Shaggy dog falls in love with chicken.
Chicken gets drunk and falls into bed with shaggy dog.
Shaggy dog takes this to mean that chicken has loved shaggy
dog from the start, and discounts all previous evidence to the
Chicken realizes she has gotten herself into something here,
but figures that she should see where it goes, that this is acceptable
for now, even that this might be what she has wanted for some
time. A lie, of course, a horrid one.
Shaggy dog, who would fail to understand chicken under ideal
conditions, is now so thoroughly in the dark that he has no hope
of ever emerging from it. Decides he is happy. Ignores (or is
ignorant of) all negative signals, atmospheric hints, forewarnings
Chicken is now so deep in this thing that, during the 75 per
cent of the time when she wants out, she is incapable of action
because it could ruin her sense of self-as-good-chicken. Allows
herself a grace period in which to strike upon a blameless exit
route. Another lie, of course, and again a horrid one. The thing
gets worse. During that other 25 per cent of the time, she pretends
she is happy, so convincingly she almost feels it. The thing gets
Shaggy dog remains blissful. Most of him. One part is terrified--a
mental part, which tries to tell the rest of him. Unfortunately,
this part has been named "Silly Doubt" by its peers,so when it
runs around the streets spreading the news, those happy, cynical
urbanites of shaggy dog's mind scoff and smile. "Oh that Silly
Doubt," they mock. "By name, by nature!"
Chicken finds herself telling the truth whenever she talks to
her friends, and telling lies whenever she talks to shaggy dog.
This also works within her: she thinks truths when with friends,
and falsehoods when alone with shaggy dog. This raises interesting
questions about the nature of herself and of truth, questions
that she explores during this grace period she allowed herself
a while back, the period in which she will make certain what she
wants. The answers to these questions will be of use in later
conversations. She even imagines that she is explaining it all
to shaggy dog, who understands perfectly.
Shaggy dog passes on the town joke about Silly Doubt to chicken.
Ha, ha! jokes shaggy dog. Everybody laughs at Silly Doubt! This
turns into a serious conversation, however, in which chicken changes
Silly Doubt's name to Sensible Doubt, and shaggy dog starts listening
closely. Chicken explains the causal topics of her recent cogitations:
the nature of herself and of truth. Shaggy dog looks appalled--he
does not understand at all!--so chicken reinterprets her theories
on the fly. (She is good at this; it's why she never needs to
redraft her essays. Often she doesn't even leave the introduction
until last. She's brilliant!)
Chicken thinks she got through that conversation pretty well.
She did not say everything she could have said, but sometimes
less is more. Less is more! she repeats to herself, now that she
and shaggy dog are happy together once more. Less is more! Left
is right! She tries explaining this to her friends, who don't
understand her theories either. She takes this useful input, combines
it with shaggy dog's useful input, and makes a whole new theory
that accommodates them all. She is brilliant! The new theory requires
that she divide herself into parts, like Gaul.
Shaggy dog finds himself listening to chicken's new theory.
He consults Sensible Doubt, his new chief advisor. Parts of chicken
are happy, chicken explains, but parts are not. Shaggy dog tells
Sensible Doubt to put a sock in it, and agrees that this is quite
normal, particularly in matters of love. That is another thing,
chicken continues, because parts of me are in love, but parts
are not. Parts are telling me to get the heck out of here! What's
a chicken doing with a shaggy dog? ask those parts. That's just
twisted, those parts are saying.
I have parts too, says shaggy dog. Sensible Doubt is a part.
Yes, in that sense we are the same, admits chicken.
And they stay together a little longer.
Tom Howell is in Toronto.