"Sorry," I said to the dog as I got back into the car, "I'll take you somewhere nice."
As often when talking to the dog I was talking as much to myself. I'd been in the bank and it had taken a while and I was pleased to be out of the hushed temple of money where you queue for the counter like a penitent at confession and your life comes up on the screen where you can't see it, and though the place is designed to seem open-plan and welcoming you know it just bristles with defensive technology: cameras, time locks, bullet-proof drop screens, safes and safe rooms.
It is a place of pent power, an economic altar and though the tellers are always affable I am never anything but pleased to step out through the ding-dong plate-glass doors and back into the sapid street of happenstance.
The dog, bless his old grey muzzle, is innocent of all such places. While I do money he lies stretched on the back seat of the car wisely awaiting pleasure.
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"I'll take you, dog," I said, "to grass and water," for what could be better than grass for me to sit on while the old dog wades shoulder deep into the water to let it suck the dust and heat of summer from his fur and flesh? He's never been much of a swimmer but oh how he loves to soak in water's cool generosity.
I had parked in a little retail square. Over my right shoulder cars were parked at right angles to mine. Over my left shoulder nothing was coming. I reversed out.
Is there a more attention-seizing noise than metal crumpling against metal? It turns every head within 50 metres. And for those who own the metal, well, it holds their attention to the exclusion of all else.
It was clear what had happened. As I'd pulled out keeping an eye on where danger could come from, the car parked at right angles to mine had done the same thing at the same time and each was as surprised as the other to feel a collision on the side on which no collision could occur because it was peopled by stationary cars.
The other driver was young, bearded and French. And he looked as if he were about to cry. Together we'd stared at what we'd wrought. It was no catastrophe. His left rear corner had met my right rear corner with geometric precision and a small, though no doubt expensive, metal panel had crumpled on each car.
"Eet ees," he said, "my first accidong in New Zealand."
I was tempted to ask whether he was planning a series of accidongs, but I bit the words back and asked if it was rental car.
It wasn't. It was his car. "I ave comprehongsive insurance," he said. "But what do I do?"
I planned to do nothing. As a kid if ever I cut my flesh my first reaction was to wail, but my second and more indicative one was to hope it would leave a scar, because scars implied a bravery I didn't have. And it is much the same with my car. Dents in the bodywork imply the nonchalance and the unruliness that I admire in others. And they cost me nothing. I only ever drive old cars and I have never yet sold one. They either die beneath me like war horses, or I give them to the deserving young.
I exchanged phone numbers with Monsieur le Distress and we agreed that we were mutually at fault and his handshake was like a wilting petal.
"Sorry," I said to the dog for the second time, "Now we really will go somewhere nice."
And we did. Blue waded into the water and just stood there shedding the day, and on the grassy bank of the estuary I sat there shedding it too and watching the swallows carve the air for insects. And a woman arrived with two springer spaniels that ran out into the water to greet my old dog and then went chasing the swallows, bounding and barking, and the swallows, aerobats to the core of their being, paid them no attention. The spaniels' owner came and sat by me and we talked of this and that and instantly forgot what we had said and the spaniels chased the birds who arced and dived on the nowhere of the air so far beyond their hopeful hunting that it was laughable and my old dog stood in the water and none of it meant a thing and it was good.