The Deer Valley estate is a synonym for trouble, even though outwardly it’s pleasant enough. A high escarpment rises around the edge of it like the rim of some gigantic broken bowl, whose absent fourth side leads down through a tangle of houses and flats to the older part of town, and the ocean. Five thousand years ago this was a valley and there were deer – giant antlered varieties, chewing the vegetation whilst keeping watch for wolves or hunters. If they were here now, the deer would have to watch out for that kid on the mini-moto, too, ducking their heads as he comes leaping over the crest of the landscaped communal garden.
You have to admire the kid’s toughness. It’s been horribly wet all day, and now the rain has settled into an endless flow of super-saturating fog. No-one else is out.
I’m working on the car, called out to a woman who lives on Deer Valley. Because of the tortuous road layout, I can’t drive up to her door. Instead, I have to walk across the park area, timing my crossing with mini-Knievel, who I have to admit, is pretty good on that thing. I’d wave if I didn’t have so many bags.
I find the house and put the bags down just inside a tiny overhang like the trim of a sports car nailed above the door to serve as a porch. I narrowly miss squashing a cat that’s sheltering there, too. When I apologise, move the bags, and crouch down to hold my hand out in the universal cat-language of friend, it slowly turns its head in my direction – not a look so much as a curse. The poor cat is soaked, its thick chocolate fur limp with water. I’m sure if I picked it up and gave it a squeeze I’d get about a gallon, but I can tell by the way it’s staring at me half of that would be my blood.
When the woman answers the door I say hello, pick up my bags – and then hesitate. I look down at the cat, expecting it to run inside ahead of me. It stays where it is, though, staring off into the foggy distance, as if it can still see the giant deer feeding, all those thousands of years ago.
‘Come on. Don’t worry about Claudie’ the woman says, waving me in. ‘Claudie loves the rain.’