'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Heavy rain and strong winds. It feels like summer at last. The forecasters say it'll be like this for the next week, and yet the sun seems to be shining all the time at Wimbledon. When I was young my grandfather told me that when he was young it used to rain from May until September. They tied a piece of string around a tennis ball and they suspended it from a tree just to remind themselves of what the sun looked like.

My uncle Ben often went to see a friend of his called Davey who lived in an old farmhouse with his younger brother, Noel. Davey spoke in a loud voice. He believed that statements weren't worth stating unless they were loud enough to make birds fly from trees and frighten small children. Noel was very quiet. Sometimes Ben would listen carefully and he'd hear Noel say things like, "If the past tense of 'know' is 'knew', and 'throw' is 'threw', then shouldn't 'show' be 'shew'? I shew my shoe to the woman who said I'd die by getting my ear caught in something." To Ben, statements like these were a sure sign of intelligence. He also regarded being able to open cans as a sign of intelligence.

When Ben called around to their house one day Davey was stuck to his shoes. You could tell because he kept saying, "I'm stuck to my shoes! To my shoes!" People for miles around could hear him.

He didn't say that his shoes were stuck to him because he believed his shoes had more personality than him. They were the dominant character in the relationship. If they could have spoken they'd have said, "Who's that man who's stuck to us?"

If his shoes had been stuck to his feet it wouldn't have been a problem. He could have gone on like this for weeks without even noticing. But each shoe was stuck to the back of his trousers. He woke up that way in the morning. Someone must have glued the shoes to his trousers during the night, and he couldn't remove them without tearing his trousers.

Ben put some thought into the problem, but to no avail. He suggested going to the pub at the bottom of the hill, an old building that looked as if it had been abandoned for years. Someone there might be able to solve the problem, someone like The Worm. The Worm was one of Davey's cousins. He spent most of his days in the pub, talking about Pleasantville. His conception of Pleasantville was of a place where nothing bad ever happened, and people had no fear of something bad just around the corner. Someone called 'The Worm' would never be allowed to live in a place like Pleasantville, and he had no desire to live there because every now and then he felt a need to make something bad happen. But the town was an important feature of the geography in his mind. He added to the geography of the town every time he spoke about it.

When Ben and Davey arrived in the pub, The Worm was talking about how all of the birds in Pleasantville are puppets on strings, but no one ever wonders who's pulling the strings. Davey explained the problem he was having with the shoes. "I've thought about getting dogs to bite the shoes off," Davey said, "but I'm worried that the shoes will get dogs to bite me off. I'd taste nicer than the shoes. This is one of the few areas in which I'd be superior to them."

"If this was in Pleasantville," the Worm said, "the shoes would remove themselves voluntarily. They'd walk away apologetically and park themselves in a dark corner. Dogs would only bite the shoes of criminals, and then be rewarded by the police. The pubs in Pleasantville would only have entertaining drunks."

There was silence in the pub when The Worm stopped talking. The place was full of un-entertaining drunks. It was the perfect place to be if you didn't like people and you couldn't stand being on your own. Most of the drinkers only barely qualified as people, and only one or two could stand on their own.

"The robots in Pleasantville will eventually leave the place and take us all away," The Worm said when the silence became too oppressive. He didn't know where the robots would take us to. He was working on ways of ingratiating himself to them.

The atmosphere of the pub was starting to depress Ben, and Davey was giving up hope of ever seeing his shoes in front of him again, unless he wore his trousers back to front. Whenever they became depressed and their souls cried out for something uplifting, instead of turning to art or nature they just went to see Pogo. Pogo spent hours jumping up and down on his pogo stick every evening. He travelled all the local roads on it. They found his love of life uplifting. If they could have seen a woman on a pogo stick it would have been as uplifting as a choir on pogo sticks singing Ode to Joy, but they had to settle for Pogo. People went to see him for all sorts of reasons. When the bar man in another pub invented a new cocktail he needed a way of shaking it. Pogo let him climb on his back while he jumped up and down. The bar man held the cocktail shaker while he was attached to Pogo's back. He found the experience so uplifting that he started crying.

Ben and Davey spent twenty minutes looking at Pogo jumping up and down on a narrow road. They would have kept looking at him until it got dark, but Ben had a brilliant idea. He said to Davey, "Why don't you climb on Pogo's back while he's jumping up and down, and maybe the shoes will fall off."

Pogo agreed to let Davey on his back. The sight of them on the pogo stick was entertaining, but it didn't loosen the shoes. Ben got a shock when he heard Noel say, "I have a better plan."

Noel had been with them all along, but Ben hadn't noticed him. Pogo hadn't noticed him either. He lost his concentration when he heard Noel's voice. He fell off with Davey, and the pogo stick flew up in the air. It landed on Noel's head. The blow to the head seemed to affect him. Ben asked him what his plan was but he just muttered something about the robots.

Davey's problem had got worse. When he was getting a piggy-back ride on Pogo, Pogo was holding the backs of Davey's legs, where the shoes were stuck. There was glue on the shoes, and Pogo's hands got stuck to them. He couldn't free himself from Davey. The two of them were rolling around on the ground. Noel was too dazed to do anything about it so it was down to Ben to solve the problem, and he came up with a brilliant idea. He said to Pogo, "Davey was just telling me how much he loves your eyes."

Pogo was horrified. He struggled to get free from Davey, but he only managed it by pulling off Davey's trousers. He was even more horrified when he realised what he'd done. He ran away from the trousers but the trousers followed him. Davey ran after his shoes and his trousers. "That was my idea," Noel said.

Pogo was chased around a field by the trousers and by Davey for over an hour. All the drinkers in the pub came out to see it because they heard Davey shouting. The heat and the sweat on Pogo's hands eventually loosened the grip of the glue, so the shoes and trousers fell off. This gave Davey an idea for removing the shoes from his trousers. It was something he'd never have thought of doing: washing his trousers in warm water.

The moose's head over the fireplace once had a woman's shoe stuck in his antlers on the morning after a party. A lot of people tried it on, but we never found out who owned it. The wife's uncle says he has a collection of shoes that women threw at him from upstairs windows as he ran from their houses. Each shoe is associated with a happy memory. He didn't collect the things that the husbands threw at him, although he did hold onto the bullet that became lodged in the bible in his back pocket. The bible belonged to the woman he'd just been with. It was on her kitchen table. He put it in his pocket so she wouldn't feel guilty about what they were doing.