'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Apparently all the rain this year has made the autumn colours more vibrant. It can't have been a good year for the flowers because the weather wouldn't have been conducive to the work of bees. There were far fewer bees in the garden this year. It's funny the way bees go about their business. Not funny ha-ha, but odd. Bees are odd creatures. They probably don't think that themselves. They just go about their business. They have no conception of how good their knees are. We're probably the only species who can observe the behaviour of other animals and compare it to our own, and come to the conclusion that we're as odd as bees. I say 'probably' because it's possible that some intelligent apes observe our behaviour as we observe them. We might appear insane to apes. I say 'we' on the assumption that everyone reading this is human, but I have my doubts about some people. My grandmother used to have a saying, which I can't remember now, and which I'll refrain from trying to recall in case the mental effort makes me oblivious to the doings of the so-called people who are just waiting for their chance to pounce. My grandmother used to say a lot of things. That was her most prominent characteristic, mainly because my grandfather didn't say a lot of things. They had been married for over fifty years and they were always together, so they defined each other. One said a lot of things and the other didn't -- that's how we told them apart. Most of the things my grandmother said were forgotten fairly quickly because another thought would come along and she'd have to express it, but we always remembered the things my grandfather said because they were so rare. I'll never forget the time he stood on top of a hill with the wind on his face, an axe in his hand, and he said, "There was something wrong with the cabbage." There was so much truth in his sayings you could smell it from ten yards. You could smell the cabbage from even further away. He used the multi-purpose phrase 'It smells funny' to express his disapproval of a hurling team, or his opinion of plans to build a house, or his feelings on being told of a couple's engagement.

My cousin Isobel got engaged to a man who didn't wear socks. His name was Mark, but his socks defined him in our eyes. When my grandfather heard the news he said, "Even a squirrel could smell something funny in that." I'd imagine that a squirrel's sense of smell would be more advanced than ours, but it would almost certainly be useless when it comes to determining the future prospects of a human union. A squirrel, like a bee, would have no interest in this. Isobel's parents had a dog who showed a keen interest in smelling the men brought home by Isobel, and Mark did have a funny smell. Not funny ha-ha. Wherever it came from, it couldn't be blamed on his socks. A lot of his stories revolved around the fact that he didn't wear socks, such as the one about the time he got thrown out of a casino for not wearing socks.

My grandmother said a lot of things about him, but she always skirted around the main issue, which was the lack of socks. A related issue would be his suitability for Isobel, which she also skirted around. Her constant skirting meant she had to repeat herself or remain silent. I lost count of the number of times she said 'He looks as if he knows how to use a turnip', although I stopped counting after two. I've never had to use a turnip myself. I'm sure I'd figure out the basic workings of one, if I had to. Some people have cooks or chefs to do these things for them. I've always wondered what it would be like to have a cook. If they poisoned you accidentally, would they be weighed down by guilt? Would they feel more guilty about poisoning a dog? I suppose it would depend on the person. Some would laugh it off and some would be horrified. In the old days the boss would be their master, their superior. If you poisoned God you'd feel guilty. And apologetic.

It would have been very easy to poison the dog because he'd eat anything. He ate a towel once. It took him a while but he got through all of it. He liked Mark, and she trusted the dog's judgement because she thought he had an instinct for these things, but what would a dog know? That's what she must have been asking herself in hindsight. You could take an ape's opinion more seriously, one who's had a chance to observe humans. Even a squirrel would be better qualified, if you believe my grandfather. But you should never trust a dog's opinion in these matters, especially a dog who's stupid enough to eat a towel.

Isobel started to have her doubts about Mark when she failed to convince him to wear socks. He refused on principle. He said he could be a millionaire if he wore socks because he had a roulette system that couldn't fail, but even the prospect of making a fortune couldn't make him abandon his principle. I don't think he had any other principles, and I'm not sure if the one about his socks was really a principle at all. I don't know what it was. He used to say, "If Telly Savalas can get away without wearing hair, surely I can get away with no socks."

He was horrified when she asked him who Telly Savalas was. He told her that Telly Savalas played Kojak. She was going to ask who Kojak was, just to annoy him because she was annoyed about the socks, but she thought that might be a step too far.

When they were at a barbeque they saw a man who wore bright red socks. He also had tattoo of a goldfish, but Isobel focussed on the socks. She kept pointing them out to Mark. He said, "Why would anyone get a tattoo of a goldfish? People get tattoos of tigers or panthers, things that can kill much bigger animals. A goldfish can't kill anything. And they'll never be killed because they're protected from predators by a glass bowl. Their food is delivered to them. Their only purpose is to be looked at doing nothing. They live completely uneventful lives that they can't even remember. What does a tattoo of a goldfish say about him?"

"That he doesn't need to get a panther tattoo to show that he can kill bigger animals. Everything else about him says that he would."

"His goldfish tattoo says that he wouldn't."

"His red sock say that he would."

"What do socks have to do with killing something bigger than you?"

"In my eyes only small, cowardly men don't wear socks."

"Well I'll just have to kill something bigger than me to prove I'm not a small cowardly man?

"You'd kill something bigger than you rather than wear socks?"

"Absolutely. I'll never ever ever wear socks."

"So you won't wear socks on our wedding day?"

"Absolutely not."

"I was afraid it would come to this. I'm sorry, but I just can't marry a man who doesn't wear socks."

"What are you saying?"

"It's over between us."

"Yeah well I couldn't marry a woman who doesn't respect my principles. So it's over between us."

"I already said that."

"No one's saying you didn't."

She couldn't think of anything to say to that, so she said, "Who's Kojak?" That just confused him. They left each other without saying another word.

Mark was determined to show Isobel how little he needed her. He got a new girlfriend within a week. Her name was Louise. All of his friends were jealous because she looked amazing, but he soon realised there was a downside. Full moons had a strange effect on her. So did bicycles, tennis balls and kangaroos. Fortunately, she rarely came into contact with kangaroos, but bicycles and tennis balls were much more common. A combination of these things could be dangerous. She often stole bicycles when the full moon was visible in the sky above. She'd disappear into the night, and sometimes she wouldn't be seen for days, which was a relief to Mark. She once brought him with her on one of her full moon outings. When she said, "Come with me," something about the look in her eyes told him it would be unwise to go against her wishes. They ended up walking for miles across the country that night. She never said a word to him, but she did talk to a statue on top of a hill. He was afraid of her because he never knew what she was going to do next, and there was always a chance that it would involve throwing something sharp at something just next to his head, but she only did that once (he was very careful about what he stood next to after that).

He wanted to end their relationship, but he was afraid of her. He used a technique that had worked before: he told her he'd decided to become a monk and he ran away as fast as he could.

He realised that Isobel was the only woman for him. He thought about turning up at her doorstep with a bunch of flowers, but he went for something even more potent than flowers: socks. When she opened the door and saw him wearing socks (he was wearing other clothes too, but the socks were very prominent), he said, "I got these just for you. Please take me back."

She said, "Sorry, but I could never marry a man who abandons his principles."

The moose's head over the fireplace doesn't have to worry about trivial things like socks. His mind is free to ponder higher things. He's much more reliable than apes when it comes to judging people. The wife's aunt says that her goldfish is a great judge of character. When he swims in a clockwise direction, that means that he approves of the person standing near the bowl. He swims in an anti-clockwise direction to express his disapproval. She gets people to stand near the bowl and looks at how the goldfish reacts. He doesn't know what to do when she stands next to the bowl.