'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Something Pointy

We've had some very strong winds over the past few days. The weather forecasters can predict how strong the winds will be but it's impossible to predict what I'll see being blown across the garden by the wind. A friend of mine became a weather forecaster. He got struck by lightning and he pretended he knew that was going to happen. He gave up weather forecasting shortly after that because it had lost its thrill. He felt he should be out in the field, feeling the effects of thunder storms, rather than predicting the storms from the safety of a studio.

My cousin Ronan read his horoscope one morning, even though he didn't believe in that sort of thing. It said 'You will sit on something pointy'. He chose to dismiss that, but he couldn't help thinking about the pointy things he could possibly sit on, like hedgehogs or thumb tacks or forks. He was careful about where he sat.

He kept thinking about pointy things until he was walking down a street in the afternoon. He was watching his shadow in front of him on the footpath. Both Ronan and his shadow stopped when he heard music. He looked into a garden and saw a man sitting on a lawn. He was wearing a top hat and playing a tiny piano.

Ronan couldn't stop thinking about this until he was in a record shop and he heard the sound of music again. He looked around and saw a man playing a piano, but this one was a grand piano and there was a woman lying across the top of it. She was launching an album. This image didn't erase the one of the man playing the tiny piano. Ronan couldn't help thinking there was a link between the two.

Ronan's nephew, Graham, used to give names to spiders based on his first impression of them. He heard that you could tell a lot about people by your first impression and he was convinced that this applied to spiders too. Whenever he saw a spider he gave it a name within two seconds of first seeing it. He couldn't do this with people because they already had names. He became good friends with a spider called Star Trek. They weren't good friends in the same way Graham was good friends with his best friend Owen. Graham and Owen often kicked each other, but you couldn't kick a spider, no matter how friendly you were with it. Graham tried to teach Star Trek how to do tricks. The commands 'sit' and 'fetch' were never likely to make Star Trek do anything. The only thing Star Trek was likely to go after was a fly, and he wasn't going to bring it back. He didn't live long enough to learn how to retrieve flies without consuming them. It's difficult enough to teach dogs how to do that when they find a shoe. Although in fairness, if a spider goes to all the trouble of building a web, it should be able to eat whatever it catches. If you shoot birds for fun, a well-trained dog should bring the corpse to your feet. Your web is the shotgun, and though you didn't build it yourself, you bought it with your hard-earned money, or else Santa brought it. You could retrieve the bird yourself, but you've only got two legs, and even if you add on the additional four legs of the dog, you're still two short of the spider.

When Star Trek passed away, assuming he did pass away (one day he wasn't there, the next he was there and Graham named him Star Trek, and the next day he wasn't there again) there was no corpse to bury or eat. Graham imagined him floating away in space. Daisy, Graham's sister, thought it was more likely that Star Trek was eaten by an owl.

"Why an owl?" Graham said.

"Why not an owl?"

"Owls can catch mice. Why would they be interested in dead spiders?"

"People eat big cakes and they eat sweets as well."

"Dead spiders are nothing like sweets."

"And mice are nothing like big cakes, so what's your point?"

"I don't know. What's your point?"

"That Star Trek was eaten by an owl."

"You have no evidence for that."

"It's just an impression I have. You have no evidence that his real name was Star Trek. And my idea of him being eaten by an owl is much more likely than your idea of him floating away in space."

Ronan went to a Chinese take-away that evening and he ordered some food. He sat on a chair near the window while he waited, and this is when he sat on something pointy. He stood up and looked down at the chair. There was a plastic bride and groom on it. The groom's head was missing. A few seats away, there was a real woman in a wedding dress.

"Sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have left it there."

"No, I'm sorry. I think I broke his head."

"I broke it. I wish I could do it in real life. If there's any justice, that little plastic man will be like a voodoo doll, and for the rest of his life the real one will be a little plastic man with a broken head."

"I take it your wedding didn't go according to plan."

"Not according to my plan anyway. I don't think I was asking for too much. If you organise a wedding and turn up on the day in your wedding dress, it's reasonable to expect a marriage. But he always has to be awkward. Last week he decided he didn't like the band because they all look like teachers. I should have seen it coming. I should have broken his head then. Today he decided he didn't want to marry me after all. He says he has to be with someone else. He doesn't want to marry her either, but he has to be with her."

"It sounds as if his head was damaged before you did this to the plastic man."

"There was definitely something wrong with him. It's his fault that I'm here getting a Chinese take-away when we have a wedding cake and enough food to feed two hundred people."

"You're better off without him."

"I had an inkling of that when we were at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He was criticising everything and I wondered if there was something deeper going on."

Ronan provided a sympathetic ear as she told him all about the last few months of her engagement, presenting all of the evidence of damage to her ex's head. Before Ronan left, she gave him her phone number and said, "Give me a call if you ever want a night on the town with a woman who's trying to forget a man with half a head."

Ronan felt like strutting. He'd just induced a phone number from a woman who'd been left at the altar, had an interest in modern art and once met Salman Rushdie. All of his friends could only induce a carefully placed kick from women whose world didn't extend beyond childish things like getting drunk and buying clothes. They've all been to New York to get drunk and buy clothes.

When Ronan got home to his parents' house in the country he went to his room and he immediately noticed that something was wrong. He had small plastic Star Trek figurines on a shelf, and Spock was missing. Ronan was horrified. He looked all around the room, but there was no sign of Spock. He was just about to start emptying out drawers when he remembered the woman he met at the Chinese take-away. The missing Spock was symbolic. There was a big pointy thing pointing at this. The plastic Spock wouldn't go with the plastic bride. Few human women would marry a Vulcan. The pointy thing was telling him to leave these childhood things behind. The woman represented the adult world.

Ronan forced a smile and said to himself, "I don't care that Spock is missing. Collecting Star Trek memorabilia means nothing to me anymore."

But he couldn't convince himself of this. He looked out the window and saw Daisy and Graham in the garden below with their grandfather, Harry. It looked as if they were up to something, and Ronan guessed that they were behind the disappearance of Spock.

He went out to the garden and asked them what they were doing. Graham told him that they were trying to determine if owls eat dead spiders. Harry had seen an owl in the garden before, so Graham collected some dead spiders to give to the owl. His method of collecting dead spiders was to kill them. He had to flatten them as soon as he saw them. If he didn't, he'd form an impression and give them a name, and it would be difficult to kill them then. He had left the dead spiders in a pile, and he had added in the plastic Spock, just in case the owl would take that and leave the spiders. He felt sure that Star Trek would have appreciated this gesture.

Ronan was relieved to see that Spock was safe, but he started to worry that the owl really would take it. He knew it was unlikely, but he also knew that he'd only stop worrying when he had Spock safely in his possession again. He thought about creating a diversion to distract Harry and the kids, allowing him to take Spock. The kids would think that the owl took it, but that would be a good thing. They'd be filled with a sense of wonder. It would be like finding evidence that Santa exists. There was nothing childish about that, Ronan told himself. Creating the illusion of Santa for kids was inherently adult.

Ronan said, "That's a funny looking cat," and he pointed towards the orchard.

"I didn't see anything," Daisy said.

"He just went into the orchard. I've never seen anything like it before."

They started walking towards the trees. Ronan went with them as far as the start of the orchard, and then he said, "Look, there it is, hiding behind that bucket."

"Oh yeah," Graham said. "I see the bucket."

As Daisy, Graham and Harry crept towards the bucket, Ronan turned around to rescue Spock. He was just in time to see the dog running away with Spock in his mouth.

Ronan chased the dog all around the garden. The dog started to get tired after half an hour, and he finally stopped, but he moved away every time Ronan tried to get near, and eventually he got bored of this game and he ate Spock. Ronan started crying.

Graham said, "It's just a bit of plastic. It's not like a spider, or even a bucket. You can't form much of a first impression of a piece of plastic."

Ronan knew he'd never call the woman he met at the Chinese take-away. She belonged to a world that was still out of his reach. A few weeks later he met his current girlfriend, Audrey. She provided a smoother transition into the adult world. She had her own car, but it was full of stuffed toys. She had given names to each toy based on her first impressions of them, and she often had conversations with them. Ronan used to make fun of her because of this, but he never told her of the conversations he had with his Star Trek characters, and he never told anyone that he'd bought a replacement Spock on the internet.

The moose's head over the fireplace likes looking at the things blowing by on the wind. A vinyl record blew by yesterday. I've no idea where it came from. The wife's uncle said he'd investigate, but he decided he'd be better off next to the fire with a glass of brandy rather than outside in the wind. He enjoys investigating things, especially if he can do it from the comfort of an armchair by the fire. He set up his own detective agency once. He was good at attracting the femme fatale type characters. He says he solved over twenty murders and he was the victim in every one of them. The murderer was always the femme fatale. He has a way with women.