'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Cyril's Cow

This pale imitation of summer is starting to resemble autumn. People say that my imitation of Nelson Mandela is a lot like Sylvester Stallone.

My uncle Cyril once bought a litre of milk in the local shop and he found a dead fly in it. He took both the fly and the milk back to the shop and he demanded a refund. The man who owned the shop said, "The fly must have flown into the milk just after you opened it."

"The fly came out of the milk just after I opened it. He was dead, and he'd been dead for some time."

"It sounds as if you've performed a post mortem on this fly. You must have looked very closely to see that it's a 'he'. Is that what you normally do to flies?"

"Is it normal for your milk to have dead flies in it?"

"It's not 'my' milk. I've never produced milk in my life. You can have a closer look at my apparatus to see for yourself."

Cyril left the shop as the owner was opening his shirt. On his way out, Cyril said he'd never buy milk there again.

He bought a cow to provide the milk. He had to buy a huge amount of cornflakes because the cow refused to eat grass. She also refused to drink her own milk with the cornflakes, so he ended up buying more milk than ever, and he had to drive to another shop to get it. He had to drink her milk, but it wasn't as nice as the milk from the shop. He experimented with her diet to see if he could improve the taste of the milk, and he found that it was just about bearable when he fed her smoked salmon.

His experiments branched out to other areas. He read bedtime stories to the cow and he performed puppet shows for her. He dressed as Julius Caesar and read speeches. Some of these things brought slight changes to the quality of the milk, but he found that there was a significant improvement after the cow heard his neighbour, Nora, singing a song about the summer. Cyril started selling the milk to the neighbours, and they loved it. Some of them became addicted to it.

Cyril was making a lot of money from the milk, but it all went wrong when Nora started singing sad songs. The milk went bad, and the people who were addicted to it nearly went mad. Cyril tried to convince Nora to sing happy songs again, but she said she couldn't because she'd never feel happy again. It was because of a prediction by a man called Logan.

Logan believed he could tell the future by looking carefully at the weather. He was useless at predicting the weather. He'd stand in a field and try to take it all in, listening to the wind and looking at where it went to. He saw it as a puppy running through the fields, or sometimes just chasing its own tail. His predictions often involved a dog. Nora heard him give the following prediction: "A grey-eared dog will come and a limping man will soon follow."

She had just seen the dog. She knew that the limping man wouldn't be too far behind, and she knew who he was. It was Andrew, her fiance. He was always leaving and returning a few months later. Every time he drifted back into her life he brought havoc, but she struggled to resist him. He'd been gone for nearly a year and she was starting to think she'd finally be able to break free from him, but when she saw the grey-eared dog she knew she couldn't. He'd get drunk every night and get into fights. He'd sleep in ditches or on top of whatever he fell onto. He once slept on a stuffed alligator.

Cyril was desperate to get her singing happy songs again. He knew that he'd have to convince Andrew to turn over a new leaf if she was ever to be happy again. The only way Andrew would change would be if he thought there was a chance he'd lose her, and the only way he'd think this would be if he thought she had fallen in love with someone else. So Cyril got another man to pretend to be in love with Nora. This other man needed to be big and strong so Andrew wouldn't beat him up. Cyril chose a man called Rick, who used to be a hammer thrower. He started out throwing sledge hammers at vans. An athletics coach channelled this hobby in a more fruitful direction. He only went back to throwing things at vans when someone accused him of using performance-enhancing drugs. When he started using his face as a notice board it probably had something to do with drugs, but they wouldn't have enhanced his performance. If anything, the bits of paper stuck to his face would have distracted him during his throws.

Andrew arrived back three days after Nora saw the dog. He had been all around the world on a ship. He brought back blue sugar for her dog, and for her he brought the feathers of endangered species.

When he saw her with Rick he was shocked. He didn't know what to do. His plan of action for most situations involved breaking a chair over another man's back, but it wouldn't be wise to do that to Rick.

Cyril found Andrew sitting at the side of the road. He told Andrew he was going to help him win back Nora's heart. A make-over was needed. They went to a barber first, and then they went to get Andrew a new suit.

When the physical transformation was complete, Cyril took Andrew to see a man known as Tree. He was at peace with the world, and women seemed to love that. He regarded the interaction with other people as a martial art. He believed that he'd never have to use violence on anyone because his soul had reached a level of enlightenment that placed him above the people he interacted with. It would have taken Andrew years to reach this level, so Tree thought it would be dangerous to teach his martial art. Instead he focussed on fostering a sense of peace.

Andrew got the impression that Tree had learnt most of his teaching methods from watching Karate Kid. He painted the fence around Tree's house, but he didn't complain because he got some very good advice on how to behave around women. Tree told him you didn't need to say very much to them. What was left unsaid was just as important as what was said, and the way you didn't say things mattered too. It was also important to listen.

While Andrew's re-education was taking place, Nora's songs to the cows were becoming much more upbeat again, and the milk was improving. At first Cyril thought that her return to form was due to the prospect of having a new and improved Andrew, but then he started to see the truth. She was falling in love with Rick.

Cyril was afraid that Andrew would find out who brought Nora and Rick together. Cyril wasn't big enough to make Andrew think twice about breaking a chair over his back. But if he acted to break up Nora and Rick's new relationship he'd always be afraid that Rick would find out.

It was Rick's tendency to break chairs over the backs of other men that saved the day. He got into a fight with a man in the pub. It started over a disagreement about a fingernail in a glass. The other man had an unfair advantage in the fight: he had a twin brother, and they were both huge. Rick had to leave town for his own safety.

Andrew was there to fill his shoes. At first Nora did a good job of not talking to him. And the way she didn't say things suggested that what was unsaid would have to be bleeped out if she said it. But her resistance was broken down by a song he wrote for her. He knew how much she loved singing so he thought this would be the best way to win her back, and he was right. He sang the song for her and performed a dance routine. The song included the following lines: 'I love your face, I love your head. I'm sorry I blew up your shed'.

Nora was happier than ever, but the cow's milk was worse than ever because Andrew always sang with her. Cyril understood the cow's mind, and he was sure that she'd find Andrew's dance routines disturbing.

The moose's head over the fireplace has never been disturbed by a dance routine, but he's found some of them slightly unsettling, like when the wife's aunt performed a two-hour dance that represented her battle with a bee in a bottle and a Norwegian sailor who was dazed after being hit on the head with the leg of a grand piano.