Park Life: a parable

This is a story of a strange, parallel universe in which many of the elements of our known world are present and strangely familiar, but operate sometimes in mysterious ways.

Once there was a man and his dog.

He walked the dog in the park.

He and the dog ate their food and sometimes sold some to other people.

Then one day he noticed a few other people out walking dogs and, knowing he was the best dog-walker in town, the man took on walking lots of other dogs.

He knew about food and was proud to eat his own dog food.

Then one day he noticed a few men coming near from another part of the park. They appeared to be walking chimpanzees.

They were cheeky monkeys and occasionally they would come and eat the man’s food. He tried to chase them, but they were too quick for him.

These chimps sure grew up fast and soon he noticed that the men who had been walking chimps were now walking eight hundred pound gorillas. Well, there weren’t that many of them, just two or three who became that big.

But all around them were lots of men with their little chimps, some of them hoping to become eight hundred pound gorillas too.

And the cheeky monkeys were still bounding over all the time and eating his food. In fact they were eating more and more of it. He tried everything; locking his food up, calling them names, throwing sticks and stones at them, but he just couldn’t stop them.

He may have had some strange drug habit that made him paranoid too, because soon he began to suspect that some of the eight hundred pound gorillas might be helping the cheeky monkeys steal his food.

One day he decided that he would stop one of the men walking an eight hundred pound gorilla and tell him that this was a problem and that they needed to solve it. He puffed himself up as big as he could and put an extra pair of trousers on and went to talk to the man.

As he approached him, it turned out that the man who was walking his eight hundred pound gorilla, was walking really fast. The closer the dog walking man got to him, the faster he realized he was walking. He struggled to keep up and then, when they did start to speak, it became clear that they simply did not speak the same language, although the gorilla walker was obviously very eloquent.

Time went by and eventually they found some ways to be able to communicate a bit. The gorilla walker has some very clever monkeys who could actually do simultaneous translation, although their conversations were still prone to terrible misunderstandings. The dog-walker tried to do a bit of business.

If you want some of my food then you have to pay, he said.

But it’s free at the moment.

No, it’s not meant to be free.

Oh, ok then. Well how much is it?

Millions of dollars.

Why, that doesn’t make sense?

Well, that’s what it’s always been and I decide the price.

Well, it seems like it’s free to me.

Ah, well you are wrong my friend. I have a lot of dogs to feed.

It’s not my fault they’re all dogs.

Some of them are pedigree!

Well, yes, why don’t you only walk them?

Well, it’s hard to tell a pedigree until you’ve started walking it. Most of them are dogs, only a few are pedigrees. Anyway that’s my business, don’t tell me how to run it.

Hmm.

This conversation went on for a long time.

The he noticed that some of the men walking chimps were actually walking apes. The apes had some little black boxes with lights coming out of them and making weird noises. Some of them seemed to be able to make the boxes do extraordinary things.

Can we use some of your food in our boxes? some of the ape walkers asked.
What for? Answered the dog walkers.

Well, we don’t exactly know. But it will be fun!

If you can’t tell me what you want those apes to do with our food in their boxes, then we can’t tell you a price.

Well how about if we just say that we will put some of your food in our boxes and sell it from there for you, how much would that be?

Millions of dollars.

Hmmm

This conversation went in for some time.

Days passed, and somewhere, in the distance at the other end of the park, in the misty haze, past the row of monkey puzzle trees, the dog walker started to notice some new, younger dog walkers who seemed to be trying out new ways of walking their dogs. He even noticed one or two dogs walking themselves.  It seemed that these guys were quite social. They were asking lots of people to help them. Some of them seemed to realize that it was less about the walking and more about picking the pedigrees.

The dog walker’s dogs had begun to get a bit mangy.  Fewer people were buying his dog-food. In truth, he was having to eat less of it himself. He noticed that there were fewer and fewer dog walkers around in the park, but these were still his dogs and he was still the greatest dog walker in the universe and as long as there were dogs he would walk them.

Now, the people who hired the man to walk the dogs, gave him incentives. The man was addicted to his incentives. Every three months, when the people came down from their ivory towers and had to report to the street, the man would be rewarded if he got around the park faster, spent less money on food and spotted more pedigrees.

He sometimes wondered during his walks around the park, whether the eight hundred pound gorillas weren’t having more fun and sometimes he thought maybe he should try to be more like them.

He tried to hire some chimps and walk them along with his dogs. But he soon realized that the chimps were even more unpredictable than the dogs. And walking chimps required a completely different relationship between the walker and the animal. They were constantly tugging at his leash and pulling him off balance. Some of the older dogs started to do that too. It was sometimes really hard just to keep from falling over.

Some of the other big dog walkers did fall over. One of them ended up with a man from one of the ivory towers coming down and doing the walking himself. Perhaps he could make a difference. Well, that didn’t end well, as you can imagine. His suit got quite muddy and he announced he was putting the dog-walker and all his dogs up for sale.

The fact of the matter was, and here are the clichés which are not the end of the story, but merely the beginning, a pet and its owner often grow very alike and it is really hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

But look at that pack of young chimps and teenage dogs running alongside each other, over there, by the memorial rose-garden. They are starting to look very frisky and they’re smelling each others’ rear ends quite a bit. Now that has to be a good thing!

 

Jeremy Silver, 2011

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