'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Stupidists

We've had some snow, a lot of rain and some very strong winds recently. The wind makes a magnificent sound when it plays in the garden. I could listen to it for hours. My grandfather used to play the ear trumpet in a silent jazz band. They did soundtracks for silent films. He loved playing the ear trumpet in the shed on windy evenings because it was such a beautiful form of silence.

My cousin Gary once fell in love with a woman called Glenda. 'Love' might be overstating it. It was her looks that made him feel the way he did. He saw her in the pub one evening and he didn't see anything else in his mind for a few days. It took him another few weeks before he steadied his nerves enough to be able to speak to her, and when he did he soon realised that she was nothing like the woman he had imagined. She was very intelligent, and Gary thought he'd need to appear intelligent himself if he wanted to attract her.

His friend, Martin, had fallen in 'love' with her too, and he was trying to appear intelligent and well-read. They'd arrive in the pub with copies of books by Sartre, and they'd try to mention Sophocles in their conversations, hoping she'd overhear them.

In the beer garden one evening, Gary came across Martin reading poetry. "I once saw a monkey with an umbrella," Gary said. "For some reason I'm reminded of that when I see you with a poetry book."

"I once saw a man reading a French version of one of Sartre's novels, and he doesn't know any French. That man was you."

"She doesn't know I don't know French."

"It won't take her long to find out. I might accidentally say something to you in French and let you struggle your way out of that hole."

"You don't know French either."

"You can barely speak English."

"I'm fluent in this language." Gary pushed Martin.

"Be careful of what you say, or you'll get an unexpected response." Martin pushed Gary back. Within seconds they were fighting, but they stopped when they noticed that Glenda was looking at them. She smiled.

Martin said to Gary, "That's what you get for claiming that Stendhal is better than Balzac."

"What? What did I get? An idiot fighting like a girl?"

"Why couldn't you beat an idiot fighting like a girl?"

"I beat you into a pulp."

"Why am I still here then? And where's the pulp that supposedly took my place?"

Glenda had gone by then. Gary knew he'd never impress her by fighting, and he was starting to suspect that pretending to be well-read wouldn't work either.

A friend of theirs had an art exhibition in a small gallery over a cafe. When Gary arrived, Martin was standing in front of a painting and trying to look thoughtful.

"Still wasting your time nurturing this supposed intellect of yours," Gary said. "It's sad, in many ways. And in many other ways it's funny. Not that it matters to me what it is or isn't or could be if a kangaroo had it. Very few things matter to me now, but those few things matter a lot."

"There's nothing 'supposed' about my intellect."

"If you need an intellect to play with like a child playing with a rattler, then fine. Your intellect will make a perfectly good rattler. I've realised that it's all completely pointless. When you reach a higher level of intellect you can see just how pointless intellectualism is. I've reached that level."

"I reached it months ago."

"You haven't shown it. I haven't seen you do anything stupid in the conventional sense of the word, though your failed attempts at intellectualism have been quite stupid."

"If it's stupid to be intellectual, then my failed attempts at intellectualism must make me clever, by your logic."

"Quite possibly. By my logic. Now that I value stupidity I don't care if I contradict myself." Gary broke a plate off his head.

"I could out-stupid you any day."

"You couldn't out-stupid anyone. You're not clever enough."

"We'll see about that."

Martin jumped through an open window. This is how he won the heart of Glenda. She went to see him in hospital, and after he went home she visited his house every day and made him soup. Being helpless was a much better way to win her affections than being clever or being stupid, and she also found something deeply appealing in the fact that he had jumped out the window of an art gallery.

The moose's head over the fireplace loves the sound of the wind as well. He looks as if he's lost in another world when he hears the gale blowing outside. He's probably imagining the dancing trees and the dark clouds rolling by above. The wife's uncle says he knows a man who claims to have held onto a weather balloon in a storm and been blown fifty miles away. During his flight he was shot at on more than one occasion and he came close to crash landing in a quarry. It sounds unlikely, but he has led a life a lot like James Bond's, although he's led his in a graveyard.