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

The Burglar

You know that winter is fast approaching when the evenings are closing in, when the Halloween decorations in the shops are about to be replaced by Christmas decorations, and when soccer managers start getting fired. The latest casualty is Steve 'Stan' Staunton, the former manager of the Irish team. If people call you 'Stan' because you remind them of Stan Laurel, it isn't a good omen for success in international management. If he became a piano mover, at least it might be entertaining to watch.

My cousin Charlotte loves the silence of night. Before going to bed, she often turns off all the lights and then walks around the house. It's as relaxing as reading a book or drinking warm milk.

One night, after walking through every room in the house, she stood at her kitchen window and looked out at the stars. She felt completely at peace, but then she heard the sound of breaking glass and the peace was shattered. She thought the glass had been broken in the front door. She took her phone and went out the back door. She looked in the kitchen window and she was just about to call the police when she saw the burglar in the kitchen. She smiled when she saw him. He looked nothing like a burglar. He was small, and he wasn't even dressed for the part. He was wearing a white T-shirt. He looked nervous as he opened drawers and cupboards. Charlotte thought she could tackle him, and she loved tackling people. The outlet for tackling had ended when she left school and left her hockey-playing days behind. She had wanted to play rugby, but in her school they didn't think that rugby was an appropriate activity for girls. She had done her best to introduce aspects of rugby into hockey, like tackling.

When she saw him go into the dining room, she went back into the house. She tip-toed to the dining room door and she looked in. He was looking at the shelves, and he seemed confused, as if he didn't know what to take. A victim paralysed by confusion was ideal tackling fodder. Soon he'd be dazed as well.

She ran towards him and completed a textbook rugby tackle. She sat on top of him and held his arm behind his back. "I can see the headlines now," she said. "Woman single-handedly tackles burglar, man."

"I'm not really a burglar," he said.

"Then why did you break into my house?"

"Admittedly, it was for the purposes of burglary, but it's not my full-time occupation."

"What is your full-time occupation?"

"I'm a playwright?"

"A what?"

"I write plays."

"I know what a playwright is. But what made you get into burglary?"

"There isn't much money in writing plays."

"There are other ways of making money, besides writing plays or breaking into people's houses."

"I need the money tomorrow. I broke the rear window of a car with my head, and the car was owned by a criminal who has employees to carry out burglaries for him. His name is Bill. He demanded a thousand euros in compensation for what I did to his car and the distress I caused to him and to his girlfriend. They were in the back seat at the time."

"How did you manage to break the window with your head?"

"I was running down a hill after a friend of mine who had just taken my bike. He's always taking my bike and chaining it to things. I had to catch him before he chained it to something. I had my helmet on, but it slipped down over my face, and I started wondering how far I could go down the hill if I had to rely entirely on the image of the hill in my mind. It turned out I couldn't go very far. I ran into the back of the car. I hurt my knees when I hit the rear bumper, but I didn't hurt my head at all because of the helmet."

"I can imagine how he might be angry."

"He said his wife would be furious because she loved that car."

"He has a wife?"


"Then you can blackmail him. You have evidence that he was with his girlfriend."

"He could just kill me."

"It's not as if you have to make any unnecessary demands. Say you'll gladly pay for the damage you caused, as soon as you get the money."

"And where am I going to get the money? I haven't had a good idea for a play in over a year. I've always written about my life, but now there's nothing left to write about. I've drained myself."

"This is part of your life. You've become a burglar to pay off a gangster because you broke the rear window of his car with your head while he was with his mistress. There's so much to write about there."

"I never thought of that... But still, I'm used to writing about people who do nothing. I've never done anything apart from write, so there wasn't much to write about in the first place."

"Well maybe it's time you changed your style to reflect this change in your life."


"If I let you go, do you promise to write about this, and to give up on the burglary?"


"How do I know you're telling the truth? You could be planning to overpower me as soon as I let you go."

"I don't think there's much chance of that happening."

"You could hit me over the head when my back is turned."

"You're just going to have to trust me."

Charlotte thought about it for a while, and she decided to trust him. She stood up, and she helped him to his feet. She smiled when she realised he was telling the truth. They shook hands and he smiled too. He said his name was Glenn.

They were both relieved that the burglary had such a happy ending. In the wave of relief, they embraced, and then they started kissing, and then the audience applauded at the end of the first act. This act was an accurate reflection of events, apart from the kiss.

The second act told the story of how they confronted Bill. Charlotte told him that Glenn would pay when he was ready, and only for the damage he caused. She told him his wife would find out about his affair if he didn't agree to this. Bill nodded and said, "That sounds really interesting. I have an interest in the theatre. But I'm afraid I'm going to have to shoot both of you in the legs for telling me you'll pay me what you owe as soon as you've written and staged a play. The blackmail is annoying too."

He got out his gun. Charlotte waved and said, "Hi Stacey."

When Bill turned around, Charlotte and Glenn ran away. They ended up hiding in the dressing room of a strip club (they had met Bill in the strip club), and one of the strippers helped them get away. They wore disguises. There were a lot of wigs and outfits in the dressing room, but there wasn't any way of avoiding looking like strippers. Monica, the real stripper, left with them. On the street they met a man who wanted them to appear in a film. He was especially interested in Glenn. He said he'd pay them three grand. They didn't want to do the film, but they thought the money might appease Bill.

Glenn didn't want to do what they wanted him to do in the film, but he thought he'd have to do it when the executive producer arrived on the set. It was Bill. He said, "If you don't do it, I'll have to execute my duties as executive producer and execute you."

Charlotte said, "Hi Stacey," and waved.

Bill said, "How stupid do you think I am?" But he turned around when Stacey said 'hi'.

Charlotte, Glenn and Monica ran away. Monica said, "We need to get a gun. I know someone who sells them from his attic."

She took them to see this man. His attic was full of guns. Glenn said they just needed one, but Monica wanted to get more. They ended up with ten guns and ten men to use them. In effect they had their own gang, and they defeated Bill's gang. They'd have done anything to protect a poor, defenceless stripper. If they had found out that Glenn wasn't a stripper, and wasn't even a woman, they would have turned on him. They came very close to finding out when Glenn found himself on a stage in a strip club, but he managed to get away with Charlotte.

The play wasn't an accurate portrayal of what actually happened. When Charlotte and Glenn first went to see Bill, she told him that they'd pay as soon as Glenn got the money for his play. Bill agreed to this, but he insisted on charging interest. Glenn spent three days writing the play, but it took nearly a year to stage it. The interest was mounting all the time, so Glenn kept making alterations to ensure it would be a hit with the public. He added in the stripper and the film and so forth. The play turned out to be a huge success. He was able to pay off Bill. He split what was left with Charlotte and Monica (he had hired a real stripper as a consultant).

The moose's head over the fireplace is on his own again. We moved the miniature moose's head to the study because there was something unsettling in his glare. Even the surprised hen in the painting looked as if she wanted to look the other way. It's bad enough when the big moose's head makes me feel inadequate, but being afraid to look at a miniature moose's head is a good enough reason to dig a hole and hide in it. Thankfully I'll be able to avoid it when it's in the study.