It was a warm afternoon in September, and the man and the chow
were having a picnic under a sizeable maple tree at a park near
their home. The chow was rambling. "… And that's pretty much why
I don't like having my picture taken. Don't get me wrong, I have
a great respect for it as a profession, or even just as a hobby,
but these people always go on about me in pictures like I'm some
kinda fucking baby to be ogled at. As if it's any less creepy
because I'm not some 19 year old bitch with an overabundance of
flabby chest tissue, even though it isn't. In fact, the whole
thing is probably even creepier given the pedestal infants are
put on… Don't get me started on that one, man."
As if by force of the dog's tangent, orange and brown maple
leaves began floating gently down to the old man, catching his
beard, and settling on his Leica M4. He casually brushed the
leaves off, not minding the ones on him, but he had had this same
camera since 1967, and took great pride in keeping it in at least
decent condition. Unfortunately the same could not be said about
the rest of him. From his ratty, tattered trucker cap that
announced to all his pride for his 3 tours of duty in Vietnam to
his wispy, food encrusted "Gandalf" beard, as he has heard it
referred to, he was in any kind of shape but good.
"I hear ya. I just like takin' 'em. Never was a big fan of bein'
in 'em. It's this feelin' I get of bein' watched. The idea of
somebody lookin' at me whenever they want without me knowin' just
kinda gives me the willies, ya know? It's like this hypocritical
obsession with voyeurism that I got. I can't stand it bein' done
to me, but I love doin' it to other people. Maybe it's wrong, I
The chow, having just finished scratching behind its
orange-blonde ears while listening, or rather half-listening, to
the photographer's explanation of his hobby, was now eager to
speak his mind on the bits and pieces he actually found
"Well, of course it's "wrong". It's a blatant violation of the
whole "Do unto others…" thing. It's okay though. Morals are
relative. They're dynamic, and they're anything but sacred. In
doing "wrong", you're only being human. You all set up these
rules, and expect them to be followed, and then condemn each
other for not following them all the while not doing it
yourselves, thus continuing the cycle. You fucking
feed on hypocrisy. The whole thing's a trip to see. It's
the fuel that runs your ever day lives. It's what you do."
Feeling a slight bubbling on anger at what would have been taken
as an insult from anyone else, the old man swallowed and gave his
reply to the chow's criticism of the supposed hypocrisy of his,
and his fellow religious. After a moment or two, any trace of
anger was gone, and the man felt it was safe to let out his
"I can't say I know about all that, but you can't deny that it's
worth the effort to give that Golden Rule a try. You can't sit
there and tell me that if everybody lived that way things'd be a
hell of a lot better. Everybody treatin' everybody as good as
they wanna be treated. It'd be a paradise. That's why it's in the
Good Book, and that's why so many people try to follow it. It's
also why we all try to remind each other that we should follow
it, and I'm sorry that we can't always be nice about it, but I
know I've always remembered the harsher reminders I've gotten a
whole lot more than the nice little requests."
"Right, but we don't live in a paradise because people don't
follow the Golden Rule as well as they probably should. Even if
they did, do you really think they'd do it because it benefitted
their fellow man? Hell no they wouldn't. They'd do it because
some cosmic used car salesman strong-armed them into it with an
ultimatum of either treating the people they share a planet with
as well as they'd like to be treated or spend an eternity in pain
and anguish. Don't get me wrong, I'd do the same thing if I had
that kind of leverage. Although, I don't know if I'd go for the
whole "worship me or spend an eternity in pain and anguish"
angle, or any of the other "do this or suffer forever" deals that
people seem to think are somehow made out of love and
The man looked visibly taken aback. It was not the look of
someone who was offended or incredibly upset at what was said. It
was a kind of deep seeded fear that had been chiseled into him
when he was young. He was raised in a Baptist church, and still
had a healthy fear of the almighty. So upon hearing the chow's
rebuttal, he felt a something akin to fear, although it was
unexpected and came, seemingly, from nowhere.
Being a normally level-headed individual, he let the fear pass
and chose his words carefully. He had no desire for the
discussion to take any more of an argumentative turn, although he
knew just how much his companion seemed to enjoy throwing words
back and forth over a subject that neither of them would agree on
or come out any wiser for having argued it.
"That's an opinion, and it's respectable from where you stand.
It's not mine though. I don't pretend to understand what God's
thinkin', and so I don't pass judgment. In fact, I think it's
kinda arrogant to try to judge an almighty being, and I don't
think it'll getcha anywhere good. What are you plannin' on doin'
with all that opinion anyway? You gonna flag down God one day and
give him a piece of your mind? Even if you could, it wouldn't
matter. God already knows what your two cents is, and it ain't
changed nothin' yet."
During the photographer's rebuttal, the chow had been sitting,
curled by the picnic basket listening to what he was saying, this
time actually listening because of the argumentative tone that
the photographer had slipped into in spite of his own wishes
against it. Once the photographer was finished, the chow sat up,
walked nonchalantly over to the man, and promptly bit him on the
arm. It wasn't a hard bite, just enough to break the skin and
cause a little pain. Nonetheless, the man yelped, and looked as
if he was about to retaliate when the chow began:
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, you don't get to do that. You have to turn the
other cheek. It's what your book tells you to do. Don't give me
that "eye for an eye" shit either. You know damn well that by
citing that you're ignoring the obvious rule set in place by your
religion's fucking namesake. If that doesn't give it precedence,
then maybe the fact that it was put in place later, thus
nullifying it will convince you.
"You can't call common sense arrogance. People are still going to
treat people like shit; it's just how people are. Since you don't
get to retaliate with anything but love, how do you think you'll
survive? On a side note, I mean Christians in general, and not
just you. You'll survive because you're kind of a crappy
Christian. Anyway, what about the people that are devout? Do they
just take whatever they're given with a content smile on their
face, or do they break their own literally God-given rules for
the sake of survival? Those aren't rhetorical questions. I want
to know what you've got to say to them."
The old man, nursing his arm, was taking time coming up with a
response. There had never been a time when he could not just drop
an argument. The man was a veritable blood and guts Switzerland.
This time, however, he felt he had to defend his side. Having
spent several minutes in thought, he began:
"We're arguin' from two completely different places. We got no
common ground to speak from. The whole point of faith is to
accept it no matter what happens, and no matter what nobody says.
You can say all that stuff about my God, but in the end He's
still my God, and he'll be there for me when I'm dead an'
rottin' in the ground. What about you? What do you got? Smugness?
That it? Well that ain't gonna get you shit. You can say He ain't
good, you can say He ain't powerful, hell, you can say he ain't
even real, but ya know what? It don't matter. Even if He ain't
there, it makes me feel like I got a purpose, and some kinda
safety. It gives me somethin' solid to stand my ideals on, and
that's a lot more than you can say."
The photographer's skin was nearing red when he finished. His
breathing was speeding up. He could hear his heart beating and
his sweat stinging his eyes. His chest began tightening, sending
waves of pain out that panged in his shoulders.
Ignoring the old man's pained expression, the chow moved into the
response he had been mulling over since the man was only a
fraction of the way through speaking.
"You're right. We are arguing from two different places. I'm
talking about logic, and you're just spouting a lot of bullshit
about believing things that are completely unfounded because
you're that desperate to feel stability. You act like it's some
kind of "simple country wisdom" or something, and that those of
us that don't understand it don't simply because we're too
arrogant and proud. We just don't like lying to ourselves for the
sake of comfort. Don't kid yourself, either, what you're doing is
cowardly. You do it out of fear. Using the argument that
"something's better than nothing" to defend religion is fucking
laughable. It's ridiculous, and every time you use it, you just
sound more and more pathetic. You're such a goddamn child, you
know that? So what do you have to say? What could you possibly
say now that you literally have no argument to protect your
The chow had not been facing the photographer during his rant.
When there was no reply, he turned, seeing the old man lying on
the ground, face frozen in an expression similar to the one that
had been ignored earlier.
A couple passing by found the man's body alongside the chow, and
reported the incident to the police. Once the connection between
the bite marks and the dog were made, it was taken by animal
control and put to sleep.
On his way to be put down, the chow was turning the events over
and over in his head, trying to find where he went wrong. His
thoughts were cut short, and the event was written off as the
work of a dangerous animal. The incident was reported in the
paper, and there was a brief wave of caution around the chow
breed as a result of the unusually good reporting job on the part
of a local newspaper.
A good number and friends and remaining family showed up to the
photographer's funeral. His work was displayed with pride, and
nostalgic speeches praising his life and work were given by a
number of people. The general mood was bittersweet, and all in
attendance agreed it was about as enjoyable a funeral as is