'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Ice Cream Factory

The dog enjoys chasing his shadow around the garden when the sun is out. Both the sun and his shadow have been in hiding for most of the summer. When his shadow does come out they make the most of their time together. The dog will chase the shadow and then he'll let the shadow chase him. They seem to be good friends, but when the shadow got stuck in a gate the dog just left him there and chased a flower pot instead.

My cousin Jane and her friend, Claudia, were very eager to see Shane's ice cream factory. He had inherited a farm from his uncle, and the ice cream factory was on the farm. But every time Jane and Claudia asked him about it he always changed the subject. He'd start talking about geese or the best way to confuse a bishop. Eventually Jane said to him, "Look, we really want to see the ice cream factory. When are you going to take us to see the ice cream factory? We're going to keep pestering you about it until you take us to see the ice cream factory."

Shane sighed and said, "Okay. I'll take ye to see the ice cream factory. But prepare to be disappointed."

He drove them to the farm. It looked as if the place had been abandoned for years. The ice cream factory was really just a few machines in an old shed, but neither Jane nor Claudia were disappointed. They were fascinated by the machines. They kept asking questions about the gears and levers and switches. Shane answered each question with the words 'I don't know', but the questions kept coming.

Claudia pressed a red button. She didn't think anything would happen as a result of pressing the button because she thought the machines weren't working, but as soon as she pressed it they heard the sound of machinery moving in the loft above them. Shane was scared because he'd never seen this happen before, and when he was in the midst of things he'd never seen happen before he was always afraid that they'd only stop happening when something exploded.

Instead of an explosion, the machinery stopped moving when a trap door in the ceiling opened and a man fell through it. He landed on a mattress on the floor. Jane had already asked Shane why the mattress was on the floor, and now she had her answer. When she asked him why the man fell through the ceiling after Claudia pressed the button he said, "I don't know."

The man coughed up some dust and he got to his feet, but he looked unsteady. Shane asked him if he was part of the machinery. He said, "Hm? Oh. The... The, ah... People from the magazine. I mean... Was I meant to do that?"

"I don't know," Shane said. "I've never been around when someone pressed that button before. As long as it doesn't cause an explosion, I don't really mind. You're not going to explode, are you?"

"Well I've never exploded before, so... But there's a first time for everything... Or is there? If you explode before you get a chance to implode, then there's no first time for imploding."

"Or vice versa," Jane said.

"Him, yeah. But I don't think I'm going to explode. If I feel an explosion or an implosion coming on, I'll let you know."

"Do you have a name?" Claudia said to him.

"A name?... Oh yeah... Yeah, I think I do actually... Do you want me to go and get it for you?"

"What do you want us to call you?"

"Oh, a 'name'. I thought you meant... I think I have one of them if you... A name. Most people call me Clarky."

Jane, Claudia and Shane introduced themselves and they shook hands with Clarky. Shane said to him, "Do you have any idea why these machines won't make ice cream any more?"

"It's a mystery to me. I'm just one small part of the machine. A nut or a bolt isn't going to be able to fix your car."

"I think I know what's wrong here," Shane said. "This looks like the work of wizards."

Shane blamed everything on wizards. When Mrs. Clowerdow's dog fainted after a very big bird flew over his head, Shane blamed the nearest wizard. He didn't trust chocolate rabbits either. "Breaking an ice cream factory is just the sort of thing a wizard would do," he said. "I'm sure we'll find a wizard nearby, probably in the trees at the other side of the farmyard. My brother Ryan will help us catch him. He's an expert in this area."

Ryan always wore a white lab coat with three red pens in the pocket to indicate the laboratory he was a member of. It was a warning to members of rival labs, and to wizards, and it was also an invitation to fight. Ryan and his colleagues often had to catch wizards to advance their research. These wizards would be released back into the wild when the research was completed. Crisps were used as bait to catch the wizards. They found that wizards had a weakness for salt and vinegar crisps. They could smell the crisps from half a mile away. Many of them lived in tunnels that were hidden amongst the roots of trees. They'd emerge from their tunnels when they smelled the crisps. If another wizard tried to take the bait, they'd fight. They always had weapons concealed up their sleeves. Sometimes they'd have swords or clubs. Ryan once saw a fight between two wizards where one was wielding a snake and the other was wielding a badger. The wizards started to fear their own weapons more than their opponent's, so they just let the snake and the badger fight while they shared the crisps. It was an entertaining fight. The badger won when he got the snake in a headlock. The snake demanded a re-match.

After the sun went down, Ryan set up a trap in the trees at the side of the farm yard. He left some crisps on the ground. The wizard would only have eyes for the crisps and he wouldn't notice the net hanging above them.

While they were waiting for the wizard to arrive Claudia said, "My uncle once accidentally set fire to his mother-in-law's garden shed, and she had been threatening to kill him even before that. A wizard with a suitcase appeared. He said he needed help getting into the suitcase, so my uncle helped him in. But then he thought, 'The wizard isn't much use to me in the suitcase.' So he started kicking the suitcase to get the wizard out because he wanted some help with the garden shed before his mother-in-law came home. But the wizard didn't like that. He made a dog chase my uncle away."

The wizard arrived shortly afterwards. He knelt on the ground next to the crisps and started eating them. Even after the net dropped on top of him he kept eating the crisps. Shane went over to him and said, "You did something to the ice cream factory, didn't you."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," the wizard said.

"You're not getting out until you admit it."

"Fine. I did something to the ice cream factory."

"Now un-do it."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"You're not getting out until you agree to fix the ice cream factory."

"Fine. I'll fix the ice cream factory."

They took the wizard to the shed and they locked him inside. Shortly afterwards they heard the sound of machinery moving. The speed of the machines' movement increased and the sound got louder, but after a few minutes the machines stopped, and there was silence. The next sound they heard was an explosion. The roof of the shed was blown off. Ryan, Shane, Jane, Claudia and Clarky were all covered in ice cream. The wizard staggered out of the shed, and he was covered in ice cream as well. He tasted some of the ice cream stuck to his sleeves. He seemed to like it. He started eating the rest of the ice cream with as much enthusiasm as he had shown for the crisps. Jane and Claudia tried some of the ice cream stuck to them, and it tasted great.

"This is basically how the factory works," Clarky said. "You might have to sacrifice the occasional roof, but you'll get some fantastic ice cream."

The moose's head over the fireplace has been wearing his headphones over the past few days. He's listening to a recording of waves. He finds the sound relaxing, and you can see this in the peaceful expression on his face. He exudes a sense of peace. The wife's uncle says he hasn't felt this relaxed since he fell asleep in a chocolate car. The car was made by a friend of his, who also made a chocolate gun. The gun would melt in your hand as soon as you pulled the trigger.