'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Past Lives

We've had all sorts of weather over the past week: strong winds and heavy rain, even some sunshine. There are few things more enjoyable than walking around a snow-covered garden early in the morning. The wife's aunt says she can hear the voices of the snowflakes as they fall. One of them asked her for directions to the nearest Methodist church. She was sorry she wasn't able to help it.

My cousin Hector met his friend Steve one day, and they set out for Sean's house. They expected to find him in his garden, admiring his turnip. He was proud of the fact that he had made it grow. The turnip had done some of the work as well. Sean saw himself as a teacher. He imparted his knowledge, sometimes encouraging his students, sometimes threatening them. There was only one student in this class. The combination of encouragement and threats worked well on the turnip.

But when they arrived at Sean's house they found him trying to read his knees. He'd written something there after leaving the pub on the previous evening, but he couldn't remember what it was, and he couldn't remember why he wrote it on his knees when he could have written it on his arm or on his foot.

He asked Hector and Steve to try reading it, but they thought that reading another man's knees would be overly intimate. Hector suggested going to see Clare in the library. She spent a lot of time reading through old documents and letters. A local man had donated his grandfather's correspondence to the library. The grandfather had been a writer and an ornithologist who was best remembered for writing a song about being haunted by a ghost who kept sneezing on him.

Clare used a magnifying glass to examine Sean's knees, and the conclusion she came to was that the writing was Japanese. She suggested going to see Dermot, who lived just outside the town.

Dermot believed in past lives. He saw himself as a Russian doll, with all of his past selves inside him. He thought he'd become part of something bigger when he dies. He couldn't predict what this would be, but he wanted to find out more about the past lives inside him.

One evening he was in a Japanese garden in West Cork. The garden had been created by a man who claimed that God told him to speak to oranges, and the oranges told him to build a Japanese garden. Dermot felt at home there, and he believed that this was because he had been Japanese in a past life. Ever since then he'd been obsessed by Japan. He made his own Japanese garden. You'd often see him standing in it in the evenings. He'd be wearing a kimono or swinging a Samurai sword.

When Sean told him about the Japanese writing on his knees, Dermot said, "You wrote that because you were my servant in a past life. You'll only be fulfilled if you're my servant again. This is the message your knees are sending out to you. Something inside you is crying out to be my servant."

Sean's knees had never let him down before, so he agreed have a go at being Dermot's servant.

After his first day of work he thought he did feel slightly more fulfilled. He enjoyed working in Dermot's vegetable garden because he was able to teach a class full of students.

Just as he was about to go home in the evening he saw Vera, Dermot's fiancee. He got the feeling that he'd seen her somewhere before. She saw him too, and she seemed slightly embarrassed. He wondered if they remembered seeing each other from their past lives. But he had a feeling that there was more to it than this. He considered the possibility that they had an affair in a past life. He enjoyed dwelling on these thoughts.

While he was working in the vegetable garden on the following day he remembered where they'd seen each other before. They'd met in the pub, and he had convinced her to give him her phone number. He had written it on his knees because he didn't have any paper. Due to the alcohol he'd consumed and the difficulty of writing on his knees, the number looked vaguely like Japanese writing.

He still held onto the belief that they had met in a past life. He believed that they were drawn together in this life because of their relationship in the past. But there was a barrier between them in this life: he was a servant to the man she was engaged to. This made him sad, and it felt right to be sad.

Hector and Steve didn't believe in past lives. They thought that he only felt fulfilled as a servant because he got to work with vegetables. They were determined to free him from this role, and Steve came up with a plan. He said to Hector, "We need to leave a message for Dermot from his past self, the Japanese one. Ideally it should be in Japanese."

"I don't think he really knows Japanese. He thought the phone number on Sean's knee was Japanese."

"Okay. We'll do it in English."

"What will the message be?"

"One of us will go into his room while he's sleeping and write these words on the wall: 'You must marry Vera as soon as possible and experience all of the delights she has to offer before you become a eunuch.'"

"Did they have eunuchs in Japan?"

"I think so. But it doesn't really matter. I'd be very surprised if Dermot knew. All that matters is that he'll think he wrote it himself in his sleep, under the guidance of his past self. It'll scare him out of his belief in past lives."

Sean had a key to Dermot's house. Hector and Steve took it out of his coat pocket after he finished work one evening, while he was busy drowning his sorrows.

They went to Dermot's house at two o' clock in the morning. They both went into his bedroom while he slept. Hector looked to see any signs of him waking while Steve wrote the message on the wall.

When Sean turned up for work on the following morning Dermot told him he was released from his duties. Sean was delighted because it meant he could get back to his turnip.

Later that day, Dermot told Vera that they couldn't get married because they just weren't suited to each other. She smiled, and then she realised that a different reaction was called for, so she tried to look serious. She nodded and said, "Perhaps you're right."

After leaving him she went straight to Sean's house to look at his turnip. Dermot abandoned the idea that he used to be Japanese in a past life. Instead he claimed that he used to be Napoleon.

The moose's head over the fireplace likes looking out at the snow. It probably reminds him of his own past life. The wife's uncle says he was once engaged to a woman who believed she used to be Karl Marx in a past life. He couldn't marry her because he thought of Karl Marx every time he looked at her. Her beard probably didn't help.