'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Monday, October 25, 2010
Jeff got guitar lessons in exchange for teaching Don, his instructor, how to cook. It only took two weeks for Don to become as good a cook as Jeff was. After two weeks, Jeff was as good a guitarist as Don's cat would have been if it had started scratching the front of the guitar instead of the back. Jeff felt inadequate. He wanted to show Don and the cat that he wasn't completely devoid of talent, so he got lessons from another guitar teacher, a man called Cliff. He taught Cliff how to draw in exchange for the guitar lessons. Before the first lesson, Jeff was afraid he'd be outshone by his new teacher/pupil, but thankfully Cliff was abysmally bad at drawing, which wasn't very surprising, because so was Jeff.
Jeff was much happier being taught by someone as inadequate as he was, so he gave up the lessons with Don. He told Don that he'd decided to give up the guitar and take up the trumpet instead. "I think it's probably for the best," Don said when Jeff broke the news. "You're bound to be better at the trumpet than you are at the guitar. At the very least you'll be better than the cat. At least I assume you will. I've never heard her play the trumpet. She got stuck in a tuba once and the noise she made was appalling. If you can make a more pleasing sound than that, you'll be able to put this whole guitar business behind you."
But Don found out that Jeff was still learning the guitar from another teacher, and he was furious. Jeff tried to convince him that he was still as bad a guitarist as ever, and that he'd abandoned Don because he held his former teacher in such high esteem. Don didn't believe this. The story sounded even more far-fetched when Jeff started talking about being intimidated by the cat. Matters were made worse by the fact that Don and Cliff hated each other. They used to be friends. They had made a lot of money busking together, but they hadn't spoken since undertaking another job as a duo, when Cliff's aunt Louise asked them to make a delivery to a friend of hers in the country. She promised to give them a hundred pounds if they successfully conveyed an antique chest of drawers to an isolated farm house. She supplied a bottle of whiskey and a van to help them on their way. Either of these things on their own would have helped them on their way (though not necessarily the right way), but taken together they proved to be a hindrance.
They returned to Louise without the van, the whiskey or the chest of drawers. The chest of drawers and the van were on an isolated farm, far away from any house. Far, far away from their intended destination. Louise blamed Don, even though Cliff had been driving. Cliff was happy to let Don take the blame, and this is what brought about the end of their friendship.
Jeff wanted to do something for Don to get back in his good books, which was why he stole Cliff's favourite guitar and tied it to the branch of an oak tree on an isolated farm. Don was touched by the gesture when he saw the photo of the guitar in the tree. All was forgiven, and he agreed to take Jeff on as a pupil again.
It was Cliff's turn to be furious. He arrived at Don's house in the middle of a lesson with Jeff. He was convinced that Don was behind the theft. Don felt sorry for his former friend after witnessing Cliff's display of despair when he saw the photo. The three of them agreed to set out straightaway to retrieve the guitar, even though it was nearly ten o' clock at night.
It was nearly ten o' clock on the following morning by the time they found the guitar. Darkness and a bottle of whiskey hindered them in their search, but the whiskey helped repair the damage done to Don and Cliff's friendship. They agreed to go busking together again, and they vowed to turn Jeff into a competent guitarist, but this didn't seem likely even when they were drunk.
Sunday, October 03, 2010
Marjorie was on her way to visit a friend who'd promised to show her a new trick he'd taught his mice. As she was walking past Ronald's house she saw that a party was taking place, and most of the guests were in the garden. They were meant to be watching the performance of a jester, but he just stood there, looking depressed. Ronald tried to prod him into action by poking him with a stick and saying, "I'm going to keep poking you with this stick until you start jesting." The guests soon got bored of this, and they went back inside. Ronald followed them in after telling the jester that he'd poked more jest out of a carrot.
Marjorie felt sorry for the jester, whose name was Jack. She asked him what was wrong and he said, "I've been depressed since I had a dream about an enormous red carriage that could carry thirty or forty people. For some reason, the man at the front was holding a wheel instead of reins, and he didn't need reins anyway because there weren't any horses. The carriage moved all by itself. It was a beautiful dream, but waking up to reality was horrible. I have a feeling that I'll always be sad until I get to ride on such a carriage."
"I know someone who might be able to help," Marjorie said. "Gilbert is an inventor. If we asked him to build a carriage like that there's no way he could resist the challenge, though there's no guarantee of success."
Jack sighed and said, "I suppose it's worth a try."
Marjorie was right about Gilbert being unable to resist the challenge. He spent the next three months working on the carriage in his workshop on a mountainside. Jack was delighted when Gilbert's creation was unveiled, even though it wasn't what he was expecting. This one was even bigger than the carriage he'd seen in his dream. Gilbert had added an upper floor, but the windows upstairs were covered by shutters. The only way up was through a spiral stairs. The top of this was blocked by a trapdoor.
Jack's delight faded away on the maiden voyage because the carriage didn't move. "Do you know anyone who can make invisible horses?" he asked Marjorie.
"You're much more likely to find someone who can make horses invisible. I don't know such a person, but my father can make a dog disappear. Sometimes when he makes the dog re-appear it has a fur coat and a cigar."
"This is never going to be anything like my dream if the carriage doesn't move."
"We could push it down the mountainside. And we could round up all the neighbours to be the passengers to make it even more like your dream."
It took about an hour to find thirty people who wanted to ride on the carriage. The passengers at the back pushed the carriage down the slope and then climbed on board at the back door. Jack's joy grew as they picked up speed. For Marjorie, gaining speed only nourished her fear. "How are we going to stop this?" she said.
"In my dream, the man at the front pressed a lever with his foot to stop it."
"Why didn't you mention this before?"
"I didn't think there would ever be a need to stop it because I wasn't expecting it to move."
Jack tried pressing what he hoped would be an invisible brake pedal, but it turned out to be an imaginary one. Panic spread amongst the passengers. Jack did his jester's act to take their minds off their impending doom, and he made them completely forget about careering down a mountainside in a carriage. They all laughed so much that no one noticed when they reached level ground and they slowed down, almost to a stop. Almost, but not quite. They rolled off the end of a pier and landed in the sea. While the passengers were busy screaming, Gilbert climbed the stairs and opened the trapdoor.
Calm was restored when they realised that the carriage could float. Gilbert appeared at the top of the stairs and invited everyone to follow him up. This upper deck looked more like the deck of a ship. A mast was raised and a white sail was unfurled. They sailed to the other side of the harbour. The fact that the carriage had become a boat didn't diminish Jack's joy, and when it became a ferry he was even happier because he could make a good living by entertaining the passengers on their trips from one side of the harbour to the other. He was perfectly content with life until he dreamt about a carriage that could fly. It had wings like a bird, but it didn't need to flap them. He asked Gilbert to start work on this, and Gilbert agreed, as long as he could make the wings flap.
The Tree and the Horse
A Walk in the Rain
The East Cork Patents Office
Words are my favourite noises