Erick paused at the village hall entrance. The
insurance company had acknowledged his claim earlier than he had expected for a
Saturday morning. They had told him that the police would be checking the fire
for signs of arson. With no queries, the insurance pay-out should arrive on
Monday. He could retire to a country that was appropriately mindful. Costa Rica
was a possibility. Sand could trickle through his sandals every morning like
silk instead of the gravel on his drive, cutting into his toes like rocks.
He wrinkled his nose, sure he could smell
burning, and raised the sleeve of his homespun shirt to check. The smell was
coming from its hemp. Breathing in, he visualised a beach and counted to three.
His plan was fool-proof and he needed to be mindfully in control.
His lesson booking had only been made half an
hour ago. He had considered refusing but had conceded that an alibi for his
time might be useful. After todays session, he could consign his
mindfulness teaching to memories.
Erick tucked his shirt into his ballooning,
loose-cut trousers and opened the door.
A woman was waiting for him, wearing a black
suit jacket, straight trousers and a white shirt. The jackets shoulder
pads looked like wingtips pointing to her back. She was picking at a loose
button on her shirt.
Welcome to the world of
mindfulness, Erick said. A businesswoman, not an angel, he thought.
You must be the guru, Joanna
replied. Her fingers threaded the button back through the shirt.
Ive never been to a mindfulness session before. My boss gave me the
idea. He likes to inspire me at short notice, Saturdays included. Sometimes, he
forgets I earn too little to be tied to a leash.
Erick inclined his head. Mindfulness
teaches us that there is a solution to every problem.
A buzz came from the inside of Joannas
jacket. She pulled out a phone, her shoulder pads quivering. Reading the
screen, she frowned. Chief Inspectors get ideas above their
Is that you or your boss? Erick
asked. Sweat started to pour from his skin.
Not me. Im a girl. A
shoulder pad tilted at Erick. We should turn the air conditioning up to
make you more comfortable.
Erick wiped a glistening droplet from his
forehead. Im only thinking of the nirvana that awaits us on the
path to self-awareness. Please take a seat.
Joanna sat cross-legged on the floor, her
shoulder pads sagging. Erick sat opposite her, his trousers billowing so he
looked as if he was floating on a cloud.
Lets begin by trying our
visualization exercises, he said. Close your eyes and see the
She opened her eyes and sighed. I
thought mindfulness would be easier. I can only see my boss shouting at me in
the office, telling me to solve my cases faster.
Ericks bladder began to fill. Soon he
would need the loo. Nirvana comes to those who search hardest. Lets
pretend were relaxing in a forest.
Joannas hand returned to the button on
her shirt. I went on summer camps when I was a child. We shared tents and
He nodded. Were making excellent
progress in the beginnings of our explorations. Keep imagining.
Her fingers hovered over her shirt. I
can see the trees and the birds covering our tents in poo.
Gaias creatures. His bladder
relaxed. He was only being paranoid.
Her fingers curved towards him, following the
arc of her shoulder pads. I can hear the flames crackling as we roast
marshmallows in the fire. The fingers straightened, pointing at his
shirt. A cloud of woodsmoke is drifting through the air. She
breathed in. How delightful.
Thats my shirt. Wearing hemp helps
us stay close to nature. He lifted his arm to encourage her belief.
She inspected his sleeve. Hemp has a
mellower tint. I was thinking more of matches.
Ericks bladder threatened to burst. He
stood up and pressed his hands together in supplication. Our first lesson
must regretfully draw to a close, with promises of further bliss to come. We
can see each other next Saturday.
Joanna fastened the button on her shirt and
stood up. My boss tells me Im such an under-performer that
Ill need all the help I can get. I was thinking of a lesson
Wednesday? Ericks sandals
edged backwards towards the door.
This afternoon would be better with his
aspirations for results.
The hall closes at two oclock on
Joanna followed him across the floor, her
shoulder pads tracing his steps. You dont have to worry about
making an out-of-hours booking. We can use a meeting room in my office. They
have several available before the rush of drunk-and-disorderlies at closing
Erick crossed his legs. I could satisfy
your urge to learn, but I have an errand to run first.
She overtook him, her suit blocking the door.
I need the evening for my washing and repairing time. Everything Im
wearing is falling apart. She leaned towards him, the shoulder pads
throwing dagger shadows under the light. I blame my boss when we go out
to a call. He thinks were a superhero duo, with me as Cat
A mindful Cat Woman in abundance.
Erick wondered if his trousers would hide letting his bladder go in secret.
Meow. Joanna opened the hall door
and waited for him to step through.
Ill follow you to your office in
my car. Im a terrible backseat driver, being so mindful of traffic
directions, he said.
Finding your way across the town will be
so stressful for you. We have to take care of our guiding gurus. The
shoulder pads told him to go forward.
I have to use the bathroom, he
Ill wait outside, in case you get
locked in accidentally. You did say the hall was closing at two, Joanna
Erick sought his relief in the toilet. But the
waterfall he needed was only a trickle. Outside, he could hear Joannas
phone buzzing with messages received and sent. He imagined himself stepping off
the airplane. With a groan, he managed to grow the trickle into the flow of a
minor river outlet.
Joanna greeted him outside the loo with a wave
of her phone. Some people arent content with waiting, she
You could tell them you need to relax at
home after your lesson.
Make that suggestion after Im
She led him to a white estate car in the
halls carpark. Mud was splashed on its sides in shades of black so that
the car looked like a zebra.
Erick flip-flopped to the drivers side
with a longing glance at his own car. The green hatchback was due to be
impounded for unpaid debts, but he considered it a friend. Nobody else would
listen to his woes, on the basis they were unbecoming for a mindfulness
Stay with the passengers side. The
clutch requires a feminine touch. Ive put in for a replacement but
Im not hopeful. Budget cuts. Her shoulder pads shrugged.
Erick had a last-minute inspiration. He padded
his pockets theatrically. In the rush to make your lesson, I didnt
pay for my parking. Ill have to pop over to my car for spare
change. He rolled his eyes, as if to say that forgetting to pay was a
common occurrence in his lessons.
Parkings free at weekends.
Joanna unlocked the car with a click of her key fob.
Erick followed the muddy zig zags on the
paintwork into the passenger seat. A cone-shaped blue light was attached to the
dashboard, next to a radio handset. Stray animal hairs were scattered across
the seat with more traces of mud.
Joanna sat in the drivers seat next to
Dogs go well with mindfulness walks.
Im an Alsatian fan, he said, hoping to nurture a connection.
I prefer to exercise my cats. They go
better with the superhero image.
He sneezed. Im allergic, he
Ill open the window.
The glass lowered a notch. Erick poked his
finger in the gap at the top. He could unlock the door from the outside, if he
was a magician.
The glass rolled back up.
My boss has tablets to cope with the
cats. Open the glove compartment.
Erick leaned forward and opened the glove
compartment, hoping to find a gun. Instead he took out a silver foil rectangle
with half the pills already gone.
You look disappointed. Im
right-handed so use my side pocket for my mindfulness prompter. The
shining black barrel of a pistol pointed at him.
I was just stretching. I get cramps from
too much yoga, he replied, leaning on his seat.
Seatbelt, Joanna said. Keeping the
gun pointing at him on her lap, she started the car.
As they cleared the village hall, the radio
squelched with a mans voice.
Both their hands went to the handset. Joanna
tapped his away with the gun.
I was hoping to advertise my
lessons, he said.
Thats a misuse of public
property. She switched the radio off.
Half an hour later, Erick squinted at the
windscreen through the fog of his bursting bladder. A blue sign with white
capital letters told him that they had entered the police station carpark.
Visitors were requested to park at the front and to purchase a ticket,
including at weekends.
A policeman waved at the them as he was
getting in a car.
Joanna leaned out of her window. Just
popping in with the lodger before our shopping run. I didnt log off on my
computer, being a silly girl, she told him.
The policeman gave her a thumbs up and
reversed himself out of his parking bay.
The journey has prompted me with a vital
truth. Mindfulness teaches us that we have to set our own worth, Erick
I need the worth of parking
sensors. Joanna edged their car slowly into the vacant bay, straining her
neck to see through the back window.
My own worth is nothing, Erick
Doesnt mindfulness say that there
is a solution to every problem? Joanna straightened the car, her shoulder
pads lining in parallel with the bay markings.
You could teach me about solutions, as
such a quick learner. I could suggest fifty pounds an hour for your
Sensors are so expensive to
install. The car parked, Joanna put her handbrake on with a clunk.
One hundred pounds, Erick
Joanna tried to open her door and banged the
handle against the car in the next bay. Such a tight squeeze too. I need
a newer, thinner model.
Ten hours in advance, Erick
Joanna released her handbrake and drove off
from the police station.
Where are we going? Erick asked, a
damp patch growing on his trousers.
Im driving you to a cash dispenser
before we carry on with our lesson.
Theres no need to take up your
time. I can go on my own and come back.
You should be more careful. Criminals
are hiding where you least expect them. Her phone buzzed. She texted a
reply, her fingers dancing over the screen. Weve had a change of
plan. My boss says twenty hours would be too much for me to handle. He wants a
mindfulness lesson as well.
Ill check if the hall is free on
He would prefer his personal lesson this
afternoon. I offered to combine his booking with mine. Were always in
search of a bargain.
The car stopped behind a bus. Erick tried the
door, but cool steel was pressed against his knee.
I was enjoying our conversation so much.
Youre more talkative than my cats and not a chatterbox like my
boss, Joanna said.
Exactly what I was thinking. The
pain from his bladder had vanished. The coolness of the gun barrel had done the
On the other side of the town, the car stopped
outside a house with a dream catcher hanging in the front window. The gravel on
the drive was unscarred by any scorch marks from soot.
Home, sweet home, Joanna said.
Just as I left it, Erick
The front door opened. A man came out wearing
white plastic overalls and holding up a petrol can.
My boss has decided to do some work for
once, Joanna said. You forgot to check the petrol before you tried
to set fire to your house. Water doesnt go far with arson. You should
have studied chemistry, not mindfulness.
The man waved them inside the house with the
Joanna unlocked the car and pointed her gun at
Erick. Were so eager for our lesson to begin.
What do you want me to teach?
How to make an insurance claim with the
beneficiaries split half and half, when you try again.
A half for me isnt mindful when
youre burning down my house.
Youre so correct. I meant to say
half for my boss and half for me. Joanna nudged the gun at him.
What do I get in return? Erick
winced as the gravel cut into his sandals. Id settle for a drive to
the airport if you insist.
Theres no need to ask me to help
with your escape route. Youll be mindfully burning, Joanna replied.
My boss is adding one fatality to the claim. The insurance company told
him this morning theres an extra pay-out for policy holder