'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mrs. Dogwund's Cat

The nights are closing in again. The sight of the moon and the stars on a clear winter night is something to look forward to. One of our neighbours says he's going to the moon in December. He'll be wearing a red hat, if you want to keep an eye out for him.

My cousin June's kids, Daisy and Graham, often to go see their neighbour, Mrs. Wigbuttle. They bring their pet duck, Sleepy, because he likes looking at her. They never know what she'll be doing. The last time they went to visit her she was telling a tree to remove its leaves from her lawn.

When they arrived at her place she was standing on her newspaper so it wouldn't blow away in the wind, but she couldn't read the bits beneath her feet. She tried wearing sandals, but she forgot that her feet weren't transparent.

"Have you ever tried standing on leaves?" Daisy said to her.

"I would find that catastrophically boring," Mrs. Wigbuttle said.

"I thought you were going to say 'I would find that cat'."

"I did say that, and I added 'astrophically boring'."

"I once met an astronomically boring cat. All he ever did was stare at his own reflection. I think he was waiting for it to do something. My reflection did something once, and then I did what it did, just in case it got scared."

"Being bored isn't a catastrophe," Graham said. "Sometimes I like being bored. It's better than spending an hour kicking a wheelbarrow."

"I can show ye a cat who keeps following his owner," Mrs. Wigbuttle said. "It's not as difficult as it sounds, because the owner is Barney and he spends a lot of time standing still so he can think. I saw him standing in a field this morning, so he's probably still there now."

They went to the tree and Barney was still there. His cat was asleep in the grass a few yards behind him. Barney is a tall, thin man with a long face. He can do a good impression of a vertical line. He often does his impression of a horizontal line too, although most lines don't leak as much as he does. In a strong wind he can do a line at a forty-five degree angle.

Mrs. Wigbuttle asked him what he was thinking about and he said, "I was thinking about my cousin Kevin. He fights fire with his fists. He hasn't won yet."

"What happened your shoes?" Mrs. Wigbuttle said.

"They were invaded by my feet."

"I thought they were a different colour."

When he looked down he got a shock. "These aren't my shoes at all," he said. "I haven't looked at them in weeks -- I was planning on looking at them again next week -- but these look much older than mine, and they're a different colour too. They couldn't have aged as much as that and changed colour since I last looked at them."

"Maybe the lemon lady took them," Mrs. Wigbuttle said.

"You accuse the lemon lady of stealing everything just because she said your hens had diarrhoea. I don't think she meant that as an insult."

"If it wasn't the lemon lady, who was it?"

"Just because I don't know who stole my shoes, it doesn't mean that the culprit must be the lemon lady. I should have seen this coming. The plumber kept smelling my cat the other day. I knew it was an omen of something bad to come my way, but I had no idea it would involve my shoes. And I'm sure I had my own shoes then because I looked down rather than look at him smelling the cat."

Graham said, "Why not let Sleepy sniff those shoes and he'll track down who really owns them. He once found my sandwich."

"I'm not letting a duck sniff the shoes I'm wearing. It's demeaning. If it was a dog, maybe. But not a duck."

Daisy distracted him by pointing at the cat and saying, "Your cat is crying."

When Barney turned around, Graham tried to get Sleepy to sniff Barney's shoes, but Sleepy just fell asleep. Barney was angry when he figured out what they were up to. Graham said, "There's no point in complaining. Sleepy has the scent now."

"What's he going to do with it?"

"All will be revealed when he wakes. His brain works quicker when he's asleep."

"I can relate to that. My brain works quicker when I'm standing still."

They waited for nearly an hour, and Sleepy finally woke when Mrs. Dogwund's niece arrived. She looked down at her feet and then up at the clouds and then she whistled a tune before coughing and saying to Barney, "Mrs. Dogwund has something she'd like to say to your neck."

They all went to see Mrs. Dogwund, who looked down at the ground, swayed from side to side, sang a line from a song, sniffed a flower and then she said to Barney, "It's about your shoes. When I met you last week my cat was fascinated by your shoes. You didn't notice because you were thinking about strawberry jam. I'd have loved to have stayed there thinking about it with you but I had to go away to meet my sister to discuss the thing that's eating her cabbages. I had to drag her away. My cat, not my sister. My cat normally likes being dragged away, but she seemed so sad. My sister doesn't like being dragged away. My cat was still sad on the following day, and I could tell that she was missing the shoes. And then one evening I saw your feet sticking out of a barrel outside the pub, and your shoes were on your feet. In a moment of weakness I took them, but I've felt guilty about it ever since. I'd like to return them now. If my cat is going to be sad, so be it."

"My cat sleeps on my shoes," Barney said. "They'd still be attached to my feet at the time. Maybe your cat just likes the smell of my cat."

Barney introduced his cat to Mrs. Dogwund's cat. They just stared at each other.

"She seems so happy now," Mrs. Dogwund said. "You must come to visit every day and bring your cat to meet my cat so they can delight in each other's company."

Barney just stared at her. She could tell he was happy.

When Barney visited Mrs. Dogwund he just stood there thinking about time or gay snowmen, but she enjoyed his company.

The moose's head over the fireplace has a good sense of smell, but unfortunately he can't use it to locate missing shoes or missing people. The wife's uncle says he knows a man who's always buying new shoes because his old shoes keep going missing. He gets the new shoes to sniff his socks and then track down the old ones, but the smell often knocks them out. It takes them a few weeks to get used to it, and then they just take their first chance of escape.