'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Wasp

The fields are full of rabbits these days. My grandfather used to say that when he was young he often saw gangs of rabbits fight gangs of cats in the fields at night. On other nights he'd see gangs of dogs take on gangs of leprechauns, or gangs of spiders versus gangs of actresses. The actresses were working on silent films in the area.

My uncle Harry enjoys smoking his pipe, almost as much as he enjoys looking at his watch. After years of devoting most of his spare time to smoking his pipe and looking at his watch (often while drinking in the pub) he discovered another hobby that was just as enjoyable: walking up hills and mountains. He found that he could combine this with smoking and looking at his watch (but not with drinking in the pub).

One day he was walking through the woods on a mountainside when he met a woman called Carmel. She was working on a painting. She had brought some other paintings with her, and she was hoping to sell these. As Harry was looking at the paintings they met a man called Adrian who was looking for his wasp, but neither Harry nor Carmel had seen a wasp that matched the description he gave. Carmel drew a sketch of the wasp based on the description. Adrian thought it looked just like Howard, his wasp, and he said it would be a great help in finding his pet.

"I know exactly how you feel," Carmel said. "I lost a leaf last year." She showed them a photo of the leaf. "I'll do everything I can to help you find your wasp."

Harry said, "My grandfather once lost an eye and he spent days looking for it. He eventually found it in his eye socket. It's always the last place you look."

Carmel said she'd go looking for Howard, and Harry joined her. They walked down a winding path through the trees. They met a woman who was selling a strawberry. Harry bought it, and he shared it with Carmel.

The path led them to a cottage in the middle of a clearing. An old woman was sitting on a chair in front of the cottage. Harry asked her if she'd seen the wasp and she said, "I'm afraid not. I've seen thousands of bees because I keep bees in my back garden, but I haven't seen any wasps."

Carmel said, "Is it possible that the wasp is hiding amongst the bees?"

"I'm sure the bees would have noticed," the woman said. "It would have to be a very good disguise to fool them. But wasps are masters of disguise, so I suppose it's worth checking."

She introduced herself as Maggie and she took them to the back garden. She poured two glasses of lemonade for Harry and Carmel, and they sat at a patio table while she did a head count of the bees.

When the count was completed she said there were no uninvited guests in the hives. She sat down at the table with Harry and Carmel, and she started telling them her life story. Harry paid little attention until she mentioned that her late husband used to present a weekly radio show about model trains. Harry often listened to this show, even though he had little interest in model trains. It was something he could do while smoking his pipe and looking at his watch. He told Maggie he loved the part of the show where her husband was joined by a man who'd talk about what to do when model trains melt.

Maggie took them inside to show them her husband's trains. The tracks covered the entire attic in the cottage. They went over rivers and they passed through hills and valleys. There was a model of a town, and the station was at the edge of the town.

Maggie blew the train's whistle as it passed through the town. Both Harry and Carmel noticed a buzzing noise just after the whistle was blown. "That sounded like a wasp," Carmel said.

Maggie blew the whistle again the next time the train passed through the town. They heard the buzzing again, and Harry thought it was coming from the model of the bank. He lifted the bank's roof and he saw the wasp inside. Howard was standing on a tiny trap door. Harry lifted the trap door and he saw a button underneath it. When he pressed the button the whole town was raised a few inches at one side. Maggie and Carmel lifted it up further, and they found bags full of cash hidden underneath the town. They guessed that there must have been tens of thousands of pounds in the bags. "So this is the retirement fund he was talking about," Maggie said.

She gave Harry and Carmel five-hundred pounds each as a reward for helping her find the money. They left the cottage with Howard, and they started looking for Adrian.

As they walked down the path they often came across posters of Howard on the trees. Adrian had made photocopies of Carmel's sketch. The posters mentioned a fifty pound reward for finding Howard.

When they met Adrian, Howard hid behind Carmel's back to surprise him. Harry asked him if he'd found his wasp. He said he hadn't, and that someone had dressed a beetle up as a wasp and tried to claim the reward.

Howard emerged from behind Carmel, and Adrian was delighted. After telling Howard how great it was to see him again and asking the wasp where he'd been, Adrian got out his wallet to give the fifty pounds to Harry and Carmel. They felt guilty because Howard was the one who had located the money under the model of the town. He had made them five-hundred pounds each, so they refused to take the fifty pounds. "Buy something nice for Howard," Carmel said.

The moose's head over the fireplace still has the green scarf, and he's also wearing a green hat to celebrate the victory of the Irish rugby team. One of our neighbours put tiny hats on his goldfish to celebrate. He probably would have done this even if there hadn't been a rugby match.