'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Ring

The garden needed the rain. The gnomes have their umbrellas up, but they look happy. I've seen the tiny prints of their Wellingtons to and from the fish pond. I think they're hiding a boat somewhere.

My cousin Charlotte once went for an eye test. The optician told her that she didn't need glasses but she did need to spend more time looking at rabbits.

So she spent a lot of time in the fields around her house. She enjoyed spending time in the fields anyway. She lost count of the amount of rabbits she saw there. She also saw a fox and a squirrel, but it was one of the rabbits that interested her most. He had a sponge tied to his back. She decided to follow this rabbit.

He led her to a woman who was carrying two suitcases. She put the suitcases down when the rabbit stopped in front of her. She removed the sponge from his back and she said, "Thank you very much." She put the sponge into one of the suitcases.

Her name was Tara. She told Charlotte that she had been on her way to a variety show, where she was due to perform a song called 'That's why the alien is a tramp'. Her two suitcases were tied to the roof rack of her car, but as she was driving around a tight corner they fell off and rolled down a hillside. Most of their contents had fallen out. The rabbits were helping her retrieve those contents, but so far they'd only brought back sponges, and some of them weren't even hers. She was much more concerned about finding her engagement ring. She had put that into one of the suitcases because when it was on her finger it was too much of a distraction as she was driving. The variety show was just an hour away and she had to find her ring before going there.

She said, "If I go on stage without my ring, people will think that I've broken off my engagement to Freddie, and they'll see this as confirmation of the rumours concerning his involvement in a plot to steal a bottle of wine."

"I have some wine I don't want," Charlotte said. "He can have that."

"It's this particular bottle that everyone seems to want. And it's not because of the wine in it. They all want it because on the label someone has drawn a picture of a teddy bear with sharp teeth."

A man ran by. He was wearing a leather jacket. Charlotte's optician had told her not to look at men in leather jackets, so she looked down at the ground. She looked up again when she heard a man shout 'Where did you put the ring?'. The man who shouted this was chasing the man in the leather jacket.

"That seems like a promising lead," Charlotte said to Tara.

Charlotte took one of the suitcases and they ran after the two men, but the suitcases slowed them down. They couldn't keep running for very long. They stopped when they met a man who was sitting on a rock in a field filled with gorse bushes, long grass, wild flowers and a rock. They asked him if he'd seen two men running by. He said, "Do ye want to see my spider? He's made out of bread."

Tara was giving up hope of finding the ring, and a bread spider seemed like the sort of thing that would cheer her up. The man's name was Gordon. He took them to a corner of the field, but there was no spider. "Is it possible that the spider has been eaten?" Charlotte said.

"Well I'd have remembered if I ate him myself. I've never forgotten eating his grandmother because he keeps reminding me. She went well with butter and marmalade, even though she was a bit stale."

They searched for the spider. And for the engagement ring. And for the man in the leather jacket who knew something about the whereabouts of a ring.

They found the man first. He was chasing the man who had been chasing him earlier, and he was joined by six other man, all wearing black leather jackets. One member of this gang shouted, "Tell us where you put the milk churn?"

After they'd all run by, Charlotte said to Tara, "Do you want a milk churn?"


"Neither do I."

They came across a donkey who was pulling a cart. The cart was full of odds and ends. Charlotte said, "My optician told me I should spend as much time as possible staring at a cart-load of odds and ends, especially if that cart is being pulled by a donkey."

So she looked into the back of the cart. "That hair would make an excellent moustache," she said. "It looks as if it's hardly ever been worn. I wouldn't put my hand into that glove. It looks as if it's been worn about a hundred times too often. That diamond... is attached to a ring."

"My ring!" Tara said. She removed the ring from the cart and she put it on her finger. She kissed the donkey. "I might just be in time for my performance if I hurry," she said.

"I'll help you with the cases," Charlotte said.

Gordon said, "What about my spider? Who's going to help me look for him?"

As Tara was trying to think of a polite way of saying that she didn't care about the spider, a rabbit came up to her and the spider was tied to its back.

"It's so nice to see the rabbit helping the spider," Charlotte said. "But it's just as well the spider isn't made out of lettuce."

"I used to have a spider made out of lettuce," Gordon said. "He came to an unfortunate end when he met a moth made out of mayonnaise. They got on like a house on fire. And then I ate them."

Gordon said he'd attach the things in the cart to the backs of the rabbits and let them return all the items. Charlotte and Tara ran back to Tara's car.

They got to the concert hall just in time. Tara was too preoccupied with her performance to notice that no one could look her in the eye, but Charlotte noticed. When Tara finished her song the audience gave her a polite round of applause and they tried to avoid making eye contact. When she came off the stage the show's director informed her that Freddie had been kidnapped. Three women wearing black uniforms took him away in a van. No one knew if he wanted to be kidnapped. He didn't seem to be resisting.

Half an hour later, Tara got a phone call. It was the ransom demand. The kidnappers wanted the bottle of wine.

"Maybe he really did steal it," she said to Charlotte.

"Or maybe the kidnappers believe the rumours," Charlotte said.

"There's only one way to find out. I know where his safe is, and the combination. He keeps everything of value in there."

They went to Freddie's house. Tara had a key. The safe was hidden behind a painting in his study. She opened it, but all she found inside was a comic book and a statue of King Kong. "So he didn't steal it," she said. "I'm glad he didn't, but how are we going to get him back if we don't have the wine?"

They tried to think of a plan. Charlotte noticed a painting of a race horse on a wall. She stared at that because her optician had told her to look at paintings of race horses. But she couldn't think about the matter at hand because her mind kept drifting back to the donkey and cart. She ended up devoting all her time to remembering the things she'd seen on the cart, and it was only then that she remembered seeing the wine bottle with the teddy bear on the label.

They drove back to the countryside. There was just enough moonlight for them to find the donkey and cart. Most of the contents of the cart had been taken away by the rabbits. Gordon was still there, and he was drunk, so Charlotte and Tara were able to guess what became of the wine, but Tara said they only needed the bottle.

Gordon told them that the bottle of wine had been too heavy for the poor little bunny to carry, so he decided to help the rabbit by drinking its contents, and then he attached the empty bottle to the rabbit's back. He pointed towards the ditch where the rabbit had gone. Charlotte and Tara headed off in this direction.

They found the rabbit trying to get the wine bottle into a rabbit hole. They took the bottle from him, and they gave him a packet of mints instead. He was able to get this into the hole.

Charlotte and Tara drove back to the city. They filled the bottle with cheap wine and put it into a bag, and then they put the bag into a rubbish bin on a quiet street just in time for the midnight deadline. They watched as a black van stopped next to the bin. An arm reached out and took the bag, and shortly afterwards Freddie was thrown from the back of the van.

He was delighted to be re-united with Tara. He insisted that he had nothing to do with the theft of the wine, but he admitted that he drank some of it when he was at a party at a friend's house. Only after all the wine was gone did they notice the teddy on the bottle. They filled it with water, and his friend promised to get it back to its rightful owner. He had no idea how it came to be on the back of the cart. Tara and Charlotte had no idea how Gordon got drunk on water.

The moose's head over the fireplace enjoys listening to the sound of the rain on the window. He enjoys listening to Wimbledon as well. The sound of the tennis balls being struck and the screaming is almost hypnotic. The wife's uncle says that he once fell asleep while playing tennis. His opponent kept throwing her racket at his head, but he still proposed to her as soon as he regained consciousness.