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

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Cat's Dungarees

I've been thinking about re-designing the gardens so I have less grass to cut. Everyone is giving me advice, but so far no one has recommended covering all the lawns with rocks. My grandfather's advice was that all advice should be treated as if it originated in the brain of a man with a feather in his head and a hat on his pigeon. The hat on my grandfather's pigeon had a white feather in it.

My cousin Gary got a job at a radio station. He started socialising with the sports presenters, but on the mornings after his nights out with them he'd always feel as if something was wrong. Ciara, one of his neighbours, would call around to tell him what he smelled of. The process of determining the smell could take over an hour. When her work was finished she'd fill in a form to confirm what he smelled of. He'd take this form to the doctor, and the doctor would act accordingly. On most of Gary's visits, the doctor chose to act as follows: pulling his hair and screaming. This is why Gary chose to do something about the doctor, whose name was James. James needed to relax -- this was Gary's opinion. James asked for a second opinion, and this was provided by Gary's friend Dermot. When they consulted him he said, "I think you need to relax more."

James said, "You're just reading that off your hand."

"He's not," Gary said. "He's practically an expert in this field."

"I wouldn't trust the medical opinion of a man who has snails on his arms," James said, "especially if those snails are hiding behind snail-like growths on his arms."

"Do you think it's likely that a man with snails and snail-like growths on his arms can read?"

"I wouldn't trust the medical opinion of a man who never read a medical textbook."

"Have you never heard of audio books?"

"Maybe he is an expert, but that doesn't mean you haven't paid him to give this opinion."

"He'd never do something like that. A man with snails on his arms is much more difficult to corrupt than a man with no snails. Just ask his mother."

They went to see Dermot's mother. Dermot went with them. Before they had a chance to ask about her son's integrity they had to listen to her complain about the snails. "I thought you said you were going to give them a bath," she said.

"I am. I will. As soon as Bud comes back from his uncle's."

"What does Bud have to do with it?"

"He has the snails' bath. And their shampoo."

"Why did you give him their bath and their shampoo?"

"He said he needed them. It was an emergency."

"Isn't that what Judith said when she asked you for the cat?"


"Did she bring the cat back?"

"Yeah, but..."

"But what?"

"The cat didn't have his dungarees when he came back."

"Well you can go over to her place right now and ask her for the dungarees."

Dermot looked down at his feet and said, "Okay."

Gary took this opportunity to ask about Dermot's integrity. His mother said, "You can judge for yourself right now. If he goes to Judith's house, he has integrity. But no one could claim to have integrity after disobeying their mother. Thieves are the sort of people who disobey their mother. Unless their mother told them to steal something. But those mothers are the sort of people who disobey their mothers. Unless their mothers told them to tell their children to steal things."

After they left Dermot's mother, Gary asked Dermot if he was going to visit Judith.

"I don't know," Dermot said. "I'd rather forget about the cat's dungarees."

"And disobey your mother? Do you want to become a thief?"

"I've thought about it. I could steal the cat's dungarees."

"Why would you do that when you could just ask for them?"

"It's not easy asking for them. Something always happens when I'm talking to Judith. Or she gets me to do something. The last time I met her I ended up getting a stuffed hobbit off her roof. It wasn't a real hobbit before it was stuffed."

"Don't you want to be able to say 'I'm a man of integrity'?"

"I suppose so."

James said, "A man of genuine integrity wouldn't say 'I suppose so' when asked if he wanted to do something to prove his integrity."

Gary said, "He would if that thing involved leaving the trench and facing enemy fire."

"Meeting a woman who might ask you to remove a stuffed hobbit who probably never actually lived isn't exactly facing enemy fire."

"And what if the hobbit had lived? You'd be removing the corpse of a hobbit from a roof. A man of integrity would have reservations about doing that."

"She's hardly likely to have the corpse of another hobbit on her roof."

"Well I'm certainly going there to see. Are you coming with me, Dermot?"

"Okay," Dermot said.

They went to Judith's house and Dermot asked her if he could have the cat's dungarees. She said, "I gave them to my sister, Diane. She said it was an emergency. I have her cat's pyjamas. You can keep these until she gives you back the dungarees."

"That's okay," Dermot said. "I'm sure she'll give back the dungarees."

They left and headed for Diane's house. On the way there, Gary said, "Dermot's refusal to take the pyjamas is a further sign of his integrity. He chose not to take them so he wouldn't have to question the honour of Diane."

James said, "I think he chose not to take them because he wanted to get away from Judith as quickly as possible before she asked him to get something down from the roof."

Dermot refused to comment on this.

When he asked Diane about the dungarees she said, "I washed them. They're drying on my clothes line now. They should be dry in about an hour."

"I'll come back then," Dermot said.

"Could you possibly do a favour for me? There's something on my roof..."

Dermot ran away. Gary had to concede that this signalled a lack of integrity, but James admitted that the process of examining Dermot's integrity had been relaxing, and that the relaxation had done him good. They got the thing down from Diane's roof, and he found this relaxing as well. The thing turned out to be a mannequin in a policeman's uniform.

The moose's head over the fireplace is enjoying these long days. The view outside the window remains switched on until late at night. I can't think of a better end to the day than to drink a glass of brandy and look out as the garden's colours become deeper and darker. I visited one of our neighbours over the weekend. He prefers the short days of winter. He drew a window on his wall and he drew curtains around it. He isn't going to draw a garden in the window because he'd be tempted to go outside if he saw a view.