The neighbour was burning leaves again. Driving us crazy. ‘What’s the point of having a garden,’ I said, ‘if we can’t sit out in it?’
‘If he does it again, I’m calling the police.’ When it comes to the neighbour, Carole’s fury runs even deeper than mine. The smoke, she says, gets into the sheets on the washing line. At times it’s so thick we can hardly see our beautiful Aleppo pine.
Bruce, an old schoolfriend come to visit, smiled and nodded in that soft, placid way of his. He’s been a practising Buddhist for thirty years, and apart from his bony, ascetic appearance, everything about him is placid. I watched him watch a frenzied Carole massacre mosquitoes – he didn’t say anything, but it troubled him.
I found that intriguing. ‘Yes, I know all life is precious,’ I said, ‘but a mozzie? You just let it bite you? And turn the other cheek, I suppose.’
‘Oh, no,’ he said, pouring himself more wine (the asceticism only goes so far). ‘If it was really bothersome, I’d kill it. In a Buddhist way, that is.’
‘You mean there’s a Buddhist way of killing? Meditate for an hour first? You’d be bitten all over by then.’
‘No, quite the opposite, really. One sharp slap and think no more about it.’
That was a couple of days ago. Now we’re sitting in the garden again, and a glorious Indian summer bathes the Aleppo pine in a golden glow. The mozzies are out in force, though, and Carole’s getting all jumpy. ‘Still,’ she says. ‘At least there’s no smoke this evening. That’s a blessing.’
‘Oh, I don’t think we’ll be bothered by smoke again,’ I say. ‘That problem’s settled now.’
‘Really? You called the police? That’s good!’
‘The police? Good heavens, no.’ I smile placidly. ‘That’s not very Buddhist.’