At first, there was only the receptionist –
rather overweight, dyed blonde, with a smile
that said, ‘Aren’t I glamorous?’ Then she shouted
into the back room and he appeared – small,
far from young, crippled by what looked like
the damage of childhood polio. He led me
at a surprising clip to where my car was parked.
He talked. He said he was an ‘old dude;’
he had no truck with these modern ways.
Now they just look at a damaged tailgate and say
you have to replace it – eighteen hundred quid
a pop. He was right – I’d just been through that
elsewhere. What you need is a real panel-beater,
one who’s seen everything. And then he winked.
He said he could do the job for seven hundred.
It would need clamping, filling, repainting
of course. Good as new. I liked his company;
he had a big, toothy, world-weary grin. I went
back through the office; the blonde wasn’t there,
maybe she never had been. He had disappeared
into a dingy mechanics’ shop, vanished from sight.
The workshop backed onto scrubland, traversed
by motorway slip roads; as I walked away to find a bus
I reflected that, of course, I have no idea whether
he will do a good job. Nevertheless, if you ever
want your panels beaten, and you suspect it could
be done without replacing the whole bloody car,
he comes with my heartfelt recommendation.