'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Red Spot

I used some of the apples from the orchard to make cider. I'll end up drinking all of it myself. Everyone else refuses to even taste it because it made me walk into a wall. For me, that would be a reason to drink it.

My cousin Charlie once took up painting as a hobby. He started out painting landscapes and still lifes, but he soon got bored with these. One night in a dream he saw a red spot, and when he woke up he tried to paint it. He spent the rest of that day painting many different versions of it, but he could never get it to look like the red spot he saw in his mind.

Over the following weeks he painted red spots on many different surfaces, and he tried different types of paint. He tried drawing it with ink on paper and cardboard, but it never looked right.

His cousin Jessica is an art teacher, and he told her about the trouble he was having. She said, "I know someone who might be able to help you. He's an artist who's worked with spots before."

"I'll try anything that might help," Charlie said.

"He's from Louth. Is that a problem?"


"Good. I'll give him a call."

"He doesn't have some sort of a problem, does he?"

"No. Don't forget that you're the one with the problem. He's the one who can help you."

"Right. But he's okay, is he?"

"No, he's not okay, but if you asked me that question about anyone on the planet I'd say 'No, he's not okay', or 'No, she's not okay'. So you're really finding out a lot more about me than you are about him."

"Right. I already know the answer to the question 'Are you okay?'."

"I'm fine."

The artist's name was Eric. He had come up with sixteen different versions of himself. There was only one 'Me' with a capital 'M', one 'I' with a capital 'I'. So when he wrote 'i kick crutches' it wasn't really a fair reflection of his personality.

He used to go to the local wig-swapping club every Friday night. He'd get a wig to wear for the following week. One of them used to be a fox.

When Charlie and Jessica went to see him he was holding a glass of brandy and he was wearing a wild red wig. This wig was perfect for an 'i' called Myles. Eric had been trying to keep Myles in check because of his unpredictable behaviour, but the wig allowed Myles to bloom. On a typical day Myles could seduce women, cut down trees, lecture cows on the dangers of wearing other people's clothes, and throw his shoes at the people who'd least like to have a shoe thrown at them.

Jessica explained the problem Charlie was having with the red spot. Eric, or Myles, listened attentively, and then he said, "Follow me."

He led them through his garden, over the fence and into a field, down a hill, across a small stone bridge over a stream and up a winding path on the side of a steep hill. He never stopped talking as he walked. This is an extract from what he said: "I often watch them go and then they're gone and the sky is grey or brown and they shove things up their noses, mostly air. They're as bad as the dogs I chased and I keep everything I write in a suitcase I found. I once stuffed all my clothes into it when I had the beard of a composer because of a beard-swapping club I once went to and I tried to compose something as sad and beautiful as brown paper but I lost my composure and they had to take me to the hospital but all I remember is that my legs were up in the air when I was sure I had left them on the ground with the dog."

He knocked on the door of a small cottage. A man opened the door almost immediately. He was holding a bottle of brandy, and he re-filled Myles's glass. "Much obliged," Myles said. The man closed the door again without saying a word.

Myles walked on, with Charlie and Jessica close behind. When they came to a tree in the middle of a field Myles said to it, "I don't know about you but I get the distinct impression that whoever's pulling our strings has gone a bit electric."

He waited for a response, and he could have been waiting there for hours, but he saw a woman in a black ball gown. She was holding a glass and a bottle of brandy. He went over to her and she re-filled his glass. "Much obliged," he said. Then he chased a cat around the field, saying, "Why aren't you wearing your leotard?"

Charlie said to Jessica, "Why did you tell me he was from Louth and neglect to mention that he's completely insane?"

"I always thought he's insane because he's from Louth."

"I know lots of people from Louth and none of them are insane."

"Yeah. He's the only person from Louth I know, so..."

"So everything you know about people from Louth is based on him."

"Yeah. But there are sixteen of him, and all sixteen are insane to some extent. Although the real Eric isn't really any more insane than an average person."

"We need to get rid of the wig to restore the real Eric. If we keep following him around he's bound to let his guard down eventually."

The cat climbed a tree. "Make sure he puts on his leotard," Myles said to the tree, and then he walked away.

He led Charlie and Jessica to the banks of the river just outside the town, where the anglers sat next to their rods and a waiter brought them drinks. The waiter re-filled Myles's glass. The sun had just gone down.

"I heard a funny story once," Myles said. "At the time I was busy saying 'Why aren't those two crows married?' but I noticed that someone was trying to tell me a funny story. It concerned a plumber and a robin..."

Charlie saw a chance to take the wig and release Eric. They went over to an angler, who was happily drunk. Jessica said to him, "Can we borrow your rod to steal a wig?"

"Of course you can."

Charlie took the rod and he stood behind Myles. He slowly lowered the hook onto the wig, and then very slowly raised it. The wild strands of hair became entangled in the hook, and the wig rose above Myles's head. When he looked up and saw it escaping he said, "Come back here. Come back here at once."

He jumped and tried to catch it. Charlie moved the rod to one side and the wig flew out over the river. The hook lost its hold on the hair, and the wig fell into the water. They watched the current take it away.

Charlie, Jessica and Myles (who was starting to feel more like Eric) ran to a bridge. Charlie was going to use the fishing rod to stop the wig as it floated by beneath him, but he couldn't do anything because he was transfixed by the sight. The red wig in the dark water was exactly like the red spot in his mind. The wig disappeared under the bridge. They went to the other side and watched it fade away into the night.

Eric wasn't sorry to see it go because he was glad to have Myles confined once more. At the next meeting of the wig-swapping club he had to tell the wig's owner the story of how he lost it. "This isn't because I'm from Louth," he said.

Charlie no longer felt a need to paint a red spot because he felt as if he had created it in a work of art. His subconscious mind had suggested the image of the red spot, and he believed that his subconscious mind had led him into a situation where he'd put a red wig into a river.

The moose's head over the fireplace once wore a red wig at one of our Halloween parties. We told people he was half man, half beast, and he could see into people's souls and make them reveal their secrets. One man broke down in tears in front of the moose's head and he confessed to having an affair with his boss's mother. It should be pointed out that he had consumed a large quantity of my homemade beer when he made this admission.