'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I have so many vivid memories of hot summer days. I've made no lodgements in that memory bank this year, but I have accumulated many memories of looking at the rain from inside the glasshouse, or watching the rain drops roll down the window pane. The wife's aunt says she's never seen a film that's more interesting than watching windscreen wipers going back and forth in the rain. This is really just a reflection of how much she loves looking at windscreen wipers, rather than how much she hates films.

My uncle Ben often went to the local pub in the evening. A man called Paul was always there, and Ben always had the same conversation with him. Ben would say, "Have you found any more mummies?"

"One or two," Paul would say.

"Have you taken any more eyes from mummies?"

"A couple."

"Do you keep them in a jar or a box or a bag?"

"In a chocolate box. A box of chocolates. And eyes."

"Is your wife still afraid of frogs?"

"She is."

"And how's her leg?"

"Still hanging on."

"And how's her mother?"

"Hanging on."

"And is her brother still stealing the fish?"

"There's no stopping him since he got his elbow fixed."

"What happens if they want their eyes back?"

"I tell them to feck off."

But one day it was different. Ben asked about the mummies and Paul said, "No. I found Dave. He's listening to his spiders."

It had been nearly two years since they'd last met Dave or his friend, Andy. Dave and Andy used to come into the pub every night, until they disappeared. There had been a few sightings of them in remote places, in the woods or on the side of a mountain, but no one had spoken to them.

According to Paul, Dave was in a shed in the woods. When Ben and Paul went to see him he was still looking at his spiders because he found it relaxing. Ben asked him why he needed to relax and he said, "I need to forget about the gold. It'll drive me mad if I think about it anymore. I've been obsessed with it for two years now, thinking about it every minute of the day, even when I was asleep. Some people would say I've already gone mad, but the spiders assure me I'm sane."

He told them about how himself and Andy had been out looking for eggs one day when they found gold on the bank of a stream. The fact that they had been looking for eggs at the time coloured their perception of the gold. They were convinced that an animal must have laid the gold, and they tried to find this animal rather than search for more gold.

On a map they marked the spot where they made their find. They searched the surrounding area for more gold, hoping to make a map of the animal's movements. They spent many weeks searching the wilderness, sleeping under the stars. One evening they caught their dinner in the river. Or at least they caught the means to make their dinner. They pulled a naked chef out of the water and they told him to put some clothes on and make something to eat. Dave once said that to a woman and she tried to set him on fire. "She chose the wrong big toe," he said. "That one will never burn. It's as hard as a rock. She was trying to get it to light for hours."

The chef made their meals for the next week, but then one morning they woke up and he was gone, and so was their map. It was only then they realised that they should have been looking for more gold at the stream rather than looking for an animal, and that the chef had probably made this realisation.

Ever since then they'd been looking for the stream, but they couldn't find it.

When Dave finished telling his tale, Ben said to him, "Have you ever thought about looking for the chef, rather than looking for the stream?"

"No, I don't think I have thought of that." He asked his spiders if he'd thought of that, just to make sure. They insisted that this thought had never entered his mind while they were on guard.

"If we find the chef," Ben said, "we'll find the gold as well, assuming he's found whatever gold was there. And you can reclaim what's rightfully yours, because he stole the map."

"We'll have to go and get Andy first. He deserves his share too. He's back in his junkyard now. And if ye help me find the chef, ye can have a share of whatever we shake out of him."

They went to Andy's junkyard. They found him there with a woman. They were pointing at each other. She was pointing at his nose, and this is why she failed to notice that he was wearing a pointy hat with a D on it. He was pointing at her pointing finger, and he completely forgot who was behind the finger. When Ben said hello he looked away from the finger for a second and he was shocked when he saw who was behind it. "It's you!" he said.

"Who did you think it was?" the woman said. Her name was Cynthia.

"I just forgot."

"You owe me money."

"I don't."

"You do. That moped you sold me caught fire just after I bought it and I want my money back. I've been trying to find you for the past two years."

"I've been here all this time. I think this moped caught fire after you've been burning the guts out of it for the past two years, and now you want your money back."

"I demanded my money back two years ago and you ran away."

"Did I?"

"If you forgot who I was while you were looking at me you wouldn't have much chance of remembering a conversation we had two years ago."

"I wasn't looking at you. I was looking at your finger."

Dave intervened. He said, "There's a way to settle this to everyone's satisfaction. We're going to get what's rightfully ours, and then you'll be able to pay Cynthia with the small change in your pocket."

Dave told Cynthia about the gold and the chef. She suggested that the best way to find the chef would be to ask Mrs. Jopludd, who was the food critic for the local paper.

They went to see her, and Andy described the chef's appearance. "He's a tall man. And he has black hair. That's all I can remember. I tried to avoid looking at him after seeing him without any clothes."

Dave said, "The one thing I remember about him is that he hated rabbits."

"I think I know who you mean," Mrs. Jopludd said. "He has a French name, but I think he's from Cavan. It's not so much a name, more of a sound. It's like the sound my sister made when she sat on a bell. My sister is an extraordinary repository of sounds. If ever I need an interesting sound I go to her and poke her with a knitting needle or with a baguette."

"Do you know where we could find the chef?" Dave said.

"Yes. He opened his own restaurant about a year ago. I took my sister there just to hear the sounds she made as she ate. The menu was full of meat from things that could kill rabbits. I'd have thought that the way to reward things that can kill rabbits would be to avoid eating them. But he's a strange man."

She gave them directions to the restaurant. They went there that evening. They didn't want to go inside in case the chef saw them and recognised Dave and Andy, so they waited until the restaurant closed, hoping to see him leaving the building.

At one o' clock in the morning he still hadn't left. They went around the back of the building, and they saw a light on in a window. When they looked inside they saw the chef sitting at a desk in an office. He was drinking brandy and counting money. There was a gold pen and a gold letter-opener on the desk. The paintings on the walls had gold frames. Everywhere they looked they saw gold.

"We have every right to steal as much of that gold as we can carry," Dave said. "It isn't even stealing. It's retrieving what's rightfully ours."

"I'm glad I brought my crowbar," Andy said. "I'll be able to open this old sash window. I've always been glad I brought my crowbar. It's never once let me down."

Ben said, "He looks perfectly happy with his brandy and his money. Who wouldn't? We could be waiting a long time for him to leave."

"Then we'll need a distraction," Dave said. "One of us will knock on the front door and stall him for a while, and the rest of us will retrieve the gold."

They all agreed that Cynthia was the best person to distract him, and she agreed because she didn't want to break in. She left them, and shortly afterwards they saw the chef leaving the office to see who was at the door.

Andy used his crowbar to open the window. He went inside, followed by Dave, Ben and Paul. They collected the gold pens, letter-openers, statues and some of the paintings, but before they left the office, the door opened and a gun entered. The gun was followed closely by the chef, who was followed by Cynthia.

Cynthia and the chef both looked dishevelled. He found it impossible to avoid having affairs with women he'd only just met. Five minutes after meeting them he'd sigh and say, "Have we had an affair yet?"

He didn't want to do it, but there was an inevitability to it. Women couldn't resist him. When he met Cynthia it took less than a minute for them to surrender to fate, but they were interrupted when he heard a sound from his office.

When he saw Dave and Andy in the office he smiled and said, "I never thought I'd see this outside a dream. The two of ye in a confined space and me with a gun."

"Why do you want to shoot us?" Dave said.

"Because ye're idiots."

"You stole our gold," Andy said.

"I stole nothing. Apart from the map. But that map stole months of my life. I spent months looking for gold, but I found nothing."

"What about all the gold in here?"

"None of it is real. This restaurant used to be owned by a man who decorated the office like this because he thought that this is how James Bond's office would look. I'll make a deal with ye. I won't shoot ye if ye take all this crap away with ye."

"You stole two years of our lives," Dave said. "If we're going to take all this crap away with us, then we deserve to take the cash away with us too."

"That sounds fair enough. Ye can take all this crap and the cash, but I do get to shoot ye."

While Dave and Andy were considering this, Cynthia said, "There's one other factor that we shouldn't overlook. I couldn't help noticing that photo of you on your desk. I'm guessing that the woman with you is your wife. You look like a groom and she has an unmistakable bridal look in her wedding dress. It would be a terrible shame if she found out about what you get up to with women who stop at the restaurant late at night."

He agreed to let them leave with the cash, as long as Cynthia stayed behind for another few minutes.

The moose's head over the fireplace has been doing his best to look contemptuous, just to match the expression of contempt on the face of my great-great-grandfather, whose portrait is hanging on the wall opposite the fireplace. I found the portrait in the attic. He used to count the holes in his head every morning and if he had one too many he'd put a cork in one of the holes. This is why he has a cork up his nose in the portrait.