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Once upon a time, my dears, there was a very nice man who loved cars.

He had had his own car for a while. It was safe and reliable, it might have been a Volvo but no-one entirely knew for sure. He drove in this car every day to work and then home again. Sometimes to his evening’s entertainment but he didn’t go out very much.

The man did not like his job and it exhausted him and sapped his energy. When he was at home, he worked on his house and on his garden. His car always seemed clean but no-one knows whether he cleaned it lovingly himself with soft chamois leather and pure soap or whether he simply left it outside when it rained and the car was cleaned by Mother Nature Herself.

Now, from time to time, the man passed a second hand car showroom on his way home from work. It was not actually on his route home, you understand, but the very nice man loved cars so much that sometimes he took a little diversion just for fun.

The very nice man would park his own safe, reliable family saloon a little way from the showroom and hurry there to view the cars that were parked on its shiny marble floor. Though they were not new cars, the showroom manager had made sure they were beautifully waxed and polished, that the worn leather of their seats had been treated with conditioning cream and that the pristine clean chrome spokes of their wheels sparkled under his starbright spotlights.

Seeing these beautifully maintained cars fanned out and glistening, inviting his approach,  gave the very nice man such a thrill. From time to time, when no-one was looking, he would run his soft, warm hands over the slightly sagging leather of the vintage station wagon and admire its burr walnut dashboard. (We need not concern ourselves here with the make and model of the cars, my dears, for that would be an irrelevant and distracting detail.)

He would stroke the polished chrome bumper of a sporty coupé with baby blue paintwork and he would slide open the door of an orange camper van that had been painted with peace signs and the yin and the yang and daisies, and climb inside and sit on the front bench, sliding the door shut with a satisfying “Thunk.” Once behind the wheel he would dream of distant shores and happy times: of sunsets and beach campfires and soft sand between his toes and flowers in his hair. And for five minutes he was happy, until the showroom manager came along to say that it was time to close up the showroom and for him to go home. As the manager switched off the bright lights one by one, the very nice man would linger and gaze longingly, one last look before he trundled off home.

We do not know why he chose this particular showroom, my dears, and not the place up the road that sold new cars. Perhaps the nice man was frightened that he would be tempted out of the depth of his wallet by the brand new cars. In any event, we need not concern ourselves with that thought.

One day the very nice man took his happy detour to the used car showroom and to his astonishment he saw a new car in the showroom. It was a convertible sports car, racing green with an ivory leather interior and a polished chrome rack on the back that was just the right size to carry the vintage leather suitcase that was now strapped there. I say to his astonishment, my dears, because he recognised this car. He had seen and admired it many years before, when he was much younger and it was new. And here it was again, beckoning to him seductively in the showroom, willing him to come and sit inside and lie back on the soft padded seats and dream.

This car was for sale, my dears, at a price he could afford, he thought, if he sold his old reliable, faithful car. The one that took him safely to work and took him home and which was now parked safely around the corner, out of sight.

How the nice man longed to sit at the wheel of this familiar green convertible and make the battered leather suitcase his own! How he desired to drive along narrow, winding country lanes all the while caressing its ivory upholstery and revving the engine just enough to let people know that he was there, that he was driving this car, that it, she, was his.

But in order to make this car his own and take possession of that leather suitcase on its gleaming rack of chrome, this man would have to sell his own car. The one in which he kept his mints. The one with the air freshening tree hanging from the rear view mirror, with the little scratch on the door where he had caught it in traffic. The one with the slightly slipping clutch and the hole in the carpet by the accelerator pedal. This car had served him faithfully for several years and he wanted to make sure he received a good price and that it went to a good home. He was sentimental like that, you see. I told you before that he was a very nice man.

What to do? What to do? A car of this calibre, this vintage convertible, would require a level of maintenance to which he had become unaccustomed. He was not sure he had the time for it, what with his job and his garden and the house that always needed something done to it, as is the case with houses. The thought thrilled him and petrified him to the spot in equal measure.

Yet he continued to make his little excursions to the used car showroom, to caress the green convertible, to sit and dream about how life could be if he could only pluck up his courage, sell his old car and commit to loving the high maintenance new one.

He even took it for a test drive one day, relishing the way it hugged the curves of the road, the roar of its engine when he changed through the gears, this beautiful creature, yielding, compliant with every nuance of his right toe. And thereafter, he could not stop thinking about it.

The week following this sensuous test drive, the showroom manager, making polite conversation (for not only was he a formidable salesman but he was also a nice man,) nonchalantly informed our very nice man that someone was interested in the vintage racing green convertible, which plunged our very nice man into paroxysms of agony and guilt and longing and heartache.

How does the story end, my dears? Well, who says it has ended? How do YOU think it ends?

Photo by Stephen Hennessey

For a very nice man.