The sun was as lazy, on this day, as those upon whom it bestowed its light. The aging, weather-beaten fence provided pleasant shade in the hours before noon; it would be time to move before very long. They did not mind. Though it was a lying around sort of day, getting up and moving was good for the soul. And maybe they’d not move at all—today’s discussion was a compelling one in which they were all engrossed.

“Now,” said Zipper, a rotund Labrador, “I put forth that when they ask us who is a good dog—they actually want an answer. It seems rhetorical, yes.”

Roy and Killer nodded, whereas Boofy remained unconvinced. “The feathery thing they keep in the cage keeps asking who is a clever boy, then. And I’m not even a boy. So there has to be something at work here that is perhaps not readily apparent to the eye.”

Killer, ever erudite, offered speculation. “Now, friend Boofy. Leave us not forget that lovable old chestnut, Occam’s razor, yes? Trot it out one more time? Seems to me—” and he paused for a space where, in a normal conversation, a human would draw on their meerschaum pipe “—that the thing with feathers (if you’ll forgive the sly allusion to Dickinson on my part) may simply know the same thing they do, and that we do not. It also keeps asking for crackers, if you’ll recall, and I think that’s something with which we can all identify.”

There was general assent. It was easy to relate to any animal that desired snacks.

Killer appeared satisfied with his own thoughts and hunkered down once more. The beefy Rottweiler had often mentioned a desire to attend Cambridge and had been rather upset to learn that the university required a certain GPA and level of SAT scores, and also did not admit dogs.

“So,” said Boofy, “we are left with a fundamental question here: What, at root, is a good dog? What could be said to be the very nature, the very essence of a good dog? And do we qualify? So often they ask, but less so do they flat-out tell us that we are, indeed, good dogs. And wherein does that nature lie? Is it in our actions or in our beings?”

“If you’ll recall,” interjected Zipper, “we failed to reach any sort of conclusive decision yesterday vis-à-vis whether or not we actually exist at all. I rather think we should resolve that particular knotty issue first. If memory serves, some of us, and I am not naming names, cited Descartes, whereas I felt that it was a dead horse postulated by a gentleman who’d not had the appropriate skeptical outlook. Your thoughts, Roy?”

Roy lifted his head up. “Yes, I just wanted to touch on what Killer was saying a moment ago about the crackers. I myself like crackers very much, although on the whole I’d say that I am most fond of meat. You just can’t beat a good cut of venison, or possibly beef—I had lamb once, they gave me a bit of it from the dinner table and it was awfully good, but beef would have to be the old favorite here, certainly.”

“Yes, but—” Boofy was cut off midsentence by a call from the house. It was the woman of the house, indicating that it was time for walkies. “Oh, hell and damnation,” she spat. “Walkies. I trust you can all see yourselves out? It’s been a pleasure, as always, and we shall meet hereabouts tomorrow morning at the usual time.”

“Oh, tomorrow’s not so good for me,” piped up Zipper. “I’ve an appointment with my physician—something about having my nuts cut off. I should be all right for the day after, though.”

There was agreement, and the group dispersed, each to their individual day. As Killer and Roy padded home (their residences being very close to one another), Roy gazed off into the distance and, his voice far away, spoke.

“I really think it’s true, you know.”

“Yeah? You’re talking about the discussion a little earlier, about the nature and relativism of Truth?”

“No. The bit about the meat.”



This is an excerpt from the new anthology The Longhouse, edited by Participation Frog. You can purchase the book from Terror House Press here.