'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Keys

The dog has a new friend to play with in the garden. Our neighbours got a new dog (they call him 'Caveman' because of his wild hair) and he often comes around to visit. The wife's aunt doesn't believe he's a real dog. She thinks he's a ghost and that he's communicating with her telepathically. She says he told her he used to be able to tap dance when he had real paws, and real shoes.

My cousin Gary was eating an ice cream cone in the park one summer day. He was perfectly happy to stand there with his ice cream, watching a dog run in circles.

He saw a woman who was frowning, and she was putting a lot of effort into keeping the frown on her face. He went over to her and asked her if something was wrong, and she said, "I've lost my keys."

Having divulged the answer she could erase the frown from her face. She looked relieved, and this led him to conclude that there was some truth to our grandfather's favourite maxim: 'A problem shared is a problem solved'. When he passed this advice on to the woman, a minor frown returned to her face. She said, "But I still haven't found my keys."

This led Gary to conclude that there may after all be some truth to our grandmother's favourite maxim, which was: 'If we started listening to that eejit we'd all be living underground, trying to see how much of our belongings we can hide in our mouths'.

He didn't think this advice would be of any benefit to the woman in the park, whose name was Sophie, so he kept it to himself. Instead he said, "Where were you when you realised your keys were missing?"

"Exactly where I am now," she said. "I haven't moved since making the realisation."

"Have you tried looking around you?"

"No. I never thought of that. If I had thought of it I wouldn't have thought there'd be much point in doing it. But I suppose it's worth trying anyway."

They searched the ground all around her, but they didn't find the keys. By then his ice cream had gone too, but he had no desire to get it back.

He suggested going to the phone booth. He often went there when he wanted to know something. Countless answers were written on the glass of the booth.

They looked through them to see if any of those answers corresponded to the question 'Where are my keys?'. One of the answers was 'Ask Bongo Patten', so they decided to try that one.

They went to see Bongo, and he was glad he'd advertised on the phone booth. He said he'd need to go into a trance to answer the question. He'd been going into trances since he was sixteen, when his uncle chased a cat for three hours. It had a hypnotic effect on Bongo. He fell into a trance in which he thought he was being chased by the editor of the local newspaper, who was holding a stick. Despite this feeling, he couldn't move. He was filled with terror until he came out of the trance. Ever since then he's always threatened newspaper editors with a stick if they get too close to him and he's often sought the adrenalin rush of the terror he experienced in the trance. He's never quite matched the terror of that first trance, but he's come close on a few occasions. In one trance he thought he was Napoleon and he was berating a man who told a dirty joke to a bear.

He went into a trance to find an answer to her question about the keys. It sounded as if he was trying to convince a woman to sing in his band and she was refusing because they sang too many songs about killing and eating dragons. When he came out of his trance he said, "I've been in many semi-conscious pipe bands in my travels through the ether. I've been sick and well, rich and poor, tall, small and square. I've written letters to myself, and when I've emerged from my trance I've spent months searching for those letters, but I only found one of them. It said 'Dear Me, I think you should look behind me, Yours Sincerely, You'. When I looked behind me I saw something words wouldn't stick to if I glued them on and stuck them with pins. It's enough to say that it was well worth my while looking behind me. And now I've seen another sight that's resistant to words. 'The truth' are the only two words I can attach to it, and never a truer word or two were ever spoken. 'The Truth' with a capital T is that ye should ask Boyle Keneally."

"How would he know where my keys are?"

"He knows where everything is. Ask about the keys and he'll just close his eyes and he'll see them in his head. Ye just have to find him first. Not many people know where he is. Go to see his brother Ball first. Ball will find Boyle and Boyle will find your keys. Ball is like Boyle's secretary."

Bongo charged twenty euros for his 'consultation'. Gary and Sophie found Ball at an abandoned petrol station just outside the town. Gary asked him if he could locate Boyle. Ball said, "I can do that. I can do that. Did you ever hear such rubbish about the milkman? Did you ever hear such rubbish? Stop licking my potatoes."

Ball took out a diary and looked through it. He said, "Boyle had an eleven o' clock appointment at the old mill. We should find him there. It wouldn't be so crispy if you stopped picking it."

They went to the old mill, but there was no sign of Boyle. Ball said, "If bishops will take on the other bishops at the other side of the chess board, does that mean that one side is Catholic and the other side is Protestant?"

"I doubt it," Gary said.

"If they are, I'd like to know which side is which. Are you twisting something in your parlour, Mr. Moriarty?"

"Do you play chess?"

"No. And I never will. No and I never will."

"Then you don't really need to know."

"I suppose not. Clubs, ha! I've seen better clubs in a dog's hat box."

"What about Boyle?" Sophie said. "I really need to find my keys."

Ball started looking through the diary again. "He also had an eleven o' clock appointment at the snooker hall," he said, "and one in the supermarket. But he can't go into the supermarket."

Sophie took the diary out of his hands. She saw that it was over twenty years old, and it was full of drawings.

"It's the wrong diary," Ball said. "The wrong diary. Those things had finger nails but no fingers."

"Do you have any idea where your brother might be?"

"I do. I do indeed. Now that you mention it, an idea is the one thing I have. Follow me."

They followed him. He led them to the snooker hall, but Boyle wasn't there. They also went to the supermarket and to the church, but they still couldn't find him.

When Ball led them down a dead-end, Sophie said, "You have no idea where he is, do you?"

"I do. I do indeed. An idea of where he is is exactly the thing I have."

"Well where is he?"

"I think he's... there." Ball pointed at a house.

"That's my house," Sophie said.

Gary said to her, "Would the keys in the lock on the front door be your keys, by any chance?"

"Oh. Yeah. Now I know what happened. I left the house earlier, but as I was walking down the garden path I remembered that I forgot my handbag. I'd left it in the hall. So I opened the door again, got my handbag and left, but I forgot to take the keys out of the door. Sorry about all the hassle. Can I offer ye a cup of tea to make up for it?"

She was hoping that Gary would say yes and Ball would say no, but they both said yes. They went inside, and when they got to the kitchen they saw that the tea had already been made. Boyle was sitting at the table.

"Didn't I tell ye I'd find him?" Ball said. "I have a sort of a telepathic link with him. Didn't I tell ye I'd find him? Didn't I tell ye? Have you lost your bath?"

"I made him say that," Boyle said. "I made him say that."

Ball ran away screaming, with his hands over his ears.

"I was looking for you because I wanted to find my keys," Sophie said to Boyle.

"I charge fifty euros for finding keys."

"I already found them. I just realised that they were on my front door."

"The keys on the door, of course. That's how I got in. Right, well in that case, let me rephrase what I just said. My charge for finding keys is fifty euros and I found your keys. Then it was a matter of you finding me, and you only did that because of my telepathic link with Ball."

She paid the money just to get rid of him, but he stayed on for another few hours anyway.

The moose's head over the fireplace has looked surprised ever since Cork's comeback against Kerry in the football semi-final on Sunday. He hasn't been this surprised since the wife's aunt told us she met a horse who used to follow Saint Patrick around the country because Saint Patrick kept giving him sugar.