'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Rock's Birthday

The leaves are coming out on the trees again. The garden will soon be in full bloom. One of our neighbours says that firemen keep trying to put her flowers out, even though she asks them not to do that.

My aunt Joyce once helped her friend, Pamela, organise a garden party to celebrate the birthday of Pamela's favourite rock. The rock resided in her rockery. Her astrologer had told her that its birthday was in June. She invited all of her friends and neighbours to the party. There was a long table on the lawn behind her house. The table was covered with a white table cloth, which was almost hidden beneath plates, bowls, cups and glasses. The astrologer insisted that there should also be two other smaller tables. One of them should hold a selection of cheese, and on the other one there should be a woman dressed as Little Bo Peep. Pamela got her niece, Gillian, to fill the role of Little Bo Peep. Gillian struggled to stay awake as she sat on the table.

Sean, one of Pamela's neighbours, spent most of his spare time smoking a pipe. He could play music through the pipe. At the party he was confused by the arrangement of the tables. He kept walking around the garden, trying to figure out the purpose of the Little Bo Peep table. As he walked he absent-mindedly played a tune through his pipe. He didn't notice that most of the other guests had become transfixed by the tune and they were following him around.

Pamela's dog was asleep on a table in the shed. When he rolled over in his sleep he fell off the table and landed in a bucket that had been placed on the ground beneath a leak in the roof. It was full of water after the rain on the previous day. The dog had always been a repository of strange noises, and the noise he made on landing in the bucket was a high-pitched shriek you wouldn't expect to hear from a dog. The people who were following Sean emerged from their trance when they heard the sound. They all had a feeling that something was wrong.

Little Bo Peep had been drifting off to sleep. The dog's shriek woke her, and she fell off the table. The table fell over with her. Everyone in the garden looked at her. She saw that they all had expressions of fear on their faces. She thought she must have done or said something wrong. Something very wrong, judging by the way they were looking at her. So she got to her feet and she ran away into the trees behind the garden. Sean thought she knew what she was doing -- that the situation called for a swift escape and that she knew where she was going. So he ran after her and everyone else ran after him.

Joyce and Pamela had been in the kitchen getting more food ready when they heard the noise. By the time they got out to the garden the place was deserted. "Where has everyone gone?" Pamela said.

"I don't know," Joyce said. "This is a bit like the Marie Celeste."

They walked to the end of the garden, and Joyce noticed a half-eaten cake on the path through the trees. "They must have left in a hurry if they dropped that," she said. "Only a very serious situation would call for the abandonment of cake."

They walked down the path, and they found another piece of cake further on. "I don't like this at all," Joyce said.

Gillian kept running away through the fields. She thought the other guests were chasing her. She didn't know what she had done, but she knew she must have made a serious faux pas to warrant such a reaction.

They all struggled to keep running on such a warm day. They had to stop to take a break. A waiter brought Gillian a gin and tonic. He also served drinks to the other guests, who had stopped running when she stopped. They were about twenty yards behind her. When everyone had been suitably refreshed, Gillian started running again and the others followed.

Joyce and Pamela moved at a slower pace, but they didn't need to stop for a rest. Pamela wondered how astrology could help her locate her guests, but she didn't need to contact her astrologer. The guests had to stop again, and this time they took a much longer break. Joyce and Pamela caught up with them. After Pamela had reassured them that nothing was wrong, they all made their way back to the garden. They walked slowly because were all tired. Pamela was worried about the fate of her party. A party that ended badly would be a bad omen, she believed. It was nearly dark by the time they got back.

A man called Glen had stayed behind in the garden. He was sound asleep when the dog landed in the bucket, and the noise didn't wake him. When he finally woke he was surprised to see that he was on his own. Some people would think they're in heaven if they found themselves alone with so much food, but Glen preferred eating paper food. He'd get through a few A4 sheets of apples and pears every day. They had to be fresh. If he kept the sheets for too long someone would write on them. There were paper decorations in the garden, and he used these to make food. This is how he passed the time while the others were away.

By the time they returned he had filled the table with paper food. He lit the candles on the table. Pamela and her guests looked on in awe at the paper banquet before them. Pamela was delighted because there was a chance that she could rescue her party.

Her hope was soon dashed. A gentle breeze blew a paper strawberry onto a candle, and all of the food caught fire. The whole thing burnt out in seconds.

All of the guests were depressed. Miranda put up her grey umbrella and started sobbing beneath it. This was always a sign of doom.

Urgent action was needed to save the party. Someone had once told Pamela that you can bring a bit of life back into your party by poking your guests with a TV aerial. She certainly wasn't prepared to do this. Music would be a much better way of restoring life to the dying patient. So she led her guests into the house and she put on some records.

These had no effect, even the song about the man whose sand sculptures come to life. Any time she'd played this in the past it had never failed to make people laugh or cry.

Joyce had an idea. "Mrs. Lamprog will restore the party mood," she said to Pamela. "She couldn't possibly fail. I'll go and get her now."

Mrs. Lamprog was nearly ninety. She had been a professional opera singer when she was young, and she still loved performing. Her performances never failed to fill people's hearts with joy. Joyce drove to Mrs. Lamprog's house and asked her to sing at Pamela's party. Mrs. Lamprog said she'd be delighted to sing.

She transformed the atmosphere as soon as she started singing. Miranda was smiling again. She was also holding a cocktail that had a tiny multi-coloured umbrella in it, and she had a flower in her hair. A local politician was dancing with a chicken. He must have brought the chicken with him.

Joyce and Pamela were closest to Mrs. Lamprog as she sang. They felt a slight urge to leave in the middle of a song. They turned around and they saw that all of the guests had gone. They had a vague memory of music, something other than the sound emanating from Mrs. Lamprog. They had to wait until Mrs. Lamprog finished her song before going out to look for the guests. It was impossible to catch her attention while she was singing. When she came to the end of the song she was expecting another round of applause, but she was disappointed to find that the room was almost empty. Joyce said they had to look for the guests. Mrs. Lamprog went with them.

The guests were nowhere to be found in the house, and the garden was empty as well. At the end of the garden, Joyce found the flower that had been in Miranda's hair. "They must have been led away again," Joyce said.

Joyce, Pamela and Mrs. Lamprog walked through the fields and the woods in search of the missing guests. Mrs. Lamprog kept talking about how disappointed she was.

It was nearly midnight when they found the guests in the garden of a woman called Pugnosia, Pamela's arch enemy. Pugnosia had taken the pipe from Sean's mouth and replaced it with a pen. She had played the pipe and led the guests away.

Pamela felt a sense of doom. She believed that her party was a sign of things to come, and her party had been a disaster. She had to make one last effort to get her guests back, so she spread this message: her astrologer told her not to go to Pugnosia's party because she'd have to witness a man expressing his undying love for a worm.

The guests were already starting to realise that Pugnosia didn't have much to offer at her party, and they wanted to leave after they heard this, but Pugnosia was looking at them. It would be rude to leave before her back was turned.

Pugnosia sensed that she was losing them. She thought about singing to entertain them. Joyce told her she'd help. "I know just the person to entertain your guests," she said. "I'll bring him here right now."

Joyce brought a magician called Arnold to the party. His act was making buttons appear. It gets tedious very quickly. Joyce's plan was that he'd pull a button out of Pugnosia's ear, and the guests would have a chance to leave while she was distracted. But Arnold didn't get around to this. He pulled a handful of buttons out of his hair. "Where did this worm come from?" he said as he looked at the contents of his hand. A worm was trying to hide amongst the buttons.

Everyone left in front of Pugnosia. The garden was empty within seconds. They all went back to Pamela's place and Mrs. Lamprog started singing again. The rest of the party went without a hitch, even though Pugnosia arrived later on. Pamela decided to make peace with her rather than risk losing her guests again.

The moose's head over the fireplace enjoyed the snooker on TV over the past two weeks. I think he finds it relaxing. He also finds jazz relaxing. He's been getting an education in jazz from the wife's uncle, a man who's always had an impeccable taste in music, but he surprised us all recently when he told us he's been listening to metal. He says the snails in his radio absorb most of the sound.