The Owner and I are on the bed. She is watching a film about Hannibal, who took a bunch of elephants across the Alps in the Second Punic War in order to invade the Roman Republic. I am simply inhabiting that small part of her living space that is allotted to the Moral Dog.
She moves some of my legs off her pillow. Hergest, she says, if you’re going to be on the bed keep to your own half.
There is an assumption in this, I say, regarding the division of territory. On what basis was it decided that I should have only half? I have more legs, after all. She is being leggist.
She says it was decided on the basis of equality. Besides, she says, it’s not only a matter of legs. My bottom is also over the Moral Line, and her bottom is almost certainly larger. Sadly.
I avoid any possible discussion of the size of her bottom as I know from what happened to the Man that it can only end badly. I say we still only have one bottom each whereas I have twice as many legs. And by the way there is clearly no such thing as a Moral Line.
She says of course this is a Moral Line, what other Line could it be? If we are going to share the bed we must share it Morally. Apportion it in equal manner. Invading my side is not sharing, it is invading.
I say insistence upon a Moral Line is a Human Failing. The Moral Dog is a pack animal. He shares all of his territory with the pack so cannot by definition invade it. That’s why Moral Dogs never felt the need to drag a bunch of elephants across the Alps to Rome. Particularly given that nobody asked the elephants, I add, in Morally Pointed tones.
She says this is absolutely nothing to do with elephants or Punic Wars. She says whether or not this is a common bed, a matter which she disputes but will set aside for now, we clearly cannot both use the same part of it at the same time. She says the Moral Line is therefore a Metaphor for an agreement on shared usage and it’s perfectly obvious where the middle is. She points at a spot conjured up from her imagination, somewhere well into my side of the bed. That, she says, is where the Moral Line is. It is drawn generously. Allowing for legs. You already have the big half. And by the way, the elephants probably enjoyed it.
I say there are three problems with this. One is that you cannot expect the four-legged Moral Dog to arrange as many legs as that around a Metaphor. The second is that there is no such thing as the bigger half, she is being a complete oxymoron. And the third is that the elephants may have enjoyed it but they still were not asked. This is the difference between autonomy and paternalism and explains why the British Empire ended in tears.
She says there are three problems with this. One is that a Moral Dog is perfectly capable of seeing a Metaphorical line, assuming he is Truly Moral. Two is that the Moral Dog should not take refuge in rudeness. And three is that I cannot possibly be claiming that a bunch of elephants would have walked over the Alps if they didn’t want to. Of course they were asked. And rewarded with vast quantities of cheese. As to the British Empire that, she says, is Beside The Point.
I say she has misheard me. Oxymoron, I say. Not the other sort. The Moral Dog would never resort to insults, even in the face of the oxymoronic. The bigger half is an oxymoron.
Oh, she says, well if I want to be dogmatic we’ll have two halves that are exactly the same size and I can move right over and give back the pillow. Do I want to be oxymoronic or do I prefer to be dogmatic?
This is a trick question. Of course I want to be dogmatic. I am a dog. I compress my four extremely long legs into the tiny space they have been allotted. I say I bet if I was an elephant I would get more than half.
She says since I am not an elephant this is a Moot Point.
We’ll see about that, I say.
She frowns. What does that mean? She says. Hergest, she says, you are not to use my Amazon account again. We do not have space for an elephant.
I look pointedly at the vast unoccupied space between us, space that neither of us are now occupying since it is filled entirely by the Moral Line. We could almost certainly fit one in there, I say.
Fine, she says. You can have the whole bed. She slides off onto the dog cushion on the floor. Are you happy now?
For a moment I think I am. I spread my legs luxuriously on the bed as she adjusts herself on the floor. But as Hannibal marches on I realise that, unaccountably, my share of the Moral Cushion is far more essential to my happiness than the Pyrrhic Emptiness of the Moral Bed. I slide slowly to the edge and gaze upon the Owner from above.
Don’t even think about it Hergest, she says without looking around.
Hannibal would not have given up because the Romans told him not to even think about it. Hannibal’s great mistake was not to go all the way to Rome when he had the chance. The solution is perfectly satisfactory and makes sense all around. The Owner is on the cushion and I am on the Owner. When the elephant arrives, it can have the Moral Bed.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.