Completely over it, clanking on my crutches. My arms ached but I needed fresh air so, damn it, I was going for a walk. Or a hobble or whatever. Clattered up the footpath like a broken robot. The neighbour’s yappy dog padded after me. Go home Floyd, I said. He flopped out his tongue, cocked his head and looked at me with his silly goggly muppet eyes. I jabbed him in the neck with a crutch. Piss off, stupid dog. Really wanted to kick him. A van pulled up. Bit of trouble? said the driver, a scruffy looking guy in overalls. Broke yer foot, I see, he said. Looked me in the eye. Broke yer tolerator too.
Yer tolerator, he said. Helps yer tolerate stuff. Seems to be broke.
I politely suggested he mind his own fucking business. He let out a snort. Yep, definitely broke, he said. Here, think I got a spare in the van.
It took two minutes, if that. The dog watched. I started to regret poking him with the crutch. I started to regret a lot of things.
Plenty o’ people walking round with broke tolerators, don?t even know it, the guy said as he worked. He whistled and held up mine for me to see. Hanging by a thread, he said. Surprised you didn?t damn near kill the puppy.
Suddenly I felt a bit weepy. I love that dog, I said. The guy chuckled. No yer don’t, it’s just the new tolerator kickin? in. He climbed back into the van. Maintenance is the thing, he said. Maintenance. Good work as always, Floyd, he called.
We watched him drive away, me and the dog. How did he know your name? I said. Floyd’s tongue flapped lazily in the wind.
From my book Ministry of Ideas. First published in Bay of Plenty Times, although I’m not sure if they used the phrase “his own fucking business.”