'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The joy of an ill-advised venture

I think the garden gnomes have formed their own cult. As the sun set on the summer solstice they were gathered in a circle in the orchard, all of them wearing white robes. On the following morning I found one of them in a wicker basket in the shed. He was dressed as a jester. The door was locked, so I've no idea how they got him into the shed. Their behaviour is disconcerting, but it could be worse. One of our neighbours has gnomes who took their clothes off and danced around a rockery at dawn.

My cousin Rachel once got a part-time job delivering bread for a baker. In a small van she'd take the bread to the local shops and restaurants, and when these deliveries had been completed she'd go to the houses of individual customers. Some of them would buy just a single loaf of bread at a time, but the baker still offered them free delivery. Rachel always enjoyed visiting these people. They looked forward to her visits as well. On sunny days they'd come outside whenever they heard her van approaching, and they'd have a chat in the garden. One man always sent his remote-controlled penguin out to collect the bread, but he'd still talk to her from a window.

After delivering bread to a man called Stephen, her next stop would be at the house of his sister, Fiona. They used Rachel to deliver insults to each other. For instance, Stephen once told Rachel to ask his sister if anyone else had asked her if her face was part of a witch's costume. Fiona responded to this by telling Rachel to ask Stephen if he'd done anything to diminish the aura around him, an aura that was fed by the smell from his clothes. It was so well-developed that in the right light you could see it practising its golf swing.

Rachel found out that the insults she delivered were the only communication between the two siblings. They'd avoided each other ever since the failure of a restaurant they set up together. Chess was the theme of this restaurant. There were thirty-two black tables and thirty-two white ones. At some tables, the plates and cutlery were black, and at others they were white. You and your companions could be asked to move to another table by one of the people playing chess. You wouldn't have to move far if you were a pawn, but the diners at a pawn table would be lucky to make it as far as dessert without being removed from the restaurant. You'd have to pay extra to sit at a king's table. The business failed because they kept throwing people out. On some occasions, only a few pieces would be left on the board at the end of the evening.

Stephen and Fiona stopped talking to each other after they closed down the restaurant. Rachel tried to convince them to sort out their differences, but they both insisted that there was no animosity between them. Every time they got together they ended up doing something stupid. They'd undertake a venture that would end in disaster, like the restaurant. If they didn't communicate solely through the medium of insults they'd end up hating each other. Rachel suggested getting the ill-advised venture out of the way as soon as they meet up. It could be something that wouldn't do too much harm when it ends in disaster, like a travelling theatre company. The stage would be a cart and the company would travel from place to place with the help of a donkey, so they could never go too far away from home.

Stephen and Fiona liked this idea, so they agreed to meet and set up the theatre company. Their company consisted of three members: themselves and the donkey. All three of them made important contributions to the performances of their plays, but the donkey took a back seat during the writing process. He'd happily have taken a back seat during the travelling as well, but they wouldn't have travelled at all if he had. This would have been only slightly less than the distance they travelled with the donkey up front.

They were expecting their theatre company to end in disaster, but it led to their greatest success. A film producer saw their play about the potato famine. With a few minor adjustments it was adapted into a Hollywood film, a romantic comedy about the perils of blind dates. The producer thought it was certain to succeed because he'd just adapted a play about the perils of blind dates, turning it into a film about the potato film. This film was a complete disaster. He was a firm believer in the idea that you could turn a disaster into a success by doing everything backwards.

In this instance, he was right. Stephen and Fiona made a fortune from the film, and they used the money to fund many ill-advised ventures, like their detective agency that would rely heavily on the intuition of a cocker spaniel, or their mobile bookshop that wasn't very mobile because it was on the back of a cart pulled by the donkey. Wasting all that money together was a hugely enjoyable experience, and they were grateful to Rachel for making it possible. They offered her a job in their wedding dress recycling centre.

The moose's head over the fireplace is paying more attention to the World Cup now. It's starting to get interesting, if you have an interest in these things. The wife's aunt is protesting against all the sport on TV by only talking about toast until the end of the World Cup. She has no interest in sport, but I don't know what she's getting upset about because she has no interest in television either. I thought it would be nice to get a break from her theories about why elephants should be red or why you shouldn't point at trees, but I'm starting to miss hearing about these things. She has surprisingly little of interest to say about toast.