'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Free Medicine

The lawns are covered in leaves after the strong winds we've had recently. The garden looks very different now. The bare trees leave in much more light. The wife's aunt says you should wear dark glasses in the garden until your eyes become accustomed to the new scenery. She has glasses for many different situations. Her rose-tinted glasses are designed to protect her from the moon's influence. Without them she'd believe she was a badger and she'd start digging a new home.

My aunt Joyce needs a regular dose of natural beauty. It has medicinal benefits, she believes. She'll go for a walk in the woods or she'll climb to the top of a hill where she can see the countryside for miles around. She's determined to use as much of this medicine as she can because it's entirely free. The only other free medicine she came across in the past was the potion created by a friend of hers called Lynn. This potion would help people stay calm and take the appropriate evasive action when they became the focus of an irate bull's ire. Lynn felt she had a duty to give the medicine away for free because it could save people's lives. It took two hours for the potion to take effect, so there wasn't much point in taking it when you found yourself alone in a field with a bull. You'd have to take it if you thought there was a chance you'd encounter a bull later in the day. Some people took it every day. Joyce stopped taking it because of some unpleasant side-effects. One of them was an overwhelming desire to hide in a barrel when the potion wore off. The only unpleasant side-effect of appreciating natural beauty was occasionally getting wet in the rain. And it was very difficult to overdose on natural beauty. People who overdosed on Lynn's potion would be gripped by a fear that gravity was about to stop working. The potion was ideal for people who believed that being gripped by fear was a great way to pass the time. It was also suitable for people who spent a lot of time hiding in barrels, but Joyce chose to stick with the free medicine she found on top of hills or in the woods.

Her favourite spot in the woods was near a small waterfall on a stream. She could spend hours watching the water flowing over the smooth stones and listening to the sound. It was a great way of clearing her head. Nothing remotely like a desire to hide in a barrel could be found in her mind after spending time next to the stream. All you'd find in there would be a need to smile continually and to make small-talk with woodland animals.

One afternoon she went to the stream, hoping to rid her mind of an unwelcome visitor. A visit from one of her husband's friends on the previous night had left her with a desire to get the sweeping brush and hit her husband, Cyril, and his friend, Jeff. She had only just started listening to the water when she heard another sound. She looked around and she saw a man sitting amongst the trees at the other side of the stream. His eyes were closed and he was sitting in the Lotus position. He was making an 'om' sound. She asked him what he was doing there. He opened his eyes and he smiled at her. "I'm meditating," he said. "My name is Peter."

"Nice to meet you. Why are you meditating here?"

"It's so peaceful. People would pay a lot of money for this sort of tranquillity, but here it's completely free."

"I know. That's why I come here. It's certainly peaceful, or at least it is when there's no one here making funny noises. What I do here is a form of meditation as well. I do it silently."

"Don't let me stop you."

He closed his eyes and he made the 'om' sound again. She wanted to say that stopping her was exactly the thing he was doing, but she tried to forget about him and focus on the water.

This proved to be impossible. The sound was too annoying. She said to him, "Do you have to make that noise through your nose? Wouldn't it sound better coming from your mouth?"

"The sound is made by something inside me and it comes out through whatever exit it sees fit."

"It sounds to me as if your words are coming out through a different exit entirely."

"Some very strange sounds have come out of me in the past and I've had no idea why or how they're being made, but it's always felt absolutely right that they should be let out. They're like dogs let out to play after being inside for hours."

He closed his eyes again and he let the sound out. She wanted to say that it sounded like a dog who's just got something dear to him stuck in something, but she didn't think he'd stop making the sound, so she started making a sound of her own. She said 'blip' every few seconds, but this had no effect on Peter. She left the woods and she went to the hill.

After standing on the hilltop for hours she still hadn't rid her mind of a desire to hit Peter with a sweeping brush. She was afraid that he'd become a regular visitor to her favourite spot next to the stream. Her fears were confirmed when she went back there on the following day. She brought ear plugs with her, but these weren't enough to stop the sound from getting in through the door and wrecking the room in her head, like an over-exuberant dog who's just been playing in the mud. Her skill with a sweeping brush might have got the dog out, but she could do nothing about the sound. She was more tempted than ever to use the brush on Peter.

She went to the hilltop again, and this cleared her mind enough for her to be able to see that there were better ways to get rid of him. If she made the spot less peaceful for him he'd find somewhere else to meditate. She'd have to do something more annoying than saying the word 'blip' over and over again, but there were lots of things that were more annoying than that.

She was glad she hadn't used the sweeping brush on Jeff because she thought he might be able to help her. He believed that he had the ability to be a great tenor, if only his fear of flying hadn't stopped him from travelling to the places where great tenors normally perform. He had to settle for performing his own songs to an appreciative audience in the pub. The drinkers were even more appreciative of the singing dog, who sounded as if he was lamenting the loss of something dear to him. Joyce got Jeff to sing next to the stream in the woods while Peter was meditating there. Before Jeff began his song he asked Peter if he'd mind the singing. Peter said he wouldn't mind in the slightest, and Jeff sang his song about the quality of football pitches (he believed that they were far too good).

Joyce was listening nearby. Birds flew from trees when Jeff started singing, but when he finished his song she still could hear the annoying nasal 'om' emanating from Peter. Something more abrasive than Jeff's voice would be needed to get rid of him.

She tried many things over the following week. She got Jeff to come back with his brother and both of them sang the song, even though the brother didn't know the lyrics and he didn't seem to know where he was. He made up the lyrics as he was going along. This failed to make Peter stop repeating his single word. He didn't even open his eyes when Joyce's brother said, "Will I punch that man to see if he's asleep?"

A smoker's cough and the noise of a chainsaw failed to move Peter, so she convinced my cousin June to bring her kids, Daisy and Graham, on a nature walk in the woods. They spent a long time near the waterfall, and the kids never stopped talking during that time. Here's a brief extract from what Peter would have heard:

"What's that fish called?" Daisy said.

"I don't know," June said.

"Is he called Marlon?"

"I don't know."

"Hey, Marlon!" Graham shouted at the fish. The fish failed to respond. "He's not called Marlon."

"What about Roger?"

"Hey, Roger!... He's not called Roger."

Graham spent the next half-hour shouting names at fish, but none of them responded and Peter didn't react. Joyce gave up hope of ever making him leave.

One day she took Mrs. Casey's dog out for a walk in the woods when Mrs. Casey couldn't go out because of a cold. When they were walking by the stream, Peter was there again. Joyce did her best to ignore him, but the dog was fascinated by him. The dog loves sniffing things, and he started sniffing Peter. When Peter opened his eyes the dog looked up at him and wagged his tail. When Peter closed his eyes again the dog went back to his sniffing. Every time Peter opened his eyes the dog looked up and wagged his tail. It only took ten minutes for Peter to crack. He stood up and walked away. Joyce felt like celebrating. After she had kissed the dog she stood in her favourite spot and watched the water flow over the stones. She stood there for hours and she wasn't bothered by the dog, who kept sniffing her feet.

Every time she goes there she brings the dog with her, just in case Peter returns. She always brings something for the dog to sniff. He seems to get as much enjoyment from the sniffing as she gets from natural beauty.

The moose's head over the fireplace enjoys appreciating the beauty of nature every autumn. If you can appreciate relentless rain then this must be a great time of year. One of my neighbours says he learnt how to swim by standing in the rain. He has an Olympic-size swimming pool in his garden. In the summer he uses it as a lawn tennis court.