'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Monkey

There's a mouse in the shed. If I stand completely still I can hear him dancing. My great-grandfather used to hunt mice. He once said he caught one that was as big as his head, but he still tried to eat it.

My Aunt Bridget looked out the window one afternoon and said, "I think I'll wear the grey hat today."

"Didn't you wear the grey one yesterday?" Uncle Harry said.

"In that case I'll wear the brown one."

"You wore the brown one yesterday too."

"Right... Okay... If anyone wants me I'll be in the glasshouse."

She went to the glasshouse to clear her head. She had hired a poet to make sense of her life, but he only made things worse. She couldn't understand any of it. As she stood in the glasshouse she tried her best to empty her head of all thoughts, but she couldn't help noticing a commotion coming from the shed. She went there, and when she opened the door she saw a monkey inside. The place was in a complete mess.

Her neighbour, Charlie, once went on a diet to lose weight. He tried exercise as well, but it was all a waste of time. He lost three stone just by standing in the garden during a storm. The monkey clung onto Charlie's neck in the gale-force wind, but his grip was eventually loosened, and he was blown away. Charlie put a crow on his shoulder to stop the monkey from getting back, so the monkey decided to take up residence in Harry and Bridget's shed.

As Bridget surveyed the scene in the shed, the muddle in her mind was worse than ever. She knew she needed to focus on one thing, to put all her energy into it, and that thing would be restoring the monkey to his rightful place on Charlie's back.

To do this she needed to get rid of the crow. The first idea she came up with was to make it fall asleep, and she knew just how to do it. One of her friends, Joan, had a very boring voice. An experiment had proven that five minutes of listening to her talk was more likely to bring unconsciousness than being hit by a tranquilliser dart. The scientist only decided it was an experiment after he'd fired the dart, and he'd only decided he was a scientist after he'd given up being a man who steals tranquilliser guns.

Bridget took Joan around to Charlie's place. He was in his garden with the crow. Joan started talking to the crow. She said, "I once knew a crow who lived in a bin. I didn't know him very well. It wasn't the fact that he was a crow that stopped me from getting to know him. It had more to do with the fact that he lived in a bin. I remember hearing music coming from the bin once. I think it was his birthday. I was going to say something to him about that, but I didn't. I probably should have said 'Happy Birthday'. I heard music coming from a waiter once. I was going to ask him if it was his birthday, but I didn't. Have you ever accidentally ingested a buttercup? Have you ever worn shoes that you mistakenly believed were given to you by God? When I was standing in the rain I didn't know what to do with the sugar, so I left it in my handbag..."

After listening to her talk for ten minutes the crow was inching towards sleep, but Charlie got there first. When he started to fall forwards the crow tightened his grip on Charlie's shoulder, pulling him back from the brink of sleep. His scream brought a full-stop to Joan's speech. She was going to ask him if it was his birthday, but she didn't.

Bridget considered using a scarecrow to scare the crow away, but she couldn't find one that was more frightening than Charlie. The scientist conducted tests on the scarecrows to prove that they were less likely to scare a crow than Charlie was.

Bridget's grandchildren, Daisy and Graham, came up with a solution. Years of accidentally dropping food on the ground had given them an understanding of crows. Bridget took them to see Charlie and the crow one evening. He was standing in his garden again, providing a perch for the bird. Daisy and Graham walked all around the garden. They ate crisps, and after every few steps they'd pretend to stumble and drop some of the crisps on the ground.

Charlie walked back towards his house but the crow remained where he was for a few seconds before falling towards the ground. He flew away before hitting the ground. He tried to eat as much of the crisps as he could before the other crows arrived.

Before Charlie reached the door of his house, the monkey was back on his back. Charlie was glad to be re-united with his old companion. He was scared of the crow, and he kept the monkey there to keep the crow away.

The moose's head over the fireplace was once confronted by a stag's head, which was resting on the head of a man called Dinny. He had put up several elaborate scarecrows around his farm, and they were good at keeping crows away, but they attracted a lot of people who wanted to see them. So Dinny used to walk around his farm with the stag's head on his head and a shotgun in his hands, just to frighten people. He liked his new image. When he came to our Christmas party a few years ago he was wearing the stag's head. Thankfully he didn't have the shotgun.