'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

State of Affairs

It's a perfect time of year to be out in the garden, but most people stay indoors in case they melt. A lot of the neighbours only go out at night. The cover of darkness gives them the freedom to behave as strangely as they want. This would explain why I found a doll with a turnip for a head in a field yesterday. I don't think I want to find a fuller explanation for this.

My cousin Craig woke up one morning and he noticed that a cat was looking at him, so he looked at the cat. This state of affairs lasted for over an hour. He was waiting for something to happen that would send this state of affairs rolling down the hill into another state of affairs. All it would take was a slight push. The phone provided that push when it rang. It was Heather. She asked him if he'd seen her cat. The answer was YES!!! but it was such a bright flashing yes that he didn't know how to say it. He remained silent for over twenty minutes. This state of affairs would have lasted much longer if another push hadn't come along. The doorbell rang. It was Joe, and he asked Craig if he'd been talking to Heather. At first Craig thought the answer would be 'yes', but this didn't seem appropriate because he had spent so much time not talking to her and very little time talking to her. On paper you'd need a magnifying glass to see this yes. If it was said you'd need very good hearing to hear it, and Joe didn't have very good hearing because once he didn't hear a goose creeping up behind him, and the goose was able to attack him. So Craig said nothing. This state of affairs persisted for over half an hour.

Joe broke the silence when he told Craig about how he had been walking by the river in the light of the moon. The woman next to him had suggested going to a party, and he told her he thought this was an excellent suggestion. So they went to the party in a house near the river. They drank and danced, and he couldn't remember falling asleep but he was sure it must have happened because he woke up lying on a floor in the house on the following morning.

When he woke there was a strange woman looking at him. "Hello, strange woman," he said. "Do you know where the woman next to me went to."

"I don't know," the strange woman said. "Have you tried looking next to you?"

"No. I haven't."

"Maybe you should."

"I will."

He looked next to him. There was a woman next to him but she wasn't the woman who had been next to him on the previous night.

"Is the woman next to you the woman who was next to you?" the strange woman said.

"The woman who is currently next to me is not the woman who was next to me last night. I intend to cease being the man next to the woman currently next to me before she wakes up."

He got up and he tip-toed out of the room. He found the woman who used to be next to him. She was asleep on an armchair. He made himself the man next to her by sitting on an armchair beside her.

When she woke he asked her if she'd do him the honour of being the woman opposite him in a cafe. She said she thought this was an excellent suggestion, so they went to a cafe for breakfast.

As Joe told this story to Craig he didn't realise that this woman who used to be next to him and opposite him was currently the woman behind him. She had walked up the garden path while he was telling the story and she heard everything.

Craig could see that this woman was Heather. She had come to ask Craig about the cat, having failed to get a satisfactory answer over the phone. She was angry with Joe for being the man next to a woman who wasn't her. She demanded to know who this woman was. He struggled to come up with an answer because he didn't know if 'I don't know' would make her even more angry. He said, "The thing about it is... I mean, it's not as if... Hey, wait a minute. Who was the man beneath you on the armchair?"

"It was... ahm... Oh look, there's my cat."

The cat came out the door at just the right time. Heather picked him up and asked him if he'd missed her. The cat didn't respond to this. Joe never said another word about the man beneath her because he knew that if he did she'd just ask about the woman next to him.

When Craig woke up on the following morning he saw a snake. He chose to ignore this.

The moose's head over the fireplace loves the sound of the piano when the wife plays it. A piano tuner came to tune it last week. He told us he'd been tuning pianos for forty years and in that time he met some fascinating pianos and a lot of boring people. He says he's never met anyone with as much personality as the dullest of pianos, and when he removes people who secretly live in pianos he restores the instrument's life. I've felt intimidated by our piano ever since he tuned it.