'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Vampire

The dog is confused by the fine summer-like weather we've had recently. It's made him suspicious. I think he's afraid that another trip to the vet is due. That's why he's hiding under a blanket.

My cousin Charlotte often went for walks on a mountainside. She used to wonder what was on top of the mountain. One day she decided to find out, and she wasn't just going to ask all the vampires she knows. She was going to climb the mountain herself. After asking all the vampires she knows.

She went to see Felix first. She asked him if he had any advice about climbing the mountain.

"I do," he said. "Take a dagger with you."

"What's on the mountain that needs to be stabbed?"

"If I told you that, you wouldn't climb the mountain. And this thing is really nothing to be scared of. As long as you stab it."

"Okay," Charlotte said. She decided to put off her trip up the mountain. She might go around it instead, and guess what's on top.

They spoke about other things before she went home. Felix had been thinking about buying a greyhound, and Amanda was trying to convince him to give up vampirism.

"I didn't know it was the sort of thing you could give up," Charlotte said.

"The sort of vampirism I have is the sort you can give up."

"What sort is that?"

"Pretend vampirism."

"But I always thought you were real."

"I suppose that's down to how good a pretend vampire I am."

"What about Willie?"

"He's just a pretend vampire as well."




"No, he's real. So is Cathy. The rest are all pretend."

"I never knew."

"Don't tell Willie I told you. He'd go mad. An irate Willie is worse than any vampire."

"So you could easily give up being a vampire?"

"I wouldn't say 'easily'. It's a great hobby. But I'm starting to think it would be worth giving up just to keep Amanda happy."

"Why not try taking up another hobby?"

"Like what?"

"Tennis. Not the sort of tennis you see on TV. The sort of tennis they play on the gravel court near the pond."

The people who played on the gravel court used frying pans instead of tennis rackets because the pans made better weapons. For them, violence was an integral part of the sport. It was what made tennis enjoyable to play. They never watched it on TV because the professionals weren't even allowed set a tractor tyre on fire if they got angry. On the gravel court you'd find the remains of many such fires. These fires would have been started by players who felt cheated and ended up burning their clothes and anything else they could lay their hands on. At the other side of the pond there was a court made out of sand. Players used tennis buckets to play on this.

Felix had a go at the tennis, and he really enjoyed it, but it didn't help him give up being a vampire. He was using his vampirism to intimidate his opponents. Charlotte thought he should take up a hobby in which an exhibition of vampirism would be a faux pas. She suggested spending time with a woman called Caroline, who used to paint watercolours of wild flowers and countryside scenes. She was happy to teach anyone who wanted to learn the basics of watercolour painting. Caroline would look unfavourably on any action that had a hint of vampirism. She looked unfavourably on almost all actions. Her sister, Belinda, was always doing things she knew would annoy Caroline, things like selling strawberry-flavoured sausages, or associating with a man who believed that the ghost of a vicious dog was haunting his nose. Caroline believed that there were thousands of wrong ways to do everything, but only one right way. Her sister seemed determined to try as many of the wrong ways as possible, while steadfastly avoiding the right way. The right way to deal with strawberry sausages was to purge your mind of the concept shortly after your mind first discovered it. Belinda had already tried hundreds of wrong ways with Jake, the man with the ghost dog up his nose. She had danced with him in fields and collected mushrooms with him in the woods, things that were far away from the right thing, which was to carry a long stick at all times and to prod him if he got too close.

Caroline told Felix all about Belinda when they were painting watercolours in the fields. She said he'd made the right decision to take up watercolour painting. There were so many more wrong hobbies he could have chosen. He could have gone to her friend Emily, whose hobby was putting buttons on cushions. She had started putting waistcoats on cushions as well, and then she put buttons on the waistcoats. She'd talk to the cushions.

Caroline told Felix about her husband, Ned. He was always doing the wrong thing. He once started writing a biography of a jazz band called 'Giddy Mayday Monday'. He spent months trying to track down the lead singer of the band. Ned often disappeared for long periods of time to go on stupid missions like this. He walked fifty miles to see a lemon shaped like a banana. He went to the coast to photograph a seagull who coughs up snow when he gets sick. Ned had to wait a long time for the seagull to get sick.

All of these things were the wrong thing to do, but he did them a long way away from her, which was the right way to do them. She appreciated the peace when he was gone. She never liked the things he brought back, like a wig in a jam jar or a stuffed kitten.

Painting in the fields on sunny days was far removed from vampirism. Felix had to completely abandon his old hobby, and he enjoyed the new one. He loved spending time with Caroline, and she liked spending time with him as well. Ned was away at the time. He was visiting his cousin to discuss his cousin's plans for a hospital on the moon.

Charlotte was delighted to see Felix abandon the vampirism in favour of painting wild flowers and cows, but she became worried when he started spending almost all of his free time with Caroline. He was avoiding Amanda, and he admitted to Charlotte that he was close to falling in love with Caroline.

Charlotte had to do something before that fall arrived. The best way to separate them would be to bring back Ned. Charlotte found him at his cousin's house. He was deeply immersed in the blueprints for the hospital, and he didn't seem that bothered when he was told that Felix was spending so much time with his wife. Charlotte needed some other way of enticing him home. She said, "Someone told me that Mrs. Blumergiggle put a new floor in her kitchen. And it's made out of coffee."

This was something he had to see, so he took a break from the plans for the hospital and he went home.

Charlotte went to see Felix. She told him that Ned was home, and that he was furious because he had heard that his wife was spending too much time with another man. Felix thought he'd need to defend himself, so he wore his fangs and his black cloak to the next watercolour lesson with Caroline.

Caroline was horrified when she saw him. She couldn't possibly be seen out in the countryside with a man who looked like this, even if it was just the cows who saw them together. She told him that she had taught him all she could teach him, and that it was time for him to start experimenting on his own.

This was the end of Felix's relationship with Caroline, but Belinda was hoping it would be the start of another relationship. She loved his vampirism. She asked if he'd be in a play she was staging with Jake. Charlotte was trying to find a way to ensure that Felix would end up with Amanda, so she convinced Amanda to be in the play as well. The play proved to be a great way for Felix to abandon his vampirism, and he became much closer to Amanda. He played the part of a gardener, and Amanda played a vampire.

The moose's head over the fireplace enjoys the company of the mice at night. They climb onto his head and they tell him all the news from around the house. It wouldn't be a pleasant experience if you didn't enjoy the company of something that climbed onto your head. When I went downstairs one night they were telling him the latest theories on the cosmos from the mice who work in the attic.