Now look, fair warning. If you read this through to the end there's not much reward to be had, no cumulative pay off, no juicy fruit of a conclusion.
There's something there, and it's an honest something, but I don't consider it a pearl that's richer than all the tribe. It's a bagatelle. It will not swim down the gutter of time. You have been warned.
The dog and I were out on the hills. To get on to a track, we crossed a fence - the dog by jumping, I by lumbering - and as we did so a boy came running down the track and into view and stopped dead. He was a chubby kid perhaps a dozen years old. He stood motionless some 15 metres from us and just stared.
I could understand his staring. He had been coming down what he thought was an empty track and suddenly he was confronted by a fat old man and an ageing dog who had appeared effectively from nowhere. If he did not actually see us come over the fence, and I don't think he did, he was justified in feeling some alarm.
My first thought was that he was scared of the dog. More and more kids are, from having been allowed so little time on the streets as free explorers of the world. Though the proportion of child abductors, abusers and murderers in the general population has remained at precisely the level it has always stood at, the perception of danger in the last half century has soared. I suspect the ubiquity of media has much to do with it.
"It's okay," I called to him, "the dog's friendly." The boy did not react. He just stood still. I wasn't quite sure what to make of this.
I wondered whether perhaps he was deaf. "The dog is friendly," I said again but louder. "It's all right."
Still no reaction. He was a moon-faced child and there was something odd about his presence on this track and his appearance. He had been running when I first caught sight of him but though, as I say, he was chubby, he showed no sign of exertion, no redness of the face, no puffing or sweating.
Still looking at me with a blank face, the kid reached up for a tube of sorts that ran from over his shoulder and put it in his mouth. Otherwise, nothing.
My dog went towards him, conciliatory, head low, rump swinging. The boy did everything right. He offered the back of his hand to the dog to sniff and then he let the dog come close in his own time. The dog leant against his leg and the boy patted him.
Joe Bennett: Flautist, flutist, what's a man to do?
"You've made a friend," I said, or something similar. Still the boy did not speak, nor did he show any emotion. In a previous life I taught a lot of boys but I was struggling to read this one. It was the utter neutrality of his face that puzzled me.
I walked up the track after the dog. The boy watched me approach as if I might be armed. He seemed to be sucking on the pipe in his mouth as a baby might suck on a dummy.
The nearer I got the more obvious his chubbiness was, the heavy legs, the ripples of fat beneath the shirt. So many kids are fattened now by affluence and by being too much protected. It's a shame.
The dog lost interest and went to sniff at the track's side. The boy still hadn't moved from where I first saw him and I made a point of giving him as wide a berth as possible as I approached, so he could carry on past me without feeling threatened.
He waited 'till I was two or three metres away. And then he took off past me down the track, suddenly, as if this was his chance to escape. He ran badly. His feet slapped the track like fresh-caught fish.
And as he ran past I saw that strapped on his back was one of those bladders that endurance athletes wear and it was from this that he'd been sucking comfort through a pipe, much as I drew comfort, till the age of maybe 7, from sucking my thumb.
And as this strange and nervous child ran away from me the thought crossed my mind, unworthily, perhaps, but undeniably, that the bladder strapped to his back might be full of Coca-Cola. Forgive me.