'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Going Maloney

I found an interesting hole in the orchard. I've never found an uninteresting hole in the orchard. They're not much to look at, but they're a great excuse to start doing some detective work. Who or what dug the hole? Why? What was in it? Is someone looking for buried treasure? Unfortunately, there are too many excuses to stop doing detective work. Watching the rugby was one of them.

My cousin Hugh lives next door to a couple called Millie and Arnold. They go through phases where they look for something new and exciting, and they always find what they're looking for. But after a few weeks they get bored with it, and they realise that it isn't all that new or exciting. This is the start of another phase, one in which they do very little, and they seem to be depressed.

They often left their Christmas decorations up until March. Hugh always looked forward to the end of these slow phases because Millie and Arnold provided a lot of entertainment when they looked for something new. One summer, after months of spending his evenings staring at the lawn, Arnold started walking around the garden with a TV aerial in his right hand. He was trying to get a better reception, but the aerial wasn't plugged into a TV. He wanted a better reception in his head.

During the phases of action Hugh would hear the sound of typing coming from his neighbours' house. Millie used to type descriptions of her dreams. She believed that by typing them she'd be burning them onto her memory, and they'd feel real. In one of her dreams she was the host of a chat show on French TV. After typing a description of the scene she felt a need to re-enact it in her living room.

She re-decorated the room so that it looked like a TV set. She invited people around to the house so she could interview them. One evening, Hugh and his fiancee Annabel were in the audience (actually they were the entire audience) when Millie was interviewing a boxer called Billy, who was there with his manager. Billy had won all of his professional fights, but he'd recently been suffering from a condition that made him dance at inappropriate times, such as in the middle of fights. This was known as 'going Maloney'. Millie invited a historian onto the show, and he explained that the first boxer who had 'gone Maloney' was a man called Clud Maloney. Clud gave up boxing and became a dancer because of his condition.

During the interview Billy revealed that he had never gone Maloney when he was extremely angry. His next opponent was a man called Jim. It seemed as if Jim had figured out that it would be in his interests to pacify Billy. He had sent Billy a tin of biscuits, and he'd written a poem that praised Billy's body odour and his love of animals.

At the end of the show Hugh and Annabel met Billy and they said they'd like to help him. "All you need to stop you dancing during the fight," Annabel said, "is to be extremely angry during it. Can you think of anyone who makes you extremely angry?"

Billy didn't have to think for long. "Jeff," he said. "Jeff is always hanging around April. She's my girlfriend. I hate the way she keeps laughing at the stupid things he says. I hate the way he keeps saying stupid things to make her laugh. I really want to punch him in the face, but that's the one thing she wouldn't laugh at."

Annabel smiled. "This is perfect," she said. "Just give us April's phone number and we'll see after the rest."

April agreed to play along with Annabel's plan. Billy didn't know anything about it until he made his way towards the ring for the fight. April was in the front row, and Jeff was sitting next to her. He was telling her something that she found hilariously funny.

Billy was furious. There was no danger of him going Maloney. There was little chance of the fight lasting longer than one round either. Jim tried reciting his poem, but it didn't work. He was on the canvas within two minutes, and there he stayed for another two minutes.

Billy was long gone by the time Jim got back to his feet. As soon as he won the fight he left the ring and headed towards Jeff and April. Jeff saw the flaw in their plan as soon as he noticed the look in Billy's eyes.

Jeff ran from the arena and Billy followed him. April wasn't far behind, and then came Hugh and Annabel, and then just about everyone else in the arena. Even the referee joined them. Jim would have been on his own if his corner team hadn't decided to stay behind.

Billy chased Jeff down streets and alleys, through pubs, restaurants and office buildings. He finally cornered his prey in the corner of a park. The red brick walls were too high for Jeff to climb over. Billy had acquired a pool cue sometime during the chase. He raised it high in the air but before he could bring it down Jeff started crying. "Please don't hit me," he said. "I don't deserve this. I'm always getting hit, and I hardly ever deserve it. For every person who laughs at my jokes there's someone else who wants to hit me. But I have to do it because it's my duty to make people laugh. An angel appeared to me when I was four and told me that. The angel possessed the body of my teddy bear. He's always laughed at my jokes. Last night he told me I was so funny he had to kill Mr. Bunny to stop himself exploding with laughter... That was a joke."

When Jeff stopped speaking the only sound the onlookers heard was the sound of his sobs. Everyone was embarrassed by this. No one could look him in the eye, and Billy certainly couldn't hit him with a pool cue, much to his disappointment. But disappointment was a far cry from extreme anger. Billy started dancing. A band started playing a song. They had joined the chasing pack when they passed through a pub. Many drinkers from the pub had joined the chase as well, and they all had glasses in their hands. Within minutes everyone there was drinking and a party was well underway.

The moose's head over the fireplace is still wearing his green scarf after Ireland beat France in the rugby on Saturday. He's keeping the scarf on for the soccer tonight (Ireland versus Georgia in a World Cup qualifier). Winning that match might lift the gloom of the recession for a while. The wife's uncle says he's working on a plan that's guaranteed to end the recession. He won't reveal it until it's completed, but he's been reading a lot of books about chocolate recently.