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

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year's Eve

Our new year's celebrations were relatively quiet this year. John, one of our neighbours, had fireworks at midnight, but they were really just an excuse to scare off the aliens. He says he was once kidnapped by aliens, and they tried to shove something up his nose, but luckily he already had some carrots up there.

My aunt Bridget once decided to have a New Year's Eve fancy dress party. She hired a chef called Edgar to do the catering. His mother was one of Bridget's best friends. He was a brilliant chef, but he believed that all of his ability came from his moustache. He was afraid that he'd lose his skills with food if he cut his moustache, so he let it grow wild. Many people complained about it because they didn't like the idea of their food being prepared by a man who had an untrimmed hedge on his face. It wasn't the hedge itself that frightened them -- it was what might be living in the hedge. The complaints only made him bitter. He started drinking a lot, and he argued with people. He often ended up arguing with himself. "I don't need you," he once said to himself. "I don't need any of ye. There's only one of me. Today you'll say there's only one and tomorrow you'll say there's twenty when there's only three, and the day after that, someone will be complaining about the owls."

Bridget was concerned about the moustache, but she didn't want to say anything to Edgar. Her son, Ronan, and her two daughters, Rachel and Nicola, decided to do something about the moustache before the party. They thought they'd be doing Edgar a favour if they could show him that his skills had nothing to do with his facial hair, so they came up with the following plan: they'd get him drunk and shave off the moustache. They'd replace it with a fake moustache, and Edgar would cook a meal. The food would be up to his usual high standard, and then they'd reveal the truth about his moustache, proving that he didn't need anything on his face to be able to cook.

The first part of the plan worked perfectly. They got Edgar drunk on the night before the party, and while he slept they shaved off the moustache. Rachel was a member of an Amateur Dramatics Society, and they had used the fake moustache in a play about robots taking over the world. They glued it to Edgar's face and trimmed it so it looked like the real one.

Edgar woke up with a terrible hangover. The thought of eating food seemed abhorrent to him. The thought that his purpose in life was to prepare food made him depressed. He wondered what the point of it all was, and he told Ronan, Rachel and Nicola that he was going to cut off his moustache. He found a nail scissors, but they managed to stop him before he started cutting and realised that the moustache wasn't real. "You just need some coffee," Rachel said. "That's all that's wrong. When you're over the hangover you'll be hungry, and you'll want to be a chef again. You'll need your moustache then."

"Everyone else says I don't need the moustache at all. In fact, you once said that the moustache was growing inward and affecting my brain, and for the sake of its own survival it was making me think I needed it."

"That was just a joke. Maybe you do need the moustache. There's no point in taking any chances. Don't do anything rash."

They managed to convince him not to cut off the moustache. He felt better by the evening, and he started work on the food for the party.

The guests started arriving at eight o' clock. My cousin Albert came as a hedgehog to stop people sneaking up behind him. He has a phobia of people sneaking up behind him. Uncle Cyril was dressed as a dishevelled Santa. He claimed that this is how Santa would look after Christmas, but it was really just an excuse to look dishevelled. He always ended up looking worse at the end of the night, and it wasn't always down to drink. He once got attacked by seagulls. Aunt Joyce accused him of stealing their fish, but he had no interest in their fish.

The food and drink brought a warm glow to all of the guests. Aunt Beatrice started singing a song about a rainbow she had to shoot. My cousin Jane lost her watch, and Claudia, her best friend, said, "I blame Kevin Kline," just because she liked saying, "I blame Kevin Kline." She had said it once earlier in the evening and in her slightly drunk head it sounded nice. She laughed at it. With every drink she had, it sounded funnier. Jane thought that Kevin Kline was the man in the top hat talking to the hedgehog, but he wasn't the sort of person to take watches.

Edgar was over his hangover and he was enjoying his work in the kitchen, but the heat of the stove melted the glue that held his moustache in place, and it fell off into a pot. Edgar started screaming. Some people came into the kitchen to see what was going on. Rachel managed to calm him down. She used a fork to take the moustache out of the pot and she said, "That was just a fake moustache. You couldn't have been getting your ability from that."

Edgar was furious. He said, "How did I end up with a fake moustache?"

"I don't know," Rachel said. "Do you remember shaving off your..."

"Of course I didn't shave off my own moustache and replace it with a fake one."

"Then someone else must have done it."

"Why would someone shave off my moustache?"

"Maybe they wanted the hair."

"Or maybe they wanted to take my powers."

"But you haven't really lost your powers."

"What if they drain away when someone else starts using my moustache?"

This thought made Edgar start drinking again. He never considered the possibility that someone might have taken his moustache to tidy his face because he didn't think it was untidy. Claudia thought she knew who did it. She said, "I, aha... I bl ha ha ha ha ha... I blame aha ha K' aha ha ha ha ha... I claim Bevin aha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Kevin Kline."

Edgar pictured a man with a moustache, but he already knew that much.

My cousin Craig had been working on a magic act, and he came to the party in his costume. He used puppets to perform the tricks. One of the puppets was dressed like a magician, and this one could saw another puppet in half. When Edgar saw the magician puppet he thought he'd found out what happened to his moustache. The puppet had a huge moustache that extended well beyond its ears. Edgar wanted retribution. He went to the kitchen and he returned shortly afterwards with a meat cleaver. He cut the puppet's head off. The head dropped to the ground and Craig started screaming as he held up a stump where his hand should have been. Blood flowed from the stump like a fountain. Edgar fainted.

The scream spread throughout the room, but then Craig started laughing. He removed the plastic stump to reveal his real hand beneath it. There was a fake hand in the puppet's head. Part of his act involved cutting off the puppet's head with a guillotine, and he'd frighten the audience by pretending it had gone tragically wrong.

Only Craig found it funny, and Rachel pointed out that Edgar would be furious when he regained consciousness and realised what had happened. So they tried to pretend that the incident never happened. Craig replaced the head on the puppet's body, and he hid the fake hand and the stump. He took the moustache off the puppet as well.

When Edgar came around, a look of horror spread all over his face when he saw Craig, but Craig just said 'hello' (through the puppet).

"Your hand," Edgar said.

"What about my hand?" the puppet said.

Edgar pulled the puppet off Craig's hand. "Is something wrong?" Craig said.

"I... I think I must be... Maybe the loss of the moustache has affected my head."

"That's quite possible," Craig said. "I knew a man who shaved off his beard once and it had a serious affect on him for a few weeks. He couldn't go outside by day, and when he was inside he drew all of the curtains and he wouldn't turn on any lights. He'd be horrified if you shone a light on his face. He used to talk to the mice in his house too, but I think he always did that."

Edgar saw the fake hand in Craig's pocket and he figured out what was going on. This was all just a practical joke, and he was the victim. And Craig was the perpetrator. He took the fake hand and used it to slap Craig across the face. He spent the first few hours of the new year chasing Craig all around the house with the hand, which proved to be much more entertaining than Craig's magic act.

The moose's head over the fireplace likes fancy dress parties. We often dress him up as Sherlock Holmes because he enjoys smoking a pipe. I don't know if he appreciates the irony of having a deer stalker hat on his antlers. The wife's uncle says he once went to a fancy dress party as a bear, and he was pursued by a woman dressed as a hunter. He allowed himself to be caught, and he inadvertently became ensnared in an engagement too. He didn't want to marry her, but he didn't know how to tell her that. The hunter look wasn't exactly a costume. She often had a gun with her, and he felt trapped. He was able to make his getaway when she fell in love with a man who actually looked like a bear. He hadn't interfered with his facial hair in years, and she loved that.