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

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Agnes and Hazel are sitting in the field

The rabbits in the fields are trying to cheer themselves up in the rain. They seem to be performing a dance. If my great-grandfather had seen this he would have taken it as an invitation to get his shotgun, but he wouldn't have shot any of the rabbits. He felt a deep attachment to his talking gun. He enjoyed walking through the fields with it. The rabbits were afraid of the gun until they got to know it.

My aunt Joyce lived near a woman who painted her front door purple. This made people point at her house and say, "She painted her front door purple." Joyce enjoyed doing this, but sometimes she couldn't devote as much time to the pointing as she wanted to because she'd have to visit her friends, Agnes and Hazel, when they'd be sitting in a field. Agnes and Hazel were sisters. They always forewarned her of their trips to the field by sending her a postcard saying 'We'll be sitting in the field for the next few days'. The postcard would be delivered by a man called Casey who always looked as if he was dragging a boulder behind him. He spent his days delivering postcards. The invisible boulder slowed him down, but he never had to travel more than two miles to make a delivery. He spent his evenings in his cottage, writing a book called 'The Chemistry of Alan Elevatorish'. He'd been given the title twenty years earlier by a woman who woke up in his garden, and he'd been writing the book ever since.

After getting one of these postcards on a Saturday afternoon, Joyce went to see Agnes and Hazel. The field was full of wild flowers, rocks and gorse bushes. The sisters were sitting on deckchairs. Joyce said, "Does this have anything to do with the cheesecake?"

Joyce liked reminding them of the last time they tried to make a cheesecake. If they'd known it would be so flammable they wouldn't have left it near a candle.

"No," Hazel said. "It has nothing to do with the cheesecake. This is about Tom."

Tom was their cat. He had been wearing a button, and it looked as if he wanted someone to press the button, but Agnes and Hazel were afraid of what might happen if they pressed it. They thought they'd be better off letting someone else press it. They were thinking about who they'd get to do the job when Paul arrived. He lived in an old farmhouse a few hundred yards down the road. He used to buy old furniture, refurbish it, and then sell it for a profit. Over the years he diversified into other areas. He'd buy and sell just about anything, and he always managed to find a buyer for everything he had on sale.

When he visited Agnes and Hazel he was selling a bridesmaid's dress full of frogs and a statue with a knife stuck in its back. The sisters didn't want either of these things, but they bought the statue because they thought it might make it more difficult for him to say no when they asked him to press the cat's button.

He said yes when they asked. He would have said yes even if they hadn't bought the statue. As soon as he pressed it, Tom stood on his hind legs and did a dance. Agnes and Hazel were delighted with the dance. Paul liked it as well. He became very friendly with the cat after this, even though he was against the idea of keeping pets. He had conjoined snails once. Looking after them was too much trouble. When he had to pay for the operation to get them separated he swore he'd never have pets again, but he didn't mind when Tom came to visit.

"Tom is spending most of his time at Paul's house," Hazel told Joyce. "I suppose it's our own fault for not pressing the button, but we'd love to have him back. If only there was some way we could win him around."

"It would be easier to do something that would make his visits to Paul's house seem less appealing," Joyce said. "Is there anything that Tom dislikes?"

"Dolls," Agnes said. "He hates dolls. Ever since our niece tried to force him into an arranged marriage with her doll."

"We just have to buy enough dolls to make Paul's house seem like a dangerous place for the cat."

Joyce, Agnes and Hazel bought over thirty dolls in second-hand shops. They asked Paul if he'd be interested in buying them. He agreed to take the dolls in exchange for ten packets of raspberry jelly.

The next time Tom visited Paul's house he went to the shed where Paul was working. Tom didn't stay in the shed for very long. The sight of all those dolls staring at him made his hair stand up. He ran from the shed, and he kept running until he got to Agnes and Hazel's house. He hasn't gone anywhere near Paul's house since then, but he still enjoys having the button pressed when Paul comes to visit.

The moose's head over the fireplace is enjoying the summer because of the scarcity of politicians on TV. The wife's uncle says he was once elected to a local parliament that was formed to fill the power vacuum when the politicians go on their summer holidays. They spent most of their time talking about the best way to set a tomato on fire.