'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The wife's aunt loves being out in the garden. She claims that one of the garden gnomes keeps lying to her, and she likes being lied to.

My aunt Joyce called around to see her friend Sheila one day. They were talking about Yvonne, another friend of theirs, whose hobby was listening to the laughing bees. She'd try to get the bees stuck to the backs of stamps. She found that they were attracted to stamps with images of flowers. But the weather had been poor that summer and there were very few bees around.

"She seems to be coping well without the bees," Sheila said.

"She seemed to be coping well when she gave up smoking, but then she kicked that bull."

"I suppose we better go to see her to make sure she's okay."

They visited Yvonne's house and they found that she hadn't been coping so well without the bees. She had become obsessed with trying to catch the 'blimp birds' that floated around her back garden. She used nets, but she always missed. Then she tried transfixing them with cigar smoke and music. She hired a jazz band and a cigar-smoker called Ray. The band played slowly in her back garden one evening. The birds perched on the roof of her shed and they watched the cigar smoke assume various shapes as it rose. The music triggered many memories in Yvonne's mind. She stopped caring about catching the birds. The present and the future seemed unimportant. She was happy to languish in the past. She remembered the day her harpsichord teacher got his eye stuck in a bottle (he had been looking into the bottle to see if there was anything left in it) and the time the bishop cried just to make sure his tears hadn't been polluted. She remembered the time she was in a band called The Groundfeathers. Their lead singer, Purrie Newie, used to write songs about his former jobs, from raking cats to stuffing pillows with trousers.

Ray liked listening to her talk about these things. They enjoyed each other's company. It didn't take long for Yvonne to fall in love with him, and she completely forgot about the blimp birds and the bees.

Joyce and Sheila were reassured by this, but then Joyce remembered that Yvonne always does stupid things when she's in love. Yvonne told her not to worry. "I've been measuring the emissions of my emotions," she said, "and so far they're well below danger levels."

As soon as she'd finished saying this they heard a hammering noise coming from upstairs. She told them that she'd hired Jeff to put up new wallpaper in her spare room.

Jeff had once been convinced that the Salmon of Knowledge was in the river that flowed near his house, and that if he caught the fish and ate it he'd be the wisest man in the world. It took him months to catch it. The salmon was huge, but Jeff managed to eat all of it, including the eyes. When he woke up on the following morning his mind was filled with knowledge, but all of it was in German.

He went to German classes, but as he learnt the language he started to realise that this knowledge wasn't what he expected it to be. It was all nonsense. What could he do with aphorisms like 'Never trust the ruindrops with your toes'?

At first he hated having all this nonsense in his head, but after a few weeks he was won over by it. The nonsense affected his behaviour. He started wearing a top hat because he thought it made him look like the mad hatter. Anyone was welcome to join him at his dinner table, which was in a field next to the river. Fish was always on the menu. He'd hold a mallet in his right hand just in case the fish on his plate was still alive. Every so often he'd hammer it to make sure it was dead. He made bombs that were like red screaming hens.

Joyce and Sheila were horrified when Yvonne told them that she'd hired Jeff to put up the wallpaper. They were just about to go upstairs to see how he was getting on when they saw him running down the stairs with some floorboards under his arm. He left through the front door.

They climbed the stairs and went into the spare room. He'd torn down patches of the old wallpaper and painted slogans like 'Trust your screaming ears' and 'Deck the walls with dying dolls'. He'd pulled up some of the floorboards. "I specifically asked him not to do that," Yvonne said.

Joyce thought she could solve this problem. She knew a German woman called Ingrid who could be very convincing when she shouted. They got Ingrid to visit Jeff when he was having his dinner. She shouted commands in German at him, telling him to return to Yvonne's house and finish the job.

He ran back to Yvonne's house. He took the floorboards with him, and he replaced each one of them. Ingrid stayed there to supervise him as he put up the wallpaper. While he worked he told her some of things he'd learnt from the fish, and after hours of listening to him she succumbed to the nonsense. When he finished wallpapering the room they left to see if they could find a priest who'd marry an apple to a shovel.

The moose's head is good at spotting when people are lying. The garden gnomes don't even try to lie to him. But he often believes the stories told by the wife's uncle, including the one about the man who had a wooden heart. He never found love until he sanded the heart, varnished it and pretended it was an antique. Women loved it then.