'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Raining Cats

The weather reminds me of summers from my youth. The wife's uncle has spent a lot of time standing in the garden, despite the rain. He says it reminds him of his younger days, when he spent many evenings loitering with his friends. Loitering was one of his favourite hobbies, and he was good at it. He says he could loiter with his hands tied behind his back. Getting arrested was something else he could do with his hands tied behind his back. This happened whenever they crossed the narrow line between standing in a public place and being drunk and disorderly

My cousin Gary was walking down a quiet country road late one night when he saw a very strange signpost with a sign that said 'This Way'. He stopped to look at it, and as he stood there the signpost didn't stop to be looked at. It started moving away. Gary realised that it had feet. He followed the signpost through fields and woods until he came to a shack. The walls weren't strong enough to keep the laughter and light inside. Gary could tell that it was a pub even before he stepped inside.

He ordered a pint and he asked the bar man about the pub's history. The bar man, whose name was Shane, said that he had built the pub with two of his friends after they had been barred from another pub in the area. The publican there was always throwing people out. His name was Ted. All Shane and his friends had done was make a joke about an eel that Ted had caught. At first they wanted revenge, so they built an enormous catapult to attack the pub. One of Shane's friends thought he saw someone do this in an episode of 'Murder, She Wrote', but he might have been thinking of something else or not thinking at all.

The catapult fell apart before they had a chance to use it. They built this makeshift pub using bits and pieces of the broken catapult. They were doing very good business. A lot of people went worm hunting at night in this area, and the hunters would often drop in for a drink, which was why so many people in the pub had guns. One man sitting at the bar was unarmed. He was trying to drink a pint, but he was hindered by his laughter. This was Willie. He used to be a regular in Ted's pub, but he was barred because he was always preaching doom and gloom. Ted said he was making the other drinkers even more depressed than they already were. Willie never smiled or laughed, until one day he saw a fire engine, and instead of having a siren it made noises like an ice cream van. This made him laugh, and he kept laughing. It completely changed his outlook on life. He became a regular in the makeshift pub, and his laughter helped create a good atmosphere. This had attracted even more customers.

Ted was angry about the exodus of drinkers to the makeshift pub. He wanted to shut them down, but he could never find them because they kept moving. They'd use the mobile signs to show people how to find the pub. These signs would point in the wrong direction if Ted looked at them.

It was nearly two o' clock in the morning when Gary ordered his second pint, and the pub showed no signs of closing. People were arriving all the time. One of the newcomers was a hunter, and he said he had heard stories about a giant worm with an umbrella. This worm had been seen in the ruins of the castle late at night. All of the hunters looked as if they were ready to shoot something after they heard this. Everyone in the pub, including Shane, Gary and Willie, left to go on a hunting expedition to the old castle.

The expedition turned out to be an anti-climax. They found an umbrella alright, but no giant worm. They did shoot many normal-size worms on the way back. The return journey turned out to be an anti-climax as well. When they got to the site of the pub they found the site alright, but no pub. Shane said, "Ted must have found it at last and stolen it. He often goes worm-hunting after closing time. He must have seen us, and he'd have known that the pub would be nearby."

"How could he have stolen it?" Gary said.

"His cousin owns a farm not far from here. He could have called the cousin and told him to bring his tractor and trailer. They'd have put the pub on the back of the trailer."

The hunting party went to the farm, and they found confirmation of Ted's suspicions. Through the window of a shed they saw the pub on the back of a trailer. As they were trying to figure out how to get the pub out they heard footsteps. Ted appeared from around the back of the shed. He had a shotgun. Almost everyone there had a shotgun, so it wasn't as dramatic as it might otherwise have been.

"I suppose ye'll be wanting the pub back," Ted said.

"Of course we'll be wanting the pub back," Shane said.

"Well ye're not getting it. I'm going to make it into a catapult, a badly-made catapult so that when I try to use it it'll destroy itself."

Ted's cousin arrived shortly afterwards. He also had a shotgun, but he had a look in his eyes that suggested he wanted to shoot something much bigger than a normal-size worm, so Shane and his customers went away.

Gary told Shane not to give up hope of getting the pub back. "I know a man who spent years working as a diplomat," Gary said. "I could go to see him tomorrow and ask him to have a word with Ted. His name is Frank. He might be able to negotiate a deal."

In Frank's career as a diplomat all he ever had to do was nod. He went to visit Ted's pub with Shane and Gary, and his nodding did have some effect. Ted agreed to return the pub if they did a favour for him. He wanted them to steal a frozen turkey from his grandmother. At first they refused, but he tried to talk them around. "'Steal' is the wrong word," he said. "That turkey is rightfully mine. I lost it in a bet with my grandmother. If I had won she'd have given me a box of cigars. But she won, and I found out later that she had cheated. The bet concerned the outcome of a hurling match in the county championship. I didn't see any way our local lads could lose, but she knew in advance that our goal-keeper hadn't slept in three days because his new girlfriend was taking something to keep herself awake, and she was keeping him awake as well. I have no idea how my grandmother finds out about these things. I only found out about this after I'd handed over the turkey. My efforts to get it back have been hindered by the fact that I can't pull a gun on my grandmother. I tried it once before, but my mother hit me over the head with a frying pan."

They agreed to have a go at retrieving the turkey. After they left the pub, Shane started thinking about how they'd break into the grandmother's house, but Frank didn't think an invasion was necessary. "We should try a diplomatic approach first. Only when diplomacy has been exhausted should we even consider breaking into an old lady's house."

Shane didn't think there was much likelihood of a diplomatic solution, but he underestimated the power of Frank's nodding. He managed to reach this deal with Ted's grandmother: she'd give them the turkey if they built her a catapult that could throw dead cats at Ted from over a hundred yards away. They agreed to this deal, and she invited them in. She took the frozen turkey out of her freezer and she gave it to them. They could see that the freezer was full of dead cats.

They didn't say anything about the cats to Ted when they returned the turkey. They thought it might spoil his enjoyment of the turkey, and it would spoil the surprise when a shower of dead cats rained down on him. Gary helped Shane and his friends build the catapult. This one didn't fall apart when they tested it with sandbags.

They hid behind bushes when they watched Ted's grandmother use it for the first time, and they got immense satisfaction from seeing it work so well. This satisfaction was only partly due to the sight of Ted being hit by dead cats. It was mainly due to the fact that they'd done such a good job. They felt they had to be there to see it in operation. They had to make sure that the cats were fully thawed before being fired at Ted.

The moose's head over the fireplace has been wearing a Panama hat over the past few days. It suits him, and he seems to enjoy wearing it. I found it in the attic. I also found a cello, but it only plays the French National Anthem.