'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The garden disappears into darkness at half-five every day. There isn't much to see then, although I thought I saw a faint light in the orchard yesterday, and the dog has been barking at something in there. My grandfather would have put this down to a ghost and he'd have started shooting indiscriminately. The wife's uncle says that all you need do to control a ghost is show no fear. It's like with dogs, he says. You should climb a step-ladder or start looking for something in your pockets or sing self-penned songs about shooting holes in the floor -- do whatever you'd normally do.

My cousin Hugh is engaged to a woman called Annabel. She once asked him to take her younger brother, Andy, to a party where he was supposed to entertain kids by dressing up as Scooby Doo and doing whatever Scooby does. He couldn't drive because of the costume, so Annabel got Hugh to drive him. Andy was twenty at the time, and his family thought he was an angel, but Hugh was well aware of his other side: the devil-may-care attitude that allowed him to get drunk and then try to jump over a cow.

When Andy got into the car (which was a bit of a struggle in the costume) he said, "Can we stop at a pub on the way?"

"You must think I'm stupid," Hugh said. "Remember the time we stopped at a pub on the way to your grandmother's birthday party? We were only there ten minutes but you managed to start a fight with a lumberjack, which I got blamed for."

"I won't drink anything this time. I just want to see a band. They're friends of mine. They're taking part in a talent contest in the pub this evening. It's starting at seven and they're the first act on. We'll only be there for a few minutes."

"Okay, but I'll be watching you like a hawk."

They sat at a table and waited for the band as a man stood at the microphone and said, "One two. One two."

"Could you get me a drink?" Andy said to Hugh. "My money is in my pocket and my pocket is inside the costume."


"Why not?"

"Why do you think why not?"

"I'm not going to get into a fight here. I need that drink. Just put yourself in my shoes, or in my costume. I have to face twenty screaming ten-year-olds. Can you understand the horror I'm facing? Can you imagine doing that sober?"

Hugh had pity on Andy and he bought the drink.

The band started playing, but their performance didn't last long. The lead singer had a phobia of magicians because he was convinced they were going to turn him into a duck. He really should have had a phobia of hypnotists because it was a hypnotist who made him think this. A magician was the next act in the talent contest. When the singer saw the magician he jumped off the stage and ran out of the pub, screaming as he went.

Andy was the first to react. He saw his chance. He jumped on the stage and took the singer's place. The audience were much more appreciative of the singer in the Scooby Doo costume. They gave him a standing ovation at the end, and when he left the stage a woman bought him a drink. Hugh tried to keep an eye on him, but he was distracted by the group's drummer, whose name was Frank. They had met before. Frank told Hugh all about the aliens he saw. When Hugh finally managed to get a word in he said he had to take Andy to the party, but there was no sign of Scooby. Frank said that Andy had slipped outside with Jennifer. A man at the next table stood up and said, "That was Andy? In the Scooby Doo costume?"

"Yeah," Frank said.

"I'll kill him."

The man left the pub, and Hugh followed with the band. As they searched for Andy, Hugh learnt that the man intent on murder was Jennifer's boyfriend. Andy had tried to chat up Jennifer before, and he'd been warned off by her boyfriend, whose name was Phil.

Andy and Jennifer were walking back towards the pub, hand in paw. When Andy saw Phil he turned around and ran. Phil chased him. Andy was impeded by the costume. He ran towards a supermarket. Before he got to the car park he turned around and saw his predator gaining ground. He'd have been better off looking the other way because he ran right into a more deadly enemy: a metal sign. He hit his head off the sign and he fell to the ground. Phil poked him with a stick, and Andy made faint Scooby-like sounds. "I don't think I have anything to add to what the sign did," Phil said, and he walked back to the pub.

Hugh was left alone with a semi-conscious Scooby. He got a trolley from the supermarket and put Andy into it. He was about half-way between the pub and the house where the party was, so he decided to go straight to the house instead of going back to his car.

It was dark at the time, but Hugh and Andy were perfectly visible under the street lights. Hugh had just launched his campaign for an upcoming local election, and he was afraid he'd be recognised. The local papers would love to get a photo of him pushing a shopping trolley full of an unconscious Scooby Doo. He wondered what he could do to hide his face. What he needed was a disguise of some sort, and there was a perfect disguise right in front of him.

Hugh took a short-cut through a park, and he took the trolley into trees, where it was completely dark. He took the Scooby costume off Andy and put it on himself. Andy laughed and said, "You're tickling me, Jennifer."

Hugh, dressed as Scooby, pushed the trolley out of the trees. To his horror, he realised that he was pushing a trolley containing a naked man. Andy must have lost his clothes in the encounter with Jennifer. The second wave of horror nearly swept Hugh away when he realised he was wearing a costume that had just been worn by a naked man. But at least that costume would conceal his identity, so he kept going.

Andy started singing 'In the Ghetto'. Hugh tried to keep him quiet, but Andy seemed completely oblivious to the fact that he was naked in public. When they got to the house where the party was, Hugh got out of the costume as quickly as he could and he helped Andy into it. Andy's mental condition meant that he wasn't in the least bit by daunted by the thought of entertaining twenty kids. Hugh left him at the door and rang the doorbell, and then he ran back to his car at the pub.

On the following day, Annabel said to Hugh, "I know what you did last night. Clare saw the whole thing."

"It wasn't my fault."

"How could it not be your fault when you lose all your clothes and my brother has to push you in a shopping trolley in public?"

"I don't know what Clare saw, but..."

"She saw Andy in his Scooby Doo costume pushing a naked man who was singing 'In the Ghetto'. Andy wouldn't say anything, but I could tell he was just trying to protect you. He told me he went with you to the party. He was obviously trying to hide something, just for your sake. I didn't tell him about what Clare saw. I don't know how he managed to put on such a great performance for the kids after what he'd been through with you."

Hugh knew there was no point in disputing this story. His version sounded too far-fetched. Clare's version didn't include a singer who was afraid he'd be turned into a duck. Andy was always getting into trouble but he always came out of it smelling of roses.

The moose's head over the fireplace is like a guard dog against ghosts. I'd imagine he'd be fairly good against burglars too. They'd get the impression they're being watched. The moose's head would never show fear when confronted by burglars or ghosts. According to my grandfather it was the moose's head who scared off the ghost of a drunk magistrate fifty years ago. The ghost never left the house, and this curtailed my grandfather's indiscriminate shooting. My grandmother insisted that it be discriminate in the house. But the moose's glare was enough to scare the ghost and make him move in with the neighbours. Apparently he's still there. The neighbours' indiscriminate shooting would suggest he's still as drunk as ever.