "I didn't look like the sort of person who'd be in the back of a police van, at least not in films. People like me must get arrested all the time in real life. Not that I get arrested all the time. I've only been arrested for admirable crimes, like being drunk and disorderly, or verbally abusing an officer. I'm fairly sure the leading man asked the director to make me wear the hat because he didn't want to be outshone by me. From the moment I walked onto the set he was nervous. He said, 'What's this guy doing here?' I said, 'I'll tell ya what I'm doing here...' I didn't need to say any more than that. I didn't actually say anything, but he could tell what I meant in the way I looked at him. He didn't say anything either, but I could tell. I didn't actually look at him either."

They met a farmer who had a shotgun and he told them to get off his land because someone, or something, had been worrying his sheep and he couldn't rule out the possibility that they were the culprits. He showed them the bullet wound in his foot to let them know he wasn't afraid to use the gun. The foot on its own would have scared them off. Isobel was desperate to get away from it. Neil would gladly have left to get away from another man's bare foot, but his vanity wouldn't allow him to be frightened off by a man with a gun, especially not in the presence of a woman who's used to being rescued by men who shoot helicopters.

Neil said, "How was this sheep-worrier worrying your sheep? By telling them about global warming? I'd be worried if I thought I had to wear a thick Aran sweater's worth of wool in a tropical climate."

"I'll give ye ten seconds to leave."

"I'd be worried about that if I thought you could count to ten."

"Well I can definitely count to three, so let's make it three." He aimed at Neil's foot and said, "One..."

"Wait a minute," Isobel said. "I think I know who's been worrying your sheep. He has a greyhound. And he lets the greyhound loose in your fields. We can show you where we last saw him."

They led the farmer to the lake. On the way, Neil kept making comments like, "Have you seen a man with an Al Gore mask hanging around your sheep?"

Sarcasm went over the farmer's head and he said, "No."

They found the man with the greyhound, and this was the start of a short sequence of events that led to the farmer buying the greyhound, and this brought them all to the track to see the dog win his first race, to which the man in the brown suit reacted with a stream of four-letter words.

This made Isobel smile. She weighed up all the pros and cons of her time with Neil, the beautiful sights and sounds, the little whirlpools of adventure and the dust on the breeze in the evening. To balance everything out she had to kick him on the knee, which she did. And then it started raining, another item for the pro column. A slight re-adjustment was needed, so she apologised for kicking him.

The moose's head over the fireplace doesn't have to worry about getting wet or where to put his legs. He seems to enjoy the sound of the rain on the window. He likes the sound of bells too, and of people talking in other rooms. I think he prefers it when he can't hear what they're saying, because sooner or later they'll start talking about how they didn't know where to put their feet, or the jumper they're wearing, or what you'd say to distract Popeye if you wanted to steal his boat. My theory is that you should say 'Someone was telling me you make fountains'. It's not so much a theory -- it's just something I said when a friend of mine had to steal a motorbike.