'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter Eggs

We have an extra hour of daylight to watch the trees blowing in the strong winds. Other people look for more exciting ways to use the longer evenings and the strong winds. Hang-gliding has grown in popularity recently, but I'll stick with tree-watching, looking at the hang-gliders stuck in the branches for hours until the wind blows them out.

My cousin Ronan and his friend, Shane, used to hunt for Easter eggs during the week before Easter Sunday every year. These eggs were made by a man called Rodney, who was famous for his chocolate. No one would have expected Rodney to make chocolate of such high quality. He lived on the side of a mountain. He was afraid of towns, or even villages. Even two houses in close proximity would instil a sense of dread. The locals thought he was a bit strange, and he found it difficult to get anyone to taste his chocolate when he first started making it, but once people had overcome their suspicion they couldn't get enough of it. It was expensive, but his customers were willing to pay any price. Some of them were addicted to it. Every Easter he'd hide eggs in the countryside around his house. His customers would spend all of their free time searching for the eggs. Ronan and Shane joined the hunt because you could sell the eggs for a lot of money.

There was something strange about Rodney's brother, Maurice, and not just because he kept telling the story of the time he was electrocuted by his porridge. Ronan always got the feeling that he was up to something. He once told Ronan about how to get pork chops out of peacocks. If he was spending his time getting pork chops out of peacocks then you'd expect to see more evidence of this on his clothes. He rarely changed his clothes. There were many stains on his trousers, but nothing that would come out of a peacock.

People tried to get information about the eggs from Maurice, but he never let anything slip, no matter how many times they said 'Where are the eggs?'. Ronan and Shane decided to try a different tactic. Ronan said to Maurice, "Say something you've never said before."

"There's nothing I haven't said before," Maurice said. "That line I've just said, I've said many times. That line I've just said, I've said many, many times. That line I've just said, I've said many, many many times."

"There must be something."

"If I'm being completely honest, then yes, there is one thing. But I'm not going to say it. That line I've just said, I've said..."

"Is it about the eggs?"

"No, it's about the hot air balloon I fly around in at night to look at..."

Maurice stopped talking when he realised he had said too much.

"You have a hot air balloon?" Shane said.


"And what do you look at?"


"You might as well tell us the rest."

"Okay, but if ye tell anyone else, I'll treat ye like peacocks. I made the balloon myself because I wanted to look into people's back gardens and farmyards at night, but for the past few weeks I've been observing Billy's white horse. The horse runs through the woods, weaving in and out of the trees, or following paths I never knew existed. I've met this horse before. Myself and Rodney stole eggs from Billy's farm when we were teenagers. We thought we had gotten away with it, but the horse saw us, and he was able to identify us later."

Maurice took them for a ride in the balloon that night. They saw the white horse trotting towards the woods, and Maurice followed him. The horse seemed to glow in the moonlight.

Ronan said, "Are you sure that horse really identified ye?"

"Billy suspected that we had stolen the eggs, so he brought the horse around to our place. The horse nodded when Billy asked if we were the thieves."

"Maybe Billy just trained him to nod. The horse might not have understood the question."

"That would imply that Billy is more intelligent than the horse. If you met the horse you'd realise how unlikely that is. Or even if you just saw Billy trying to operate a chainsaw. You'd say, 'A reasonably clever horse wouldn't do that.'"

Ronan and Shane agreed that the creature below them looked like an exceptional horse. They were entranced by the sight of the white glow moving through the trees with such grace. The horse left the woods and made his way across a field. He moved slowly enough for the balloon to follow. They saw Rodney walking down a lane below. He had a sack on his back, and presumably it was full of eggs, but Ronan and Shane were more interested in the horse then.

The horse stopped outside a boarded-up cottage at the end of a narrow, overgrown lane. Maurice landed in a field nearby, and they went to the cottage. They could see light through the spaces between the boards over one of the windows.

"Will we break the door down and take them by surprise?" Maurice whispered.

"Are you mad?" Ronan said. "Anyone in a place like this in the middle of the night would be the sort of person who'd have a loaded gun, and you want to surprise them?"

"I have a good feeling about this. I sense that the horse regrets informing on us. He doesn't like his owner. Don't ask me how I know that, but I know. I think a reward is waiting at the other side of the door. This is the horse's way of saying sorry about the eggs."

The horse nodded.

Ronan said, "Maybe Billy trained him to nod every time he hears the word 'eggs'."

Maurice paid no heed to what Ronan said. He kicked the door down and went inside. Ronan and Shane peeped into the cottage. They saw Billy. He was with a woman they didn't recognise, but they weren't concerned about who she was because they knew that she wasn't Billy's wife, and he was so 'with' her that almost all innocent explanations would be ruled out. Billy launched into an innocent explanation, a story that required its listeners to believe that he was on an assignment for National Geographic. When he realised that the story wasn't working he gave up and got out his cheque book. Not telling people about what Billy was up to proved to be much more lucrative than selling Easter eggs.

The moose's head over the fireplace has an Easter egg hidden on his antlers, according to the wife's aunt. It's an invisible egg. She's hidden invisible eggs all over the house. She carries a tennis racket with her everywhere she goes in case she gets attacked by the invisible hen who laid the eggs. She keeps swinging at thin air. If you stand near her you're liable to get hit by the tennis racket. It's an invisible racket, but it still hurts.