'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2010


The grass needs to be cut, but I don't feel like doing anything to the garden for a while. One of our neighbours had a garden party on Saturday afternoon. I'm certain he said it was a garden party, but when we got there he explained that it was actually a gardening party. These 'ing's have caused me nothing but trouble in the past. Some of the guests were happy to mow lawns, dig up weeds and plant flowers. Others, myself included, came up with some elaborate plots for revenge. But all of these plots were abandoned because the food and drink we were given in the evening was of an exceptionally high standard.

My cousin Charlie got a visit from one of his neighbours one Saturday afternoon. It was a man called Ron, who was new to the area. Charlie had only met Ron once before in the local shop, so he was very surprised when his new neighbour called around and said, "I was wondering if you'd like to come to my wedding."

Charlie asked him why he'd ask a virtual stranger to his wedding. Ron said, "My fiancee, Stephanie, will think I'm inadequate if I can only invite a small handful of friends to the wedding. She has a swarm of friends. That's the only way to describe them. She can't know any of them very well because there are so many. I'm perfectly content with three or four close friends who I know well, who share my antipathy towards crowds. I've never had good experiences with crowds or swarms. The noise they make as a group is bad enough, and it's ten times worse when you have to talk to one of them. It's possible to detect a few words in the noise, if you pay close attention. They assume that you're one of the swarm, that you actually want to be there, and you want to hear about every twist and turn of a conversation they had with a friend who only recently discovered, to her horror, that duck eggs are made by ducks. Stephanie is always going to parties or barbeques to maintain her social life. And weddings. I've had it up to here with weddings. Things always go wrong for me at these gatherings. I'll spill something on my clothes or I'll trip and knock over a table holding things that will spill on my clothes. People always end up pointing and laughing at me. They think I enjoy being pointed and laughed at. I was at a party last week and a clock fell on my head. When they'd finished pointing and laughing at me, one of them got a black marker and drew the face of a clock on my face while others held me down. They thought that this is what I wanted. The very fact that I had to be held down would tell a normal person that it's not what I wanted, but there are times when they actually want to be forced into doing things against their will. That might sound like a contradiction, but I've heard all their stories. They'll tell you about the time their friends kidnapped them, took them on a terrifying night-time trip through the fields on a trailer and left them in a pile of manure without any clothes, and they'll tell you it was the best night of their lives. After they'd finished pointing and laughing at the clock they'd drawn, one of them said that the clock had stopped my face, but at least I'd be right twice a day. Most of them didn't understand that, but they all thought it was hilariously funny."

"I know exactly how you feel. I hate crowds as well. The last time I was at a wedding I became the target of a group of kids. I was their prey, their entertainment for the day. I had to endure a lot of pointing and laughing from the kids and from people who have the brains of kids, or the mentality of kids. Most of the adults there wouldn't have been as smart as those children. I'd have admired their resourcefulness if I hadn't been the target of their ruses. I still haven't figured out how they managed to steal my shoes without my knowledge. There are some weddings you have to go to even though you'd rather be kidnapped at night and dumped in a pile of manure. From what you've told me, some people would love to go to a wedding even though they'd rather be kidnapped at night and dumped in a pile of manure. Seeing as I've only met you once before in the shop and our brief conversation concerned the quality of the cabbages on sale, I'm afraid I'm going to have to decline your invitation. But I would like to help you out. I could introduce you to some friends of mine who love going to weddings."

"That's an offer I'll gladly accept."

Charlie introduced him to Alex, Brendan and Laura, and they all said they'd be delighted to go to Ron's wedding. Alex loves to talk, and he loves large gatherings like weddings because he'll never run out of people who'll get sick of hearing him talk, and every so often he'll meet someone who shares his interest in the way some things are yellow and other things are not. Brendan loves weddings simply because they're a way to meet women, and he'd have to be bursting with energy for the whole day if every woman there was sickened by his company by the end of the night. Laura enjoys weddings because she loves seeing people expressing their joy on such a happy day, though she likes going to funerals as well.

A few days after the introductions were made, Charlie met Ron in the shop again. Charlie was going to say something about the improvement in the cabbages, but Ron said, "I'm in love!"

"You seem surprisingly enthusiastic about your wedding," Charlie said.

"Wedding? No, the wedding's off. I'm in love with Laura."

"Since when?"

"It took about half an hour of getting to know her before I realised that we were perfect for each other and that Stephanie was the last person I should be spending the rest of my life with. Laura is nothing like Stephanie. She has no interest in amassing vast quantities of friends she barely knows and going to parties with idiots. She'd rather go for a walk with me, and just talk about things."

"It does sound as if Laura is more suited to you. Is Stephanie upset?"

"She'll be fine when she realises that I'm the last person she should be spending the rest of her life with. The only reason she wanted to marry me was because a friend of hers told her he had a vision of her in ten years time, a happy family scene with her as the wife, me as the husband, and little angels as the kids. I don't know which part of it is more unlikely -- me being happily married to Stephanie or kids being little angels. She has complete trust in the visions and proclamations of this man because she thinks he's a mystic, and she seems to think that having a beard qualifies him as a mystic."

Charlie had another visitor to his house that evening. It was Stephanie, and she was very upset. "I heard about what you did," she said. "Why did you do that to me?"

"I didn't mean to do anything to you. I'm very sorry about the way things worked out, but..."

"My fiance invited you to our wedding and you thought to yourself, 'I need to introduce this man to another woman.' And you're saying you didn't mean to do anything to me?"

"Yes, but..."

"Don't think you'll get away with this. I have friends who are very angry about what you did to me. I don't know what they've got planned for you, and I don't want to know until after they've done it. It'll be something to look forward to."

She smiled before she walked away. Charlie was afraid that her friends would kidnap him in the middle of the night and dump him in a pile of manure, but that would be the sort of thing they'd do if they wanted to cheer him up. He had to somehow convince her that he hadn't meant her any harm, that he was actually trying to do her a favour, that he had actually even done her a favour.

He went to see her, and he told her that his intervention had only come about after a mystical friend of his had a vision in which she was happily married to a man who most certainly was not Ron.

"Who was it?" she said.

"It's... I can't say."

"It's you, isn't it?"

"No. I mean... no."

"It's you!"

"No. I can't say who it is because... my friend with the beard couldn't say who it was."

"There's no need to worry. I know it's you. Why else would you be so concerned about breaking up my engagement? I've never even met you before. And why would your friend tell you about it? Why would he think you'd need to know about a woman you've never met before?"

"There's logic in that. Just let me have a think about this for a second."

While Charlie was thinking, some of her friends arrived. She introduced them to him, and they could see by the look in her eyes that he was the new man in her life. More friends arrived, and soon a party had started to celebrate Stephanie's new-found happiness. Charlie got the feeling that this gathering was taking on the tone of an engagement party. People were congratulating him.

Another vision was called for. A mystic was needed as well, and when he tried to think of someone who could fill the role, he thought of Nick, who smelled of spirits and he rarely shaved. His appearance suggested that he had no regard for material, worldly things. He could easily fool Stephanie into thinking that his mind was in a higher realm. Charlie's plan was for Nick to come to the party and identify the man he saw in his vision. Charlie needed to choose someone to be that man. There were many candidates at the party. After giving the matter some consideration, he chose a man called Jake. He thought that Jake would be ideal for Stephanie because he seemed perfectly at home in a swarm of people who never fail to laugh when someone says the word 'bongo'.

Charlie phoned Nick and outlined the plan. Nick's reward would be a bottle of whiskey, so he was eager to play his part. He arrived at the party half an hour later. Charlie pointed out Jake, and shortly afterwards Nick pointed at Jake and said, "It's you!" Everyone looked at Nick. "You're the man I saw in my vision. You're the man who'll marry Stephanie."

Stephanie gazed at Jake as if she believed Nick. Jake looked as if he'd just been bound, gagged and kidnapped in the middle of the night. Charlie slipped away rather than waiting around to see if this would turn out to be an enjoyable experience for Jake.

The moose's head over the fireplace is staring at a painting of actors performing on a stage. The wife bought it at an auction. It's difficult to avoid staring at it. I spent two hours contemplating the scene yesterday, and during that time I became convinced that the actor playing the devil is madly in love with the actress playing the devil's pilot. The wife's aunt says that she once joined a church whose members spent most of their time praying that the devil would find love, and their prayers proved to be effective. They saw him one night with his personal fitness trainer (they knew that she was his personal fitness trainer because this is what they had prayed for). The happy couple were taking a romantic walk along the banks of a river. Every so often, the devil would forget himself and grab a duck to bite its head off, but his personal fitness trainer always stopped him, which was exactly what the wife's aunt and her friends had prayed for.