'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, April 29, 2009


The dog seems to have put on a bit of weight recently. He needs more exercise, so I've been taking him for long walks through the fields. The wife's aunt told me that her first job was measuring dogs. She learnt Russian so she could communicate with them. I don't think they actually understood what she said to them in Russian, but it probably stunned them for a while. It would have had a similar effect on Russian people. She showed me some of the poems the dogs had written. Most of them contained slanderous allegations against cats.

My cousin Rachel was looking after her niece and nephew, Daisy and Graham, one afternoon. They told her what they'd been learning about religion in school. Their teacher seemed confused on the subject, and he'd passed on his confusion to the kids. They believed that God would tell them how many crayons they had. He didn't do this in words. Sometimes he did it in kittens. But if one of the kittens in a litter died, does this count as a crayon? Or does it mean that a crayon is missing? Rachel couldn't answer these questions, and she didn't think anyone would be able to give definitive answers.

Later that day she visited all the neighbours to sell raffle tickets to raise money for the local Amateur Dramatic Society. The first prize was an antique sink. A woman called Molly was eager to support the arts and she said she'd buy four tickets. She invited Rachel in to discuss one of the Amateur Dramatic Society's upcoming plays. When the discussion turned to religion Rachel mentioned the conversation she had with Daisy and Graham earlier in the day. Molly said, "I've put a lot of thought into religion over the years. I've considered many different faiths and theories. I've cast aside most of them, but these are the few simple truths I've held onto: We must try to be gracious when we fall. We must be grateful when a fall is bestowed upon us. We must wipe off the dirt and put it in our pockets. We must not seek someone to blame. We must not search the room for the tiny malevolent creatures, the supernatural beings who have a grudge against us because we spoke ill of their leggings or inadvertently stuck a fork in their neck. We must ignore them, at least until the next time we have to stab them in the neck. Most of the time we don't need to worry because the benevolent supernatural beings will protect us."

Rachel tried not to laugh. "Have you seen these beings?" she said.

"Many times. I'm glad to say we're joined by some of the benevolent beings right now. They always respond to the word 'pixie'."

As soon as she said this, a hat on the table started moving around in circles.

Rachel was shocked. She left the house without saying another word. She practically ran home, and she locked the door when she got inside. But then she realised that she might just be locking herself inside with these creatures.

She tried to convince herself that they didn't exist. She had found it very easy to be disbelieving of anything supernatural before she saw the hat moving by itself, but she couldn't erase what she'd seen.

She got a fork, and she practised using it as a weapon. She stabbed the air with it. Her style was influenced by martial arts films. She hadn't seen any martial arts films, but she'd seen parodies of them. She accidentally stabbed the door frame, and she wondered if this had ever happened in a martial arts film. This accident made her realise that she was a danger to herself and to others and to door frames when she had the fork, so she decided to abandon this weapon.

She spoke to Audrey, her brother's girlfriend, about what she'd seen because she knew that Audrey would take it seriously. Audrey said she started believing in rat-eating leprechauns when she found that she couldn't stop believing in rats. This wasn't much help to Rachel because she was terrified of both the malevolent and the benevolent creatures that Molly spoke about.

Rachel didn't go out much over the following few days. She spent a lot of time looking out the window. One evening she saw Molly walking by on the road. Something was moving in her handbag, and Rachel was filled with terror. But then a tiny Chihuahua raised its head out of the bag. Molly gave it a dog biscuit and said, "Back to sleep you go, Pixie."

Rachel was furious. She realised that Molly had played a trick on her. The dog had been hiding in the hat, not a supernatural being. Rachel couldn't bear the thought of someone getting one over on her like this. She wanted revenge. At first she thought about doing something to frighten Molly. A ghost would do the trick, if it was believable enough. But there was a danger that Molly would panic and stab the ghost with a fork. This wouldn't have much effect on a real ghost, but it could make a real ghost out of a fake one.

Rachel considered asking Joe to help her in her plan. He was one of Molly's neighbours. A ventriloquist's dummy called Howard often tried to stab him, but only when Joe had the dummy on his left arm. Howard was very well-behaved when he was on Joe's right arm. Joe had always been suspicious of his left arm. One morning he woke up and he found that Howard was wearing a set of false teeth. He suspected his left arm of putting the teeth into the dummy's mouth.

If Howard moved by himself, possibly with the aid of strings, Molly could be fooled into thinking that the dummy was possessed by a spirit. She wouldn't kill anyone if she stabbed Howard. Rachel asked Joe if he'd go along with this, but he wouldn't take the dummy off his right arm in case his left arm got into it.

Molly often went to the dog track. She was always boasting about the winners she'd backed. Rachel came up with the idea of passing on a fake tip to Molly, some fictional insider knowledge on a fifty-to-one outsider called Roomgaloom, a dog with a smoker's cough. Molly would put a lot of money on this dog, and at the end of the race Rachel would be there to gloat.

Rachel couldn't pass on the tip herself because Molly would be suspicious, so she got Howard to pass on the information instead. Molly respected Howard. They often discussed betting and politics. Rachel told Howard not to say where he got this tip.

The plan was going perfectly until the race. Roomgaloom won (his coughing frightened the other dogs). But all was not lost for Rachel. Molly was even more trusting of Howard after this. She'd bet even more money on his next tip. Rachel found another outsider and she told Howard to tell Molly that this dog was sure to win because he had just overcome his phobia of hares, which had held him back in other races.

This time the plan seemed to go perfectly until after the race. The dog lost, and Rachel was looking forward to gloating, but then she saw Molly collecting her winnings. Howard hadn't passed on the tip that Rachel had given him. Instead he told Molly to back the dog that had gone on to win the race. When Rachel asked Howard about this he said that instinct made him do it. He somehow knew that Kingslowbat would win.

Molly kept backing winners based on Howard's tips, but the pressure of supplying the tips eventually got to him. He started drinking heavily, which left Joe with a wet arm. Joe was worried. He even considered putting Howard on his left arm when his dummy turned violent.

But then one day Howard was back to his old self. He told Molly that Ballyflangod was definitely going to win the first race on the card. She put a lot of money on this dog. She had been betting more and more with each race. Ballyflangod came last and Howard looked relieved. He had deliberately given a bad tip because he couldn't take the pressure any more. Rachel finally had a chance to gloat. She said to Molly, "That's what you get for playing tricks on people. Pixie would have beaten Ballyflangod." Molly scowled at Rachel, and Pixie was struggling to get out of her handbag. Rachel walked away victorious. Molly found she had made a profit after she added up the winnings from all of the races, but Rachel chose to ignore this.

The moose's head over the fireplace has been listening to the sound of the rain on the window over the past few days. Rose, one of our neighbours, came to visit at the weekend and she said you can improve your memory by listening to the rain or by watching the ripples of raindrops in puddles. She believes that we see things with our eyes and these images are passed on to our brains. The brain takes notes by dropping tiny pebbles into the sea in our heads. When the ripples reach the shores their frequency is recorded. Each frequency represents a tiny part of the image. Thousands of pages of records are needed for an entire image. The image can be recreated in the mind's eye using the records. It's impossible to create an exact replica of the image because of interference with the ripples as they travel towards the shore. A boat on the sea can seriously disrupt your memory. If you've been looking at a lot of things, this may lead to a build-up of pebbles on the sea bed. These can be disposed of with a good sneeze.