'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
Click here to buy the paperback or download the ebook for free.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Pub on the Moon

Enjoying this beautiful spring weather is a great way of fighting the doom and gloom of the recession. My grandmother often used to tell stories of the constant torrential rain and financial ruin they had to endure when she was young. They used to knit their own hair to save money.

My uncle Ben and his friend Davey have been going to the same pub for years. One summer they thought about getting a change of scenery because the bar man was spending too much time in tears. Davey said he heard about an Irish pub on the moon, and he'd always wanted to go there.

A man known as The Worm was a regular in their local pub. They asked him what he thought about the pub on the moon and he said, "The moon is a satellite that revolves around the earth. You can see it at night. You'll need to look up if you want to see it because it's in the sky. Men have stood on the moon and gazed up at the earth, which would make a more interesting adornment to the sky than the moon. If we all lived on the moon we'd spend a lot more time looking at the sky than we do on earth, unless you spend a lot of time looking at clouds or at stars. Some people are paid to look at clouds. They're called weather forecasters. This job would be much easier on the moon. A farmer's job would be more difficult on the moon. When I was on the moon I went to a pub where a trad band played for four days without a break."

This was enough to convince Ben and Davey that a trip to the moon would be worthwhile. They started building a rocket that very day.

After weeks of working on it they began to wonder if their trip to the moon would be worth all the effort. They'd made blueprints for the rocket, and they'd tied broom handles to buckets but they were still a long way away from creating something that would take them as far as Donegal, let alone as far as the moon.

One day Davey showed Ben a book about the moon. His brother, Noel, had come across this extract:

"The moon is covered in glue and when young people get stuck to it you'll need something to prise them off. When they have been removed you should pat their heads and laugh to lighten the situation. I recommend using a broom handle or a very rigid giraffe to prise them off. When dogs bark at night and daisies look upwards with smiling faces, the moon will be in a hurry to get back into the hole it lives in. It spends the day rolling in its sleep through a vast network of tunnels until it rises from another hole at the start of night. The moon will hope that this night will be better than the last, that this night won't encourage daisies to smile maniacally. The moon would see them if they did. The moon sees everything when it's in the sky. As it dreams during the day it edits all of the scenes it has seen by night. I dug a hole in the ground in the hope of finding the moon while it slept. I found one of its tunnels, but I nearly got crushed by the moon as it rolled through the tunnel. I got out of the way just in time, but I still got stuck to the side of the moon. It emerged from its hole and soared gracefully through the sky. All of the things that had become stuck to it fell off, myself included. I landed in a lake."

Ben and Davey spent many hours discussing this passage. They came to the conclusion that the bar man must live in the moon. He'd emerge from his house and set up the bar when the moon becomes airborne.

They abandoned their rocket because it would be much easier to go down rather than up. They wondered how they'd go about finding the moon's tunnels. They tried listening to the ground, hoping to hear the moon rolling through one of its tunnels, but they heard nothing. They decided to ask Samuel for help. He was known to be very clever, but there were question marks concerning his mental well-being. He used to be a member of a local society that was devoted to the advancement of science. He spent one summer studying butterflies. When his study was completed he had to deliver a lecture to his fellow society members. When he finished writing the speech he realised that he'd have to come back every night for two weeks if he was to use all of it. But if he rushed through it he might fit it all into one night. He went for the latter option. For three hours he spoke so quickly that no one was able to follow what he was saying. Everyone in the audience thought his mind had been affected by spending so long out in the sun.

Ben and Davey found him in the middle of a field. He was drawing something on a map. When they told him about the moon travelling through underground tunnels he told them it was a ridiculous idea. "Go back to building the rocket," he said, and he walked away.

"He's hiding something," Ben said to Davey. "He was a bit too dismissive of this idea."

"I think I know what he's hiding. I saw the map he was holding. He'd drawn a line right through the fields. I think he's mapping the moon's tunnels and he doesn't want us to find them."

Finding Samuel's map was simply a matter of breaking into his house that night. They found the map in his study, and Davey used tracing paper to make a copy of it.

They went to the fields and they followed the route marked on the map. When they came to a hollow in the ground they started digging because they thought this place would be closest to the tunnels.

After three hours of digging they heard a noise. They stopped to listen. "Is that the sound of the moon rolling through a tunnel?" Ben said.

"It couldn't be," Davey said. "The moon is in the sky now."

"Then it must be the sound of people moving through the tunnels."

The sound got louder, as if the people in the tunnels were getting closer. They wondered if they should make some noise to make their presence known, but they realised that the sound was coming from above when something fell on top of them.

The thing that fell on top of them was actually three things: Samuel, Samuel's bike and a bucket containing a liquid that smelled so bad it made them nauseous. Davey recognised the scent. "That smells like Bill," he said.

Samuel told them about how Bill had been spending a lot of time with a woman called Eloise. She had many other admirers. One of them was Hal, who hated seeing the other admirers actively admiring her. He'd go to her house late at night with a gun to make sure none of his rivals were there. Bill was planning on spending many night time hours at her house, so he needed a way of convincing Hal that he was elsewhere. Samuel came up with the idea of leaving a trail of his smell on the route between Bill's house and the river where he went salmon fishing late at night. This was the route marked on the map. Samuel cycled along the route with the bucket full of the Bill-smelling liquid attached to the back of the bike. There was a hole in the bottom of the bucket to leave a trail of the liquid. Hal would come across the trail on the way to Eloise's house, and he'd know that Bill was at the river.

Ben and Davey hated smelling like Bill. They wanted to get home as soon as possible to change their clothes and have a bath. As they were walking past a pub, a light came on in an upstairs window. Seconds later the front door opened and they heard the publican say, "Come in. Come on in for a drink. The first one's on the house."

Bill was a famous drinker. He could keep a pub in business if he was the only customer. The publican got the smell and he thought Bill was outside. He was disappointed to see Ben and Davey step out of the darkness and into the light of the pub, but he didn't turn them away. They promised they'd work as a team to drink as much as Bill would.

The moose's head over the fireplace is still wearing his green scarf. There are plenty of reasons to wear it. He's celebrating Saint Patrick's Day, the success of the Irish at Cheltenham and the rugby team. They're just one win away from actually winning something. The wife's uncle says he bought a ticket to the moon from a woman who said there was a great nightlife up there. He realised he'd been conned when someone told him that the nightlife on the moon was about as exciting as the nightlife in a nursing home.