'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008


There's a bird in the garden who's making some very strange sounds. One of our neighbours brought her cat around to find the bird, but she's making some even stranger sounds (the neighbour, not the cat). She keeps saying things about cats, such as, "The middle kitten is always the mousiest."

My cousin Albert and his friends, Neil and George, once agreed to do some house-sitting for a man called Blarney, who had to go to his uncle's wedding. His uncle was getting married for the fifth time, but this time he was sure he'd found the love of his life. He met her when she killed some flies on his face. Even though Albert, Neil and George were doing a favour for Blarney, he treated them with contempt. He didn't have any choice in the matter. He had a deep-seated contempt for the whole concept of doing favours for others. He provided two bottles of whiskey for their night in his house. He considered this to be a contemptuous offering, something that a small dog couldn't get drunk on, but it was more than enough for them.

Before they finished the first bottle they were drunk enough to laugh at words like 'shilling' and 'bucket'. But the laughter came to a halt when they heard a noise upstairs. It sounded like a footstep. They crept to the bottom of the stairs and looked up. They saw a white ghostly figure at the top of the stairs, and for a few seconds they were convinced it was a ghost, but then they realised that it was a net curtain lit up by the light of the moon, brought to life by a gentle breeze through an open window.

They were just about to laugh at it when they heard the sound of laughter from outside. A man was looking in at them through the window. He was an artist, and he'd made a sketch to record the moment when they saw the 'ghost'. He'd been drawing them all evening.

He held the sketch up to the glass. They went to the window to get a closer look at it, and they saw that it wasn't very flattering. They were holding onto each other, and there was terror on their faces. And that was so far from the truth, they thought. They had remained calm and collected throughout the experience.

When the artist saw them going to the door he ran away. They chased him through a field, but they couldn't catch up with him, and they didn't want to leave Blarney's house unattended for too long, so they went back.

When they woke in the morning they found an envelope in the letter box. In it there was a photo of the artist standing next to a painting that was based on the sketch. There was a note demanding five-hundred euros for the painting. If they didn't pay, the artist would make sure that all of their friends and family saw it.

They didn't have the money, but they were determined to get it. Albert went on a quiz show called 'Who or What or Ow!'. He thought he had a good nose for things like that. Unfortunately he got electrocuted by his buzzer when he buzzed in to answer the question 'Who discovered Australia?'. His answer was 'A hairdresser'. He achieved a certain amount of fame for this. People were pointing and laughing at him on the street, but looking stupid wasn't as bad as looking cowardly, and he was still determined to find the money for the painting.

He thought he could use his minor celebrity to become an artist. He painted pictures of his shoes, and he took them to a gallery. The owner of the gallery, a woman called Michelle, took him into her office. He noticed the glass cigarettes in a clay ashtray and the painting of an electric blanket, but most of all he noticed her. The songs that screamed in his head were telling him that the lower half of his body was on fire. He didn't bother checking because he couldn't take his eyes off her.

She spent a long time looking at his paintings. She said she liked them, but they weren't really 'in' right now, and she wouldn't be able to sell them.

When Albert was going home on the bus the songs were still playing in his head, but it was as if they were played by a death metal band. He knew he had never felt this strongly about a woman before (actually he had feelings like these every time he saw a beautiful woman), and he also knew she was out of his league.

He got off the bus at a cross-roads. He walked down a quiet, narrow road, and he went past a house owned by a man called Roy, who made flags. He used to cut leaves in half with a scissors and then he'd sew them back together. He thought that even the parent trees couldn't tell which leaves had been cut and which ones hadn't. This is how he practised making his flags.

Albert saw a black flag that had tiny gold, red and blue rabbits on it. The flag was flying in front of Roy's house. Albert didn't know why, but somehow this flag perfectly captured his mood. He bought it from Roy, and he waved it over his head as he walked home.

He was still waving it when he was going past Flora's house. She was a match-maker. She used to work by getting people to eat berries and red sandwiches. I know a man who found his wife through this method. He also got poisoned. Her business had been in decline ever since online dating services became popular, and she'd been looking for a new venture.

She asked Albert why he was waving the flag and he told her about the gallery owner and how the flag represented how he felt. This gave Flora an idea. "I've been thinking about organising speed-dating," she said. "I just need some twist on it, some gimmick. I was trying to think of ways to match people up. If I got them to make a flag or something that represented who they are, then I could match up flags or paintings or pieces of sculpture or whatever. I wouldn't even have to poison them."

"That sounds like a very good idea."

"Will you come along? You've already got the flag."


"I need people to kick this thing off. If you come along, I'll give you half the profits, seeing as it was your idea, or half your idea."

Albert needed the money to buy the painting, so he agreed. Flora organised the event in a function room over a pub. Albert was planning on waving his flag, taking the money and going home, but he saw a flag that interested him. It was a black flag with blue rabbits who were smoking cigarettes. But when he looked at the woman underneath it, no songs played in his head. There was silence.

She saw his flag and she came over to him. She asked him to dance, but he said he had two left knees. "That's amazing," she said. "So have I."

So he danced with her, and as he got to know her he realised that he had a lot in common with her. He started to hear songs. They were sung by a woman who was trying to play the cello at the same time, at the same time as she was learning how to play the cello, but at least it was something. It was a start.

The moose's head over the fireplace is proudly wearing a Munster flag in his antlers after the rugby match last night. Munster narrowly lost to New Zealand. The wife's uncle says he was there thirty years ago when Munster beat New Zealand, but he also says he spent the late seventies living with Eskimos.