'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Snails

There are always plenty of spectacular sights to see in autumn, whether it be the beautiful colours of the trees or the people playing basketbull in the fields.

My cousin Hector used to race snails when he was young, but he nearly always beat them, sometimes with a stick. His twin daughters, Alice and Grace, tried making the snails race against each other because they didn't get any enjoyment from hitting a snail, and the thrill of running faster than a snail faded fairly quickly.

They used to make a snail called Stinky race against his friend, Chocolate. Hector's brother, Albert, was looking after the twins one day when they decided to have a snail race. Albert got bored of it after ten minutes, but it took another half-hour before the twins started thinking about ways of speeding up the athletes.

"Why don't we just guess which one of them is going to win," Grace said, "based on their performance so far."

"How would you tell which one of them is doing better?" Alice said. "Neither of them has moved."

"We could guess which one of them would do better if they moved."

"How would you tell that?"

"Just wait until a little birdie comes and tells you something about it."

"I saw a dead rabbit. Would that do?"

"No, it has to be a little birdie."

After waiting for an hour, Grace said, "Okay, let's go and see the rabbit."

Alice took them to the field where she saw the dead rabbit, but it was gone.

"Are you sure he was dead?" Grace said.

"Of course I'm sure. Someone must have taken it."

"Who'd take a dead rabbit?"

"Maybe the monster did it." Alice blamed everything on the monster, but he spent most of his time punching the garden shed.

As they considered what had happened to the dead rabbit, they heard a brass band. They followed the sound, and it led them to the garden of one of their neighbours, Irene.

Her sunflowers had been sinking, so she hired the brass band to play to them, and they started rising again when they heard the music. "They drooped after my niece, Chloe, and her friends stared at them," Irene said to Alice, Grace and Albert. "Chloe and her friends are big into fashion. They're always coming up with new looks to compete with the rival groups and gangs in the area. Their latest look is mostly grey with bits of blue. They stare at the sunflowers when they have nothing else to do. The thing about it is, and I'd say this again if they asked me because I know only too well they weren't listening the first time I said it, and I used to repeat these things for them but I just don't bother now because they don't listen then either. I just say what I have to say and then I say to myself, 'You've said it now. That's your job done.' And if they come back with bits of bark in their hair I can say I told ye to do this or not to do that, and they'll listen then."

"Do they really have bits of bark in their hair?" Albert said.

"Oh yeah. It was put there, on purpose. By so-called experts. If they were hair stylists, I'm Pete Sampras. 'Don't trust the man with the top hat' is what I said to them. Would you trust a man with a top hat?"

"If I met him in the pub or in the shop, no. I wouldn't immediately trust anyone I met in a pub or in a shop."

"They immediately trust everyone. If someone said to them, 'This is going to be in your hair after it dies,' they'd say, 'No problem. What's its name?'"

Chloe and her friends arrived in the garden after spending a few hours being fashionable next to a pond. Irene wanted to keep them away from the revitalised sunflowers, so she suggested going for a walk. Alice, Grace and Albert went with them, and so did the brass band.

As they walked through the fields, Chloe spoke in a sad voice about the art of space and space art, and how it was their destiny to think about these things and make films in dark rooms with their friends and unappealing friends of friends, and walk across the moors in search of savages, finding things that will catch a ride on the wind. They'll meet someone better than them, and they'll wish they'd thought of making that person, of defining their look, their personality, teaching them the way of the world. They once met a man called Porter who said, "I'm on my way to get the giants," and for some unfathomable reason everyone wanted to spend time with him. She spoke about how she gave her own names to places and land marks. She often went to a place called 'Stop that fox' and there she closed her eyes. She tries to forget about the man who was looking for the giants. He eventually found the giants. Chloe and her friends met him one day and he was with a group of tall people. "Didn't I tell ye I'd find them?" he said. "Didn't I tell ye?"

Alice, Grace and Albert saw a man standing in a field and they guessed that he was Porter because of the tall people standing behind him. There was a crowd of people standing behind the tall people. This made Chloe and her friends even more depressed because they had attracted no new followers.

Chloe said hello to Porter. He said, "Didn't I tell ye? Didn't I tell ye?"

There was a small field near the lake that Chloe called 'Lying at Biro Burry'. This was a long way away from the shed where you'd find Biro Burry, where they'd go to lie to him. Whenever she wanted to think in peace she'd say, "Let's go to Lying at Biro Burry." When she was sad, one of her friends would say, "Let's go lying to Biro Burry," and this is what one of them said when they were confronted by Porter and his expanding band of followers.

They went to Biro Burry's shed and Porter followed them, followed closely by his followers. On the way they met Biro's girlfriend, Justine. They asked her where she was going and she said, "I'm not going to Rory's field to see if he got his clock down from the tree."

Rory had been working on a robot dog but he decided to make it into a clock instead. When you wanted to know the time you had to call the clock. It understood commands like 'sit' and 'stay'. It hated being turned back in winter.

"So where are you going?" Chloe said to Justine.

"I'm... going to see Biro."

"Aren't you going the wrong way?"

"I'm..." She always pulled a carrot out of her pocket when she was stuck for something to say. She took the carrot out of her coat pocket and gave it to Chloe. "Have a carrot," she said, and then she ran away.

There was a crowd of people at the shed to see Biro Burry's eye-gulls. Chloe and her friends told him lies like 'Your fountain is on fire, Biro Burry'. Chloe was a very good liar when she was eating something, so she started eating the carrot and she said, "Justine has gone to Rory's field to see if he got his clock down from the tree."

Biro believed this, and he was furious. He suspected that Justine was up to something with Rory. He set off towards the tree. The crowd of people there to see his eye-gulls followed him. So did Chloe and her friends, Porter and his followers, Alice, Grace, Albert, Irene and the brass band.

When they got to the tree the clock was on the ground. Rory and Jane were in the tree, and they were kissing. They tried to act casual when they saw the crowd approaching below. Biro was just about to say something when Alice pointed at the ground and said, "Look, it's Stinky and Chocolate."

The two snails were about a yard away from the tree, and both of them were clearly intent on reaching it first. Everyone became engrossed in the race between the snails. A lot of bets were placed. Thousands of euros were riding on the outcome of the race.

It took another hour for Stinky to get to the tree, according to the clock. Chocolate reached it about a minute later. The brass band played when the race was over. By this time, Jane and Rory had come down from the tree. Biro hadn't noticed because he was so engrossed in the race, and he was delighted because he had backed the winner. When he remembered why he had come to the tree he asked Justine what she had been doing with Rory. "Have a carrot," she said, and she took a carrot out of her pocket. This seemed to satisfy his curiosity.

The moose's head over the fireplace spends a lot of time staring at the various clocks on the wall opposite him. We change the clocks on a regular basis to keep him entertained. The latest one is a cuckoo clock, but I've only seen the cuckoo once. Something else will always come out in place of the cuckoo. Sometimes you'll see people who keep scissors down their trousers. At eight o' clock last night I saw a miner who was holding a fox by the scruff of the neck.