'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Referee

The garden gnomes are struggling to stay upright in the wind. The Snow White gnome has lost some of her dwarves. When I mentioned this to the wife's aunt she did her impression of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. It was basically just Snow White kicking the air around her, shouting, "Get away! Get away!"

My cousin Hector went to a match with his friends, Steve and Sean, on a Saturday afternoon in July. Half of the match was football and the other half involved looking at feathers. Most of the spectators lost interest and they started looking at a man who was looking at something through a telescope.

Hector, Steve and Sean were more interested in the referee. He looked as if he was dead, and that he was only staying upright because he'd been attached to a pole. He was standing near the sideline and he never moved. When Hector asked him if he was okay he said, "Is there something wrong with my eyeballs?"

"They look fine, relative to the rest of your face."

"Thanks. That's all I really wanted to know."

A few minutes later the referee looked up at the sky and shouted, "Can you tell me when the next waiter will be coming by?"

Hector said, "Who are you talking to?"

"I don't know. God, maybe. Whoever controls the waiters."

"Do the waiters come by often?"

"Oh yes. The last one was here just three years ago. He brought me a brandy. I could do with another one now."

"I haven't seen any waiters around," Steve said, "but maybe we can get you a brandy from the pub."

Hector, Steve and Sean went to the pub and ordered a brandy for the referee. While they were waiting at the bar Sean met a woman called Vera. He started talking to her, and he stayed behind in the pub when Hector and Steve took the brandy to the referee.

The drink seemed to restore some life to the ref. He took a renewed interest in the game, and he started giving yellow cards to anyone who looked at a feather. He gave a red card to a man who looked at a pineapple.

Hector and Steve went back to the pub. Sean was engrossed in a conversation with Vera, and they were still talking at closing time.

Hector and Steve went to see Sean on the following day. He was making a spare head out of mud, just in case something happened to his real head. Hector guessed that something must have already happened to his real head.

They noticed that the mud head had false teeth, and on closer inspection they saw that the teeth belonged to Boris. They could tell because of a missing tooth at the front. Boris kept his false teeth in his pocket, and he only put them in his mouth when he needed to smile or to bite through some rope.

"Boris will be furious when he finds out what you did with his teeth," Steve said to Sean. "And he's not the sort of person you'd want to anger. He beat up that man who made fun of his fingernails."

"Maybe you should give them back," Hector said.

"It can't be done," Sean said. "The head said he'd bite anyone who tries to take the teeth out."

There was definitely something wrong with Sean's head. It would only get worse if Boris found out where his teeth were, so when Sean's back was turned, Hector took the teeth from the mud head. He left with Steve.

"We need to get the teeth back into Boris's pocket," Steve said, "At least it'll be easier than putting them in his mouth."

"I'm not so sure. I'd say Boris would be more careful about what goes in and out of his pocket than what goes in and out of his mouth."

"We need to create a distraction. I think we should use The Clappers."

The Clappers are a group of people who can be hired to applaud just about anything, from plays to dogs digging holes. On Christmas Eve they do it to raise money for charity. They go from house to house, applauding people at their front doors. They were once hired to boo a politician, but they couldn't do it with any conviction, so they stick to the applause now.

Hector and Steve hired The Clappers to applaud Boris while he was hammering a wall. He stopped hammering when the applause began. He seemed a bit confused at first. This was the perfect time for Hector to creep up behind him and put the teeth back into his pocket, but Boris regained his composure and he thought he should smile at the people applauding him. He reached towards his pocket to get the teeth just as Hector was about to withdraw his hand.

Boris caught hold of Hector's hand. He seemed a bit confused at first, but then it all made sense to him. "You were just using them as a distraction," he said. "You were trying to steal my teeth."

"No, I was trying to return your teeth."

"My teeth weren't missing."

"When was the last time you used them?"

"About three days ago, when I had to break someone's saxophone."

"They went missing in the meantime. You just didn't notice."

"Why didn't you bring them to me and say, 'I found these.'"

"Because you'd have thought we stole them."

"I wouldn't. I know ye were trying to steal them because you had your hand in my pocket."

"You must have put your hand in your pocket for other reasons. Didn't you notice that something was missing?"


Steve gave a signal to The Clappers to start applauding. Boris turned around when he heard the applause. Hector and Steve ran away.

They hid behind a ditch. They didn't move for a few minutes, but then Steve saw some teeth marks on a tree nearby and they went to investigate. They knew that the bite on the bark must have been caused by Boris's teeth because of the missing front tooth. They saw a similar bite on a tree just a few yards away.

While they were examining this, Boris crept up behind them. They turned around when he said, "Prepare to lose some teeth." He was holding a stick.

Hector showed him the bite marks and he said, "Whoever took your teeth bit these trees."

Boris said, "I think ye took my teeth for a joyride and ye're trying to blame it on someone else now."

"We could at least follow the trail and see where it leads."

"Okay. But ye're only delaying the inevitable."

The trail led to Vera's house. Hector and Steve thought that Sean must have come across the teeth somehow and then ended up at Vera's house, but Boris was able to tell them what really happened. He remembered being in the pub the night before. Vera asked him if she could put her hand in his pocket, and he told her to go ahead. He thought he'd have to pay for it, but she did it for free.

Hector knocked on Vera's front door. When she opened it he asked her about the teeth and she admitted taking them. She told them about her father. He used to play golf, and every time he found a golf ball he'd test it to see if he could eat it. Almost all of them were inedible, but once he found a golf ball that was made out of marshmallow. He enjoyed eating it, but then he regretted it because he'd eaten something he'd found in the woods. He was afraid he'd get sick, but he didn't, and this convinced him that eating things he found in the woods was a good idea. He ate things he found in the fields as well, or he tried to eat them. Most trees were inedible.

Vera always wondered what it would feel like to attempt to eat nearly everything she found. She told Sean about this after a few drinks in the pub, and he suggested using Boris's teeth to eat things, so she wouldn't damage her own teeth.

After acquiring the teeth, she left the pub with Sean. They tried to eat trees, fence posts, cans, clothes pegs and a shoe. Hector and Steve suspected that Sean's head must have been affected by something he ate. Vera told them that Sean wanted to go to see the referee. The ref was feeling much better after his brandy, but he still hadn't moved. Sean bit his arm to see if this would bring him to life, and it did. The referee ran in circles for a few minutes, and he started laughing. Then he did a dance. It seemed as if he'd been set free. "You're the referee now," he said to Sean. "I became the referee years ago after biting a scarecrow, but you're the referee now."

The man ran away into the night. They heard his laughter fading to silence. Sean didn't feel as if he was the referee. He just went back to biting things with Vera.

Boris was horrified to hear that his teeth had been in the mouth of another man, and that they'd been used to bite another man. "He'll pay for this," Boris said. "You can let him know that he'll pay for this."

Hector and Steve went to see Sean to warn him. Sean had started working on another replacement head after the mud head lost its teeth. This new head been carved from a turnip, and it looked much better than the mud head. This gave Hector an idea.

Later that evening Hector and Steve went to see Boris, and they told him they wanted to talk him out of getting revenge on Sean. He didn't want to listen, but they said they'd buy him a few drinks in the pub, and he agreed to go.

Their attempts to talk him out of the revenge only made him more angry. "Sean wouldn't hurt a fly," Steve said. "He doesn't deserve any phyiscal retribution for using your teeth. He says that if you let him have the teeth again, he'd kiss you."

After a few hours of this, Boris was full of rage and alcohol. He couldn't wait any longer to get revenge on Sean. Hector told him that Sean was at the football pitch, standing where the referee used to stand.

Hector and Steve went to the pitch with Boris. It took longer than expected because Boris wasn't able to walk in a straight line, but he was just about able to stand in front of Sean and throw a punch at Sean's head. When the head fell off, Boris started screaming. He ran away. Steve picked the turnip off the ground and replaced it on the body of the scarecrow.

Hector, Steve and Sean went to Boris's house later that night. Boris looked terrified when he opened the door. Hector told him that they'd managed to re-attach Sean's head, but he was still a bit dazed. Boris shook Sean's hand and he said, "I'm terribly sorry about what happened. If you ever want to use my teeth for anything, just ask."

The moose's head over the fireplace seems to be transfixed by the wife's aunt's impression of Snow White. It does have a hypnotic effect. Billy, one of our neighbours, has a stag's head over his fireplace. The head also serves as a goldfish bowl. You can see the fish if you look into the stag's eyes, but you'll be hypnotised by them if you look for long enough. Billy says the head is very good at identifying the best time to buy and sell shares.