On a fine summer day when I was dead I used my head to knock a door down. At the time I didn't think I'd ever have to use my head again for everyday purposes like making women say 'What are you looking at?', but I was wrong about that. I was wrong about a lot of things. I was right about one thing, but I can't remember what it is.
Everything in life has a purpose, even cats who draw dots on things. My purpose is to draw dots on cats. The bees buzz until their trousers fall down. Ann makes bee-trousers, and some people say she's evil but I think they mean to say 'oval'.
Tim met Ann on the street one day. He was taking his new hair style out for a walk. She was transfixed by the hair. She wanted to spend more time looking at it, so she invited him on a picnic.
They went to a mountainside for their picnic. She enjoyed it more than he did. Her penguin sandwiches tasted funny. He was looking for an excuse to get away, so he wasn't disappointed when the wolf arrived.
They ran up the mountainside to get away from the wolf. They kept running until they came to Hugh's house.
Hugh farms icicles on his house during the winter. He grew some extraordinary icicles last winter. He won a prize at an icicle competition. He sells them at a market stall and he gives some to his neighbours. They often give him things in return. The woman with hexagonal feet gave him hexagonal shoes. A film-maker lives further up the mountain. He didn't have anything to give in return, so he offered to make a film of Hugh working on his icicle farm. Hugh said there would be very little to film, but the director told him that his last film was about a man who was trying to teach a salmon what a gun was. Nothing much happened in this, but it was one of his best films. By the end, the man had come to some sort of understanding with the salmon.
Ann and Tim asked Hugh if they could wait in his house until the wolf went away. He told them they could stay for as long as they wanted. He made them some tea, and he showed them the film made about his work. At the start of the film, he was shown putting on his coat, his scarf and his gloves before going out to check on his icicles. Hugh tried to drag this out for as long as possible. He spoke about his uncle Phil who never left the house without putting on his gloves. This was because of his fear of leaving finger prints on things. After going outside, Hugh inspected each one of his icicles. He added drops of water to some, but for most of them he just offered words of encouragement.
Ann and Tim had been watching the film for an hour before they saw Hugh complete his inspection. They weren't expecting the next hour to be any more interesting, but before Hugh went back into his house the camera turned around and they saw an angel who'd shake every few seconds. Every time the angel shook, dozens of rubber ducks fell out of her. These ducks slid away down the mountainside on the snow. Many of them ended up in the river.
As they watched the closing credits of the film, Ann asked Hugh about the angel. He took them out to his shed, where he had a box full of rubber ducks. He gave them one of the ducks. They went back to their picnic rug, and they used the duck to frighten the wolf away. Tim was disappointed to find that the wolf hadn't touched the penguin sandwiches.
Drunk teddy bears make plans to start hamster farms. Somebody shook this fact out of a teacher. The last time I was shaken, hundreds of things fell out, things like buttons, paper clips, coins, newspaper clippings. A deck of cards sounded like a tennis ball when it hit the ground. The people who shook me knew that the tennis ball must be in me somewhere, so they shook me even harder. Eventually they got tired and they had to take a break. They sat down to have a smoke. They used the cigarette lighter that had fallen out of me. We were near Harold's house at the time, and they asked me who lived there.
I told them about Harold.
He often smokes his pipe in bed,
and he thinks about reading some of the book
he's been reading for the past eight years.
One night, just as he was lighting his pipe, he was visited by a ghost. The ghost kept talking for hours. He went away at four o' clock in the morning, but before he left he said, "I'll see you again tomorrow night."
He kept talking for hours again, and again he said he'd see Harold on the following night. Harold needed a good night's sleep. He thought of Luke, his brother. Luke used to spend a lot of time watching TV, but he got bored with that because the TV kept showing the same image.
So he started looking at the wallpaper instead.
After staring at the wallpaper for hours, a blue ghost emerged from it. The ghost brought havoc to the house for a few weeks, but he started to calm down eventually, and Luke was able to tame him.
On the day after Harold was visited by the ghost, he went to see his brother to get his advice, but Luke didn't know which 'know' was which and which 'which' he stole from from. He talked his tongue off, and then he used some worms instead. Harold listened carefully and tried to make sense of his advice, or the worms' advice. He thought he heard something about Shane.
Shane lives in the grass. He only comes out at night.
Songs dig holes in the air and sometimes I fall into those holes. I got trapped in a hole made by a song about badgers.
The countryside is full of holes. Many of them are the result of Melanie's songs. When she was young she used to share an ear with her sister. They started singing together. When they sing everyone joins in. People for miles around will sing and they can't stop until they get to the end of a song.
Sometimes strange creatures emerge from the holes. The singers have to keep singing and hope that these creatures don't have sharp claws.
No one pays any attention to the lyrics because they're wondering what's going to swoop down out of the sky and attack them. One of those creatures terrorised everyone in the area for weeks. He came out of a huge hole made by a song about making servants wash themselves at least once a week. This creature used to sniff people. They found this more terrifying than having their hair cut by a monkey (in fairness, the monkey is getting better at cutting hair). We were working on a plan to shoot him down, but his reign of terror came to an end when he started sniffing the fire on top of Maurice's chocolate factory. Maurice keeps it burning to stop helicopters from landing on it. The fumes from the fire would make the monkey faint, but the creature in the sky loved the smell. He's still there, hovering over the factory. Maurice charges tourists who want to see him.
Bertie: If Louise told him to jump off a cliff, would he do that?
Roy: Probably. She told him to become Batman, and he did his best. He came very close to succeeding. He modified his car to make it into a bat mobile, and it nearly killed a swan. He found a nemesis in a Norwegian man, but the Norwegian man was too strong. Bob kept losing their battles. The real Batman wouldn't have done that.
Bertie: Did you really invent it, or did you find it pecking at your head when you woke?
Bob: I invented it.
Bertie: What raw materials did you use?
Bob: Some of the raw materials were things I found pecking my head when I woke, but I also used some glue, some paper and a few raisons.
Roy: My uncle Willie invented something similar a few years ago. Because of the frequency with which his head ends up on the ground, it was only a matter of time before his invention started pecking his head. If you're going to invent something whose only reason for being is to peck things, make sure that its beak isn't sharp enough to make a hole in your head.
Bertie: I've often said so.
Roy: I know. If it makes another hole in your head, something even worse could come out of that. In fact, that creature could have come from a hole you made by singing a song in your sleep.
Bob: No, I invented it.
I see all these insects and I wonder where they're coming from and they probably wonder the same thing about me. I was a cartoon pig when I said that. Picture a cartoon pig and read the first sentence again. Picture a German diplomat and read the previous sentence again. Picture a French chanteuse and read the previous sentence again. Picture a red dot and look up at the ceiling/roof/sky/person-looking-down/void/floor-if-you're-hanging-upside-down. I wouldn't hang upside down if I were you. Picture your doctor and read the previous sentence again.
Billy is a part-time superhero.
He fights villains and aliens with the other local superheroes. Sometimes their missions are more mundane, like getting cats down from trees or squeezing the water out of birds who get wet in the rain. Sometimes they have to stop the aliens from conducting experiments to answer stupid questions.
Emily was angry with him
because he told everyone
that she made a wedding dress
for her cat.
He wanted to get back in her good books by doing something superhero-like for her. He asked her if there were any villains bothering her, or aliens annoying her cat. She said that if he wanted to do a favour for her he could find out what her sister is up to. She's hardly ever at home in the evenings, and she always changes the subject when you ask her where she's been.
Spying on women is the sort of thing villains would normally do. He got the advice of some villains who owed him a favour after he rescued them from the aliens. They gave him classes in spying on women. He got beaten up many times before he became good at it. After two weeks training he was ready to spy on Emily's sister.
He saw her leaving the house wearing a hat and sunglasses, even though the sun had gone down. He followed her to a house about a mile away. When he looked in the window he saw her playing the flute with a band. They performed the songs written by the man who played the xylophone. He used to play with a wedding band who wore top hats. They let the bees in their hats make most of the music. The only reason they played their instruments was to ease the stress of having bees in their top hats.
Emily was hoping for something more scandalous than this, but she appreciated all the effort Billy had put in. "It wasn't a wedding dress," she said. "It was her costume for a Renaissance Fair."
Dan wondered how he'd spend the evening. He could listen to his friend Neil say 'I'm a coward and a frog' over and over again.
When she spoke about the witches who come out after dark he seemed nervous, so she changed the subject. She told him about the time her father proposed to her mother.
A monkey stole the engagement ring shortly after the proposal. The monkey went into a shed, and he threw nuts and bolts at anyone who tried to come in. They had to negotiate with him to get the ring back. He turned down an offer of two-thousand pounds, but he accepted an offer of a bottle of washing-up liquid.
Dan felt uncomfortable when she spoke about proposals. He thought she was trying to drop a hint, so he changed the subject. He asked her about the witches. She said they'd turn you into a strange creature if you crossed them. She could see that he was nervous, so she suggested they go into the house because she wanted his opinion on a mouse.
The mouse said, "I love what you've done with the dining room." They realised that he used to be a man, until a witch turned him into a mouse. He said his name was Oliver, and the witch had turned him into a mouse because he asked her if the spiders on her head had caught anything interesting that day. He was just trying to make small talk.
The witch suddenly appeared in the room. Dan tried to remember the advice his grandfather gave him about witches.
When his grandfather gave up on the witches he tried to make his fortune by making sheep. People would buy his sheep to count them at night. He said they were better than any sleeping pill.
Dan started playing the piano to make the witch dance, but instead of dancing she started singing. It was a sad song about the sweets and liquorice she used to eat when she was young. There were tears in her eyes.
At the end of the song she disappeared in a puff of smoke. After she had gone they realised that Oliver was a man again. He went over to Joan's cat and said, "Not so big now, are you?" But the cat just fell asleep. Oliver found this humiliating. He wished he was a mouse again, especially seeing as there was a mouse wrestling tournament in Joan's attic that night.
The witch re-appeared in the room. "Sorry," she said. "I forgot my handbag." Before she left she looked over at Oliver and said, "Y' know, you wouldn't keep saying stupid things if you didn't keep putting your finger in your ear."
Bertie: Maybe we should go to Karen's house for shelter.
Roy: Shelter. Yes.
Bertie: And of course she always pours a glass of something for her visitors.
Roy: Something. Yes. She lost count of the amount of people who called to congratulate her when her garden won a prize. I heard she got so drunk that she floated to the ground like a sheet of paper and she slid right under her front door. One of her neighbours had to fold her up and push her through the letter box. Ever since then she's been afraid of being folded up into a paper plane and then blowing away on the wind. This is why she always carries an anchor. This anchor is disguised as a handbag. It's full of phones, books, various odds and ends and a pineapple.
Bertie: The last time I met her she said something about... I'm not really sure what it was about.
Bertie: I think it was something about bags.
I went for a walk one summer day. I came across a narrow road, and I decided to follow it through the countryside. I looked at all the insects, the buzzing beings, the minor Boeings emerging from the hedgerows. I met a man who was studying the insects. I asked him if he'd seen anything interesting and he said, "Everything is interesting. So yes, I've seen something interesting because I've seen some things. That tree is interesting. That cloud is interesting. That rabbit is interesting."
"I didn't know rabbits had wings," I said.
"That's what makes him so interesting."
"Yes. He's an extremely interesting rabbit. Of course, the other possibility is that he's a perfectly ordinary bird."
"I'd have to examine him more closely to determine that. And if he is a bird, he can't be perfectly ordinary if he's easily mistaken for a rabbit."
"Insects are my area of expertise. Sometimes they respond when I talk to them. But then again, sometimes my hands respond when I talk to them."
The road went on without me when I stopped to talk to the man. I said goodbye to him, and I tried to catch up with the road. After half a mile it ended in a field, where it had found a woman. She was looking up at God, who was above the hills, she said.
She told me about the angels who protect people's houses. One of them protects her house when she's out during the day and when she's asleep at night. "They can communicate with the birds," she said. "My aunt can communicate with the birds too. She used to sing in a band called 'Jeremy and the Dentists'. She discovered her ability to communicate with birds when the band were playing in a village hall one summer evening. It was warm outside, and even warmer inside, so all the doors were open. The sun was setting when a bird flew in through an open door. They were singing a song about cycling a yellow bike through the countryside. There was a line in it about listening to the twittering of the birds. As soon as she sang it, the bird twittered something in response, and she understood that response. The bird said he enjoyed listening to the music of bicycles, especially yellow bicycles. Ever since then she's been talking to them and listening to what they have to say. Talking to birds, that is, not yellow bicycles. I've been able to communicate with the angel outside my house by getting my aunt to talk to the birds and asking them to pass on the message to the angel, and then they translate the angel's response for my aunt, who translates it for me. I think some things get lost in translation. I doubt very much that the angel's favourite food is honeysuckle jam made by Street Fighter II."
She also told me that she talks to God and he tells her who she is when she forgets. He tells her the time too. I asked her if she'd ask God to get the road moving again. She did, and the road took off very quickly. I couldn't keep up with it, so I walked at my own pace. I set off on the road to God knows where.
When the road came to a lake it went all around the water's edge. I followed the road until I came to a vegetable garden. Most of the vegetables had gone and cats had taken their places, pretending to be the vegetables through a judicious use of mime. One of the cats, through an injudicious use of mime, was pretending to be a mouse. A gardener was watering the cats, but they didn't like it. I got the impression that the cats were busking, so I suggested giving the cats some coins instead of water. He said it was worth trying. I had some coins in my pocket. I gave them to some of the cats and we could see them growing.
Shortly after leaving the garden I came across a well. There was a hole in the ground near the well. I put my head into the hole and I was surprised to find that my head emerged from the well. I saw myself kneeling next to the hole, with my head concealed in it. I put my hand into the hole and it came out through the well. I tapped myself on the back and my body seemed to get a shock. It moved suddenly, causing my head to hit off the side of the well. I withdrew my head from the hole.
I realised that I had given all my money away to the cats, but I had an idea to make some more. I stood next to the hole, and I told passers-by that the well was a wishing well. They'd throw coins into it and make a wish, but the coins would come up through the hole. I'd catch the coins and put them into my pocket without being seen. If their wish was to enrich me, then the wishing well worked.
When my pockets were full I walked down the road again. It led me all the way around the lake and back to the place where the road first met the lake. I began my second circuit. When I got to the vegetable garden the cats were huge. I gave them some of my coins, and the cats grew even bigger.
When I got to the well I met a man who said he was bird-watching.
I asked him if he'd seen any interesting birds lately and he said, "I'm not really interested in seeing anything interesting. I'm looking for signs of warfare. As long as the barn owls are on my side I should be okay."
"Don't the barn owls only come out at night?"
"That's just what they want you to think. They're masters of disguise. I once met a man on the road who tried to sell me a kettle. It was only as I was walking away that I said to myself, 'Wait a minute, that man could turn his head right around.' And then I realised it wasn't a man at all. It was an owl."
"They sound like the sort of creatures you'd want on your side alright."
As the sun began to set he started telling me his life story. I took little notice of what he was saying until he started talking about the years he spent working in the city. City life came as a shock after growing up in the country.
"I got a job in a pet shop," he said. "There was a huge aquarium that went around all four walls of the shop. Some of the fish could go from one end of the tank to the other. The two ends were at either side of the front door. You could look at a fish at one side of the door, then blink and see that fish at the other side. Everything was like that in the city. The fish were only copying the cars on the street outside. Country fish were much more relaxed. My life was speeding up as well. Conversations that used to last two hours would be over in two seconds. I missed the days when it would take two hours to inquire about the price of potatoes in a shop. I decided to move back to the country and commute to work in the city. The owner of the pet shop showed me how to catch a wild road and train it to go where I wanted it to go. I've been able to control the roads ever since by tapping them with my feet. I've turned it into a dance."
The man did a tap dance on the road, and he showed me how to control the road with some simple commands. I got it to stop running around the lake and move off in a different direction. I thanked the man for his help and I followed the road again.
It was dark soon. I was going to camp out, but it started raining, so I knocked on the door of a farmhouse and I asked if I could stay in a shed. They insisted that I stay in the house. They took me to a spare bedroom upstairs. Not long after I switched off the light I saw a flash of lightning and it split the sky in two. I looked out the window. Hundreds of people emerged from holes and from behind bushes. They put up scaffolding and they started work on repairing the sky. They had it finished before dawn. You couldn't even see a crack in the blue dome on the following day. After having breakfast in the farmhouse I set off on the road again.
This is a recipe for that, and that has been described as 'a disaster' by him, and he has been awarded the 'Man most likely to recognise a disaster' prize by a committee headed by her, and she is trying to piece together the bits of broken timber she found in my garden.
When she first found the broken timber in my garden she asked me if I'd been playing with Crunchy again.
I told her that I hadn't been playing with Crunchy in over a year. I still had the scars. The timber used to be stilts. It's easier to make new stilts than it is to make new legs. I think my neighbours broke them. They were showing me their new scarecrow and I said he'd make an excellent scarecrow but my comment angered them because they were showing me their new grandmother. I had to hijack a tree to make my getaway. I ended up in a garden I'd never seen before.
I spent half an hour exploring the garden. When I heard footsteps at the other side of a hedge I remembered that I was trespassing, so I climbed a tree to hide. The feet that made the sound of footsteps belonged to two gardeners. I would have remained invisible to them if the branch I was holding onto hadn't broken. As it broke I tried to remember what the Health and Safety man said about falling: when you land on the ground you should roll into a ball and use it to kill a whale. When I hit the ground I forgot to roll because I saw the familiar faces I hadn't seen in years. They used to appear in my bedroom at night when I was young and they'd try to sing me to sleep, but they normally kept me awake.
The faces were more helpful this time. They told me to run away, and they gave me directions home. The gardeners ran after me. They're still chasing me but they're slowing down now and and and I'm saying 'and'. What's this again?
'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
Click here to buy the paperback or download the ebook for free.
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