'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Every time the rain stops, the garden gnomes have picnics on the lawns with their pet spiders. They're trying to convince themselves that there's still a bit of summer left. It takes ages to put all of the boots on the spiders' legs before going onto the wet grass.

My cousin Gary was tired of people asking him if he'd been eating worms again. He always said he hadn't, but no one believed him. This annoyed him after he really had given up eating worms. He tried to develop a taste for fine foods to show people that he had moved beyond eating worms. He went to wine-tasting classes as well, and he stuck with the classes even after he realised that he wouldn't be getting drunk at them. The teacher was a woman called Louise. She was passionate about wine. Sometimes she sounded like a football commentator describing a goal. This enthusiasm was infectious. Gary started to see wine as more than just a way to eradicate his reputation for eating worms. The whole class developed an appreciation for wine and they felt grateful to Louise for this gift, so they decided to buy her a gift in return. When it came to deciding what they should buy her, Gary didn't contribute to the discussion. It wasn't his area of expertise. Most of the presents he'd bought in the past either made annoying noises or bore humorous inscriptions that could only be appreciated by someone with the sense of humour of an adolescent. Gary and his friends showed no signs of losing their adolescent sense of humour.

They decided to give her a painting of a boat on a lake. They presented it to her at the end of the final class. She was delighted with the present, and she invited all of them back to her house to see her wine cellar. When they got to her house they hung their coats on hooks in the hall and then she took them down a corridor that led to the cellar stairs at the back of the house. Before they went down the stairs they heard footsteps. Louise's husband and her son emerged from the cellar. They looked as if their nerves had been shattered by warfare. Louise knew exactly what this meant. "Not the ants!" she said.

"They're back," her husband said. "They're laughing at us. I can hear them laughing at us."

Her son started laughing, but he looked as if he was on the verge of tears.

Gary and the rest of the class had a look in the cellar, but they didn't stay long. When they saw a black line of ants heading towards them they climbed back up the stairs as quickly as they could. They went to the kitchen, where Louise made them coffee.

"Are you having trouble with ants?" Gary said to her.

"It started out as trouble, and then it escalated into war. Just when you think they're defeated and the border is secure, they invade again."

"I know someone who might be able to help. His name is Frank. He's a friend of my father. He has a knack for evicting creatures from houses, anything from insects to drunk uncles to polar bears. The polar bear was stuffed and they couldn't get it out through the door. He made the bear go on a diet to get it out. He's used threats of diets to get rid of drunk uncles, but his methods are often more mysterious. He used an army of toy soldiers to get rid of mice."

"I'd be willing to try anything at this stage," Louise said.

Gary phoned Frank later that evening and he explained the problem Louise was having with the ants. "I think I should be able to get rid of them," Frank said.

"Is there a chance that you'll end up breaking some wine bottles in the process?"

"I can if you want me to."

"No. I'm fairly sure she wouldn't want that."

"It will involve drugging crows. Will she have a problem with that?"

"I doubt it, if it gets rid of the ants."

Gary called to Frank's house on the following evening. Frank had two buckets full of crows. "Are those crows dead?" Gary said to him.

"No. They're sleeping." Frank winked. He put the buckets into Gary's car and they drove to Louise's house.

Frank put the buckets into the cellar, and he said they'd have to wait for a few hours. They drank coffee in the kitchen while they waited. Frank told them about the biking holidays he went on when he was young. He cycled all around the country. He kept finding paper planes, and he went in whatever direction the plane was pointing. They often led him into adventures. On one journey he was accompanied by a man who was trying to find the mother of his bike. The planes led him to a bowler hat, and he settled for that instead of the bike's mother.

When they went back down into the cellar the crows were perched on wine bottles. The ants were gone. Louise was amazed. "How did they get rid of the ants?" she said.

"You'll have to ask the crows that," Frank said. "They've never given me an answer, even to the simplest of questions, like 'What is your name?' or 'How long have you been a crow?'."

"I have a good feeling about this," Louise said. "I think we've seen the last of the ants."

"There's no doubt about it."

"Can you get rid of the crows as well?"

"There's a quick way and a way that will take a few hours. In the quick way, some bottles might get broken."

"Then use the other way."

"Right. It will involve drugging ants. Do you have a problem with that?"

"Will getting rid of those ants be a problem?"

"No problem at all. I'll just drug some more crows. Different crows. Drugging the same crow twice isn't as easy as it looks."

"But... Isn't there a way that doesn't involve breaking bottles or drugging things?"

While Frank was thinking about this, Gary said, "Crows love their food. Why not just leave some bread outside the cellar. I've often seen crows fighting over a piece of stale bread."

Louise thought this was a great idea. She left some bread at the top of the stairs and all of the crows came out of the cellar, but they started fighting with each other over the bread. Louise got a sweeping brush and she pushed the ball of brawling crows out the back door. When they were all outside and she had closed the door she said, "I think it's only right that we celebrate."

She went down into the cellar and she came back with a bottle of Chardonnay. She poured three glasses, one for herself, one for Gary and one for Frank. While they were drinking the wine she said to Frank, "There is one other thing you might be able to help me get rid of. I have a drunk uncle in the attic. I left a few crates of cheap wine up there to keep him as far away from the cellar as possible."

"Is there a drunk aunt he could go to?"

"No. Just a sober one."

"Would you have any objections to getting her drunk? Or even drugging her?"

"I wouldn't have any objections at all, but she might. You'd have a better chance of drugging a crow you'd already drugged once before. You wouldn't have to do much to make her hit you over the head with a rolling pin, which is partly why the uncle is in the attic. He doesn't have to do anything to make her hit him over the head with a rolling pin. And he loves not doing anything."

"Which explains why he's doing it in your attic."


"Aunts are by far the most effective way of getting rid of uncles. I have an aunt we can use."

Frank brought the aunt around on the following day. She kept nodding and smiling, and the drunk uncle found this disconcerting. He started shaking his head and he ran out of the house.

The moose's head over the fireplace enjoys bird-watching. The birds like watching him as well. If they didn't look in through the window at him he wouldn't be able to see them at all. The wife's uncle says he tried bird-watching once, but he gave up because he got the feeling that the birds were watching him. Everywhere he went he could sense their gaze directed at him. This made him fearful when he was outside. He took up cow-watching to forget about the birds. When the cows stared at him it wasn't disconcerting at all. He found it relaxing.