Thursday, February 18, 2010

An Old Story

Here's a little thing I wrote five years ago, and only just re-found. Enjoy.

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Benjamin looked at the dog. It was very still; the only sign of life being that its eyes occasionally would point his way, perhaps to be sure that he wasn't up to anything, or holding treats, or what-not. This puzzled Benjamin, and had done for the last several hours. "Why is he so quiet?" Benjamin thought to himself. It was strange for precisely the same reason that a boiling kettle should cause concern if it failed to whistle. You see, the dog was a talking dog, and, even more uniquely, a talkative dog. But he wasn't talking now, and hadn't done ever since Benjamin had decided to have a sit down in this field. Naturally, this puzzled Benjamin.

"Right," said Benjamin, and then, "so," after the briefest of pauses. The dog looked his way again. "You may as well say whatever it is that you're going to say, rather than lying there waiting for me to read your mind," said Benjamin.

Benjamin couldn't be sure, but he got the distinct impression that the dog was rolling its eyes. "It is not my turn to speak," said the dog, "I asked you a question, and am still waiting on your response."

"What?" said Benjamin, who furrowed his brow a little at this, "Did you?"

"Yes," said the dog, "I remember it quite clearly. I shouldn't wonder, but that you've forgotton the matter entirely."

"Well, as a matter of fact..." Benjamin trailed off, now growing a little frustrated by the combination of his own forgetfulness, and the dog's evasiveness. "Would you care to repeat the question?" he said.

"I simply asked, 'Should we encounter any dogs, would it bother you greatly if I implied that I was walking you, rather than the other way round?'," said the dog. Yes, this sounded like familiar ground to Benjamin.

"Right, well, I can't think of a reason why we should pretend, when it's clear to anyone that I am walking you," said Benjamin. He wondered to himself if it was right to take such a firm stance, but recalled the advice that in any human-dog relationship it was important to clearly assert dominance.

"And why should that be so clear?" asked the dog.

"Well, humans are superior to the animals," said Benjamin, now feeling that the conversation was slipping onto ground that was much less firm.

"Are they? And why, pray tell, is that?" asked the dog, who appeared to be trying very hard to sound incredulous.

"Well, I should think that the answer is that humans have thumbs," said Benjamin. Clearly, "The ability to speak and reason" wasn't going to work with this particular animal. He was a clever dog, Benjamin knew.

"Ah, yes, thumbs. Very handy, those," said the dog. "Yes, I can see how those would make all the difference in the world. And, should a human lose their thumbs in some sort of horrible accident, then they would be less human and thus equal with the animals?" the dog asked.

He is a clever, clever dog; of that, Benjamin had no doubt. You see, for some time Benjamin had the sneaking suspicion that the dog was, in fact, more clever than he. In fact, the dog was smarter by a significant margin. The dog knew this; Benjamin did not. This, it need not be said, was an extremely smart dog. Benjamin remembered now why it was that he had not answered the question earlier: he had had a premonition that the conversation would end up very poorly.

"Right, well, not just thumbs, of course," said Benjamin. He paused for several moments, trying to think of some other way in which he was superior to the dog. All he could manage was 'fur', although it sounded a bit weak as far as argumentative points go.

"It's just a bit embarrasing," interrupted the dog. "I haven't had a decent conversation with another dog in quite some time, and I just thought it might be easier to talk properly if I wasn't wearing a leash," it continued.

"Ah, well, that seems reasonable," said Benjamin, "but how do I know you won't just run off and leave me?"

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