When my father was a kid he had a friend called Bart who was an orphan. Naturally, Bart was on the poor side and never had much in the way of clothes or toys. What little he had, he was very attached to. Bart eventually became a lawyer but he remained attached to his things despite now having more of them. We met him when he visited once, and my sister remarked that it looked as though someone was wringing his neck—he had bulging eyes and was stringy and thin.

“He has a goitre thing,” my father said.

Years later, Bart was married. One Christmas, he and his wife came to visit us at Oyster Bay. Bart had bought a new car, a green Audi. He was not happy that the road from the nearest town to Oyster Bay was not tarred. After a painstakingly slow drive from town, he refused to come the last two hundred meters to the house. The road was too bad and his car was too new. He parked the Audi under a tree and he and his wife walked the rest of the way with their bags.

From the house, we could see his green car under the tree. It looked like a strange grassy knoll. Every now and then Bart would stand at the window to check on it.

“It’ll be fine,” my father said when Bart checked on the car for what felt like the hundredth time.

“He’s just that way,” his wife remarked under her breath. “He’s always been.”

By Christmas Day, Bart had relaxed a little. He checked on the car a little less frequently. After lunch, he walked past the window and suddenly exclaimed, “What the fuck!”

By the time we all got to the window, Bart was already running toward his car, which was covered in goats. The goats belonged to people who lived in shacks some distance off. We hardly ever saw them, but the green car and the tree it made accessible had probably been too tempting for them.

We watched as Bart scattered the goats with flapping arms and drove back to the house.

“We’re leaving!” he cried when he emerged from his car.

The Audi looked like a green golf ball.

“But it’s Christmas,” his wife wailed. “I said not to park under a tree.”

“Pack!” Bart barked.

When they’d gone my father recalled how Bart had once refused to dry clean his Harris Tweed jacket when they were at university. “He didn’t want to let the thing out of his sight,” my father laughed. “So he washed it himself.”

“What happened?” we asked.

“It came out three sizes smaller.”

My father blew his nose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. “If you guard things too closely,” he said and shook his head, “loss will find them. It knows all the places.”

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