'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Noel's Carnival

When I finish cutting the grass in one part of the garden it needs to be cut again in another part. I'm tempted to fill the lawns with rocks. One of our neighbours did just that. He says that each rock has its own personality. Some of them wear wigs of moss. One of them is trying to seduce the rock next to him.

My cousin Isobel was always trying to impress Mrs. Twullybull's geese. Everyone wanted to be one of their friends. Every time Isobel found herself out of favour with the geese she worked hard to get back into their good books. Sometimes this involved buying new clothes to convince them that she was fashionable. One summer she tried many different looks, but none of them impressed the geese. She spent weeks trying to get back in their good books, but nothing worked. She was starting to give up hope of ever regaining their favour when she won them around by accident. She got a job brushing the dandruff off the shoulders of musicians in an orchestra, and the geese were hugely impressed by this. There was a look of reverence on their faces when they saw her going off to work in the evenings. She became their favourite.

But she lost her job when she complained about the gravy on the shoulders of the musicians in the woodwind section. They were deeply offended by this, and they made the conductor fire her. They said she hadn't complained about the butter on the shoulders of the brass musicians. She believed that the gravy was much worse than the butter, and she made her feelings clear after she was fired.

She thought she'd lose the respect of the geese forever if she told them what had happened. She decided not to say anything. On the evenings when they expected her to be going to the concert hall she left the house as usual, and the geese believed that she was going to work. She needed somewhere else to go, so she started going to Noel's house. He was trying to turn his house and garden into a sort of a carnival. He had a house band called Tooper Scoopmodelplug. They could turn up anywhere around the house and start playing. You could open a wardrobe and find the band inside. They'd start playing, and they wouldn't stop until you closed the doors. In one of the upstairs bedrooms there was a 'Guess the weight of the witch' contest. There were two witches, and neither of them seemed interested in having their weight guessed. In the kitchen, a play was being performed by Cornell Whillip Fightinglugger. It was called 'The way I was when I came back from the army'. The play was different every night. Sometimes he'd be happy when he came back from the army. Sometimes he'd be violent.

On the landing there was a 'Catch the Thief' game. In this you could beat up Noel's cousin with a golf club, but most people didn't enjoy it because he wore a motorbike helmet and homemade padding. He did enjoy it.

When Isobel arrived at the house one evening, Noel offered her a job. Esther had just quit as organiser of the turtle races, citing personal differences with the turtles. He needed someone to replace her, and Isobel agreed to do it. She had to dress in a turtle costume, but she didn't mind. She got on very well with the turtles. Her duties included taking bets and making sure the turtles were relaxed.

She was enjoying her new job, but one evening she looked out the window and she saw Mrs. Twullybull arrive with her geese. She knew she'd lose their respect forever if they saw her working in Noel's carnival, wearing a turtle costume. She hid in a wardrobe. The band were in there. They took her down a tunnel that led to a room with no windows. They made her some tea, and they performed the opening to the opera they were working on. The music was very dramatic, but the libretto was about eating cake in bed. She told them that she wanted to get away from the geese, and they showed her a tunnel that would take her to a well in the back garden.

When Isobel emerged from the well she saw Mrs. Twullybull and the geese, and they saw her. They were in the garden to watch Marjorie, who sat on a kennel while people threw paper planes into her enormous hair. She was wearing her wedding apron, and this brought an air of melancholy to the game.

Isobel ran home. She didn't think she'd ever be able to face the geese again, and she avoided Mrs. Twullybull's house for days. When she finally gathered the courage to walk past it again she looked down at the ground. She glanced up briefly, and she noticed that the geese were staring at her. With a second glance she saw the reverence on their faces. They respected her more as a turtle in Noel's carnival than as a member of an orchestra. She realised that the respect of geese wasn't something to be prized after all.

The moose's head over the fireplace looks bored. He's had to listen to the wife's uncle talking about the latest love of his life. He met her at a fancy dress party. She went as a mummy. He went as an airplane and he crashed into her. She said she'd go as an airport next time.