'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Restaurant

I cut the grass for the first time this year. One of our neighbours often used his lawnmower over the winter, but he used it on the carpet in his living room. He doesn't know why it keeps growing, and he doesn't want to know what's living in it. He puts elastic bands around the legs of his trousers to stop things from running up his legs. His brother wears bell-bottoms because he likes the idea of something running up his legs, but he's still waiting for something to do this. He hasn't had any more luck with the women in the pub. It might be the bell-bottoms that put them off, or else it's what he asks them to do inside his trousers.

My cousin Charlie and his girlfriend, Grainne, once spent a week painting an apartment. Grainne had an interest in interior design, and her brother asked her to decorate his new apartment. It took her weeks to decide what colours to use. During this time she visited the apartment at different times of the day and the night, she played different types of music in the rooms, she stood completely still in the kitchen for an hour, she spent many hours meditating and she threw darts at a colour chart. The apartment was on the fourth floor of a building, and there was another apartment building at the other side of the street. In the apartment directly opposite them, Charlie and Grainne often saw a woman in a uniform. It looked like a military uniform, but they had never seen a member of the Irish army wear anything like that.

Grainne wanted to find out more about the woman in the uniform because the uncertainty was distracting her from the colours. Charlie decided to ask his cousin Craig to solve the case. Craig considered himself to be a weekend detective. When he wasn't out with his metal detector he was trying to solve crimes, or if not crimes then mysteries. These mysteries were often just slightly-out-of-the-ordinary behaviour. So Charlie called him and asked him to investigate the mystery of the woman in the uniform.

Craig came around to the apartment and he looked through the blinds at the woman in the other apartment. He kept looking at her for twenty minutes. Charlie and Grainne thought that this was part of his investigative technique, but when he finally broke the silence he said, "Her gaze could make me fall and break my heart ten times before I hit the ground."

"You've been reading too many books," Grainne said. "Or you've been doing too much of something anyway. Only people who do too much of something say things like that. And they say things like that because they've been doing too little of other things, which results from doing too much of one thing. You've been doing too little of other things."

"I'd like to do a lot of other things with her. Or an awful lot of one thing."

"That would be healthier than whatever it is you're doing now. But she's not the sort of woman who'd fall for someone like you."

"Why not?"

"Because you'd fall off a ten-storey building for someone like her. The type of person you want the most is almost always the type of person who wants you the least. You've got to simply want someone. Just plain and simple want. If you desperately want them, you're in trouble. This only applies until you get to know them. When you know them well you can desperately want them. But if you desperately want someone you've only seen from another building, you've really got to start doing more of other things and less of one thing."

"I desperately want to get to know her. That's one of the other things I'll be doing. In fact, it's the only thing I'll be doing. This is the new one thing. I'll be devoting everything about me into getting to know her."

"And she'll have to get to know you too. She won't like what she sees if everything about you is a need to know her. Ye wouldn't have much to talk about. This is why you shouldn't desperately want someone. They'll want you less. They'll think you're odd."

"She might love talking about herself. We'll never run out of things to talk about then."

Craig came back on the following morning to look at the woman again. This time she was pacing nervously from one end of the room to the other. After twenty minutes of pacing she left the apartment. Craig, Charlie and Grainne ran down the stairs, and they met the woman on the street below. Craig asked her if she was in the army. He said he was thinking of joining the army himself.

She told them her name was Imogen and she was the manager of a restaurant with a military theme. The owner of the restaurant used to run another restaurant with his brother. In this one, all of the waiters and waitresses wore school uniforms. The chef wore a mortar board. But the two brothers had an argument and one of them left to start the military restaurant. It was meant to suggest a war with his brother. The chef from the school restaurant moved to the new one. His name was Giles. He was a brilliant chef, but he had always been on the verge of exploding with rage, and he was worse than ever in the military uniform. Someone who had worked with him before told them that he could be calmed if you kept throwing tennis balls at his head for about ten minutes. No one had the nerve to try this, but Giles became so terrifying that they had to try something.

Ethan, one of the waiters, agreed to throw the tennis balls at Giles. They got a bag full of balls, and they practised on a dummy first. When Ethan threw the first one at the chef's head, Giles was stunned. Ethan kept throwing them, and Giles didn't move. The other waiters, waitresses and the kitchen staff were picking up the balls and putting them back into the bag. They could see a look of calm beginning to bloom on Giles's face, and it looked as if the plan was going to work, but there was a golf ball in the bag. Ethan threw it, and Giles was filled with rage when it hit his head. He picked up a meat cleaver. Ethan ran away, Giles followed him and the rest of the staff followed Giles.

This had happened on the previous night. Imogen had no idea where they had got to. Craig, Charlie and Grainne said they'd help in the search for the staff. Craig asked Imogen what sort of man Ethan was. "He can be a bit odd at times," she said. "'Odd' as in awkward. He has an interest in history. He can be very odd when he's disputing some point about history."

"If he has an interest in history he'd be very familiar with the museum. I'd go to the museum if I wanted to hide. There are plenty of hiding places there."

So they went to the museum and they looked for Ethan, Giles and the other staff. Craig pointed out all of the hiding places he'd used himself in the past. He once spent a weekend hiding in the museum when one of his flatmates broke up with his girlfriend and started playing Michael Bolton albums.

Imogen got a phone call from one of the waitresses, who said she was hiding behind a bush in the park. Ethan was in a tree and Giles was waiting for him to come down.

Imogen, Craig, Charlie and Grainne went to the park. Ethan was still in the tree, and he was infuriating Giles even further by making fun of his knowledge of history.

"We'll have to use the tennis balls again," Craig said.

"What if we hit him in the wrong place?" Imogen said.

"It's a risk we'll have to take."

They went to a sports shop and they bought fifty tennis balls. They went back to the park and Craig started throwing the balls at the chef's head. This stunned Giles and he remained completely still. Ethan came down from the tree and he picked up a stick. He was just about to throw it at Giles, but the other kitchen staff jumped on him and held him down.

"You know nothing about the battle of Stalingrad," Ethan said. "Nothing."

After ten minutes of being hit by tennis balls, a look of calm dominated Giles's face. Craig stopped throwing the balls.

"What a beautiful day," Giles said. "Wow! Look at that leaf. And that one! Look, there's another one!"

They all went back to the restaurant. Imogen gave a free meal to Craig, Charlie and Grainne. Craig had a chance to have a private chat with Imogen.

After their meal they went back to the apartment, and Grainne asked Craig if he was still in love with Imogen.

"No," he said. "Now that I've met her and spoken to her, the mystery is gone. I don't need her at all now. I remembered what you said about not having a chance with her if I really needed her, and you were right about that. I asked her out and she said yes."

The moose's head over the fireplace has been busy reading the racing newspapers over the past few days. I've been busy holding the papers up in front of him. He has a great record at predicting winners at Cheltenham. The wife's uncle says that he once thought he'd make a fortune at the races after he developed a system to communicate with horses through a series of winks. But the horses weren't as good at predicting winners as he hoped they'd be. They all said things like, "I'll definitely win. Look at that eejit over there. How could he possibly win? And look at that eejit over there. He doesn't know what he's doing here." He also developed a language to communicate with professional footballers.