'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Wedding Cake

Yesterday we experienced something that looked remarkably like summer. The garden gnomes were wearing sunglasses. My great-grandfather experienced something like summer once, but it was just the result of something he ate. He tried eating more of it, but it didn't have the same effect the second time around. It made him talk to the creatures living in his hat. He had been ignoring them for years.

My cousin Charlie was watching TV one evening when the doorbell rang. It was a woman called Monica, and she asked him if he had any old chewing gum he wasn't using. She had already collected over a tonne of it from his neighbours. She was going to use it on a wedding cake. Charlie said he might have some around the house. He invited her in, and they went looking for it.

They found a few pieces under the tables and chairs. When Charlie looked under the table in the dining room he found a note stuck to it, as well as a few pieces of chewing gum. He had bought this table at an auction, but he'd never seen the note before. It said 'You'll find it in the sixteenth hole, under the empty cigarette packets'.

"That sounds like Phil's golf course," Monica said. "Maybe there's treasure buried on the sixteenth hole."

"It might be worth having a look."

"Definitely. And it might be worth waiting until it's dark. I can't see any reason why Phil should be informed of this."

Phil had built a golf course in his back garden, or at least he had dug eighteen holes. He often threw rubbish into them. Over the years the holes had filled up with rubbish. He threw empty cigarette packets into the sixteenth hole.

Charlie and Monica went to the golf course after midnight and they started excavating the sixteenth hole. They removed thousands of empty cigarette packets. Occasionally they'd come across some other item of rubbish, like an old shoe or the handle from a teapot. They had nearly reached the bottom of the hole when they came across a plastic bag, and when they looked inside they found the treasure. It was a figurine of a monkey.

"Is it gold?" Monica said.

"It looks like gold. If it wasn't gold, why would someone hide it here and leave directions under the table? Whoever did that must have expected someone else to find the note and retrieve the monkey."

A light came on in Phil's house. Charlie and Monica started re-filling the hole, but they abandoned the job and ran away when they heard the back door opening. Phil shouted at them to stop, but they kept going. He ran after them.

Charlie said they'd find a good hiding place in Conrad's garden, so they ran towards that. Conrad was building a tunnel to Dublin. He always wore a shirt and tie as he worked on it, but he never dug for too long before stopping to take a rest. He spent most of his time sitting on a deck chair next to the tunnel.

Charlie and Monica went down into the tunnel to get away from Phil. There was a full moon in the sky, and they were afraid that he might have seen them go into their hiding place. The tunnel was much bigger than they thought it would be. They were expecting something like one of the holes on Phil's golf course, but this was a proper tunnel, and it forked off in different directions.

They kept going further into the tunnel to get away from Phil, but it wasn't long before they were lost. They thought about going back and trying to retrace their steps. Neither of them wanted to go to Dublin. But they saw a faint light up ahead, so they kept going. They heard strange ghostly voices, and they were terrified of what they might find, but it was better than the darkness behind them.

They came to a small room. A group of people were sitting around a table. They were playing cards. The light came from the candle in the centre of the table. They told Charlie and Monica that they came down here every time there was a full moon. They all had their own reasons for avoiding the moon.

Rita kept staring at the moon when it was full. People thought she was mad, but she had a fear of being licked by the moon's tongue. She thought that if she turned her back for a second it would lick her. She found that it was much easier to stay underground and avoid the moon.

Betty has a star of her own. She knows it's hers because she's seen her name written on it (she looked at it through binoculars). One night she pointed her binoculars at the full moon and she was shocked by what she saw. Something slanderous had been written about her on the surface of the moon. She was furious, but there was nothing she could do about it. She had to do her best to forget about the moon's claims, and it was easier to forget when she was underground with people who shared her anti-moon views.

Cliff used to love the moon. His sister would tell him when it was raining on the moon, and he'd go a bit mad then. He'd go outside at night and dance in the fields. But one night, as the moon was passing over him, it spilled a barrel full of rain water on top of him. The water had a funny smell. This incident completely changed his attitude towards the moon.

Charlie and Monica were delighted to see these friendly faces. Monica said, "Could ye show us how to get out? We're lost."

Betty said, "There's no way we'd leave our underground shelter until the moon goes away. Absolutely no way. Unless there was some very strong incentive."

She looked at the bag in Monica's hand as she said that. Monica and Charlie looked at each other, and they both nodded. Monica took the monkey out of the bag, and she told the anti-moon club they could have it if they acted as guides. The group agreed. They led Charlie and Monica out of the tunnel.

They emerged from the ground in a field. They started walking back towards Charlie's house, but they hadn't gone far when Phil caught up with them. He demanded to know what they'd taken from the sixteenth hole.

"Just this plastic bag," Monica said. "We're sorry." She gave it back to him.

He was delighted to have the bag back. He said to them, "Don't take anything from my golf course again. Unless ye ask. Ye can have something if ye ask."

"Do you have any chewing gum?" Monica said.

"The third hole is full of chewing gum."

On the following day, Charlie and Monica went back to the golf course. Under Phil's supervision, they filled five buckets with used chewing gum. She had more than enough for her wedding cake.

The moose's head over the fireplace has been wearing his glasses over the past few days. People have started calling him 'Professor'. The wife's uncle says he was a professor in a university, but he lost his post because of his theory that the sea was made out of Lego. He didn't like the university anyway. Most of the staff were puppets, and they'd start laughing at him every time he opened his mouth.