Oh look, the Owner says, the New Scissors have arrived and so I am going to do the Christmas Wrapping.
Where are the Old Scissors? I ask.
It is the First Rule of Christmas Time, says the Owner, that the Old Scissors always disappear when it is Christmas Time. One can choose between hunting for the Old Scissors to the point of Madness or purchasing New Scissors. QED.
Can I help with the Wrapping? I ask.
The Owner looks at me Dubiously. Only if you Promise not to Chew, she says. There is a time and a place for Chewing and This Will Not Be It.
I am Wounded to my Core. The Moral Dog is now Fully Appraised of his Responsibilities in the Not Chewing Department, I say. I have Taken the Pledge.
As Long as We are Clear On That, says the Owner.
Of course we are, I say. Utterly, I say.
We go into the Kitchen, where the Tree in which the Porcupine lives gazes at me through its twinkling haze of Morally Deceptive lights. I keep a safe distance.
The Owner lays out various boxes and rolls of paper. Then she picks up a plastic object and shows it to me with Pride. Look, she says.
What are those? I ask.
These are the New Scissors, she says, I am Prepared for the Wrapping.
That seems Excellent, I say. It must be Very Convenient to have the New Scissors.
And here is the Wrapping Paper says the Owner, producing a long roll of sparkly stuff, the Wrapping Paper which I shall now cut with the Scissors.
I admire the Wrapping Paper, as this seems to be required. There was a day, perhaps, when I might have chewed it, but (as Aragorn said) It Is Not This Day.
And here, says the Owner, is the Man’s Gift. Ready to be Wrapped. Ta-da.
I admire the Man’s gift too. I feel I have the Gist of Present Wrapping.
The Owner settles onto the carpet. I watch with Interest as she unrolls the Paper and Prepares the Gift for the Man. Then she starts to fiddle with the New Scissors.
And she fiddles. She does this for quite some time. I get the impression that it is not Going Well.
I wonder, I say after a while, if the Scissors might achieve their job More Effectively if you got them Out of the Packet?
The Owner goes slightly Purple. It is quite a fetching colour, in the light, and rather matches the Wrapping Paper. That was the Idea, she says. The Problem is, she says in tones suggestive of Icy Control. The Problem is….
She seems to be having trouble Organising her Thoughts.
So what is the Problem? I ask, helpfully.
Well, says the Owner, looking as though she is struggling with some terrible Inner Dilemma, the Problem is…
Yes? I say. I am now truly Agog to know what the Problem Is.
I cannot get the Scissors out of the packet, she says, without Scissors.
Ah, I say. You are trapped in a dreadful Catch 22 situation, as described by Joseph Heller’s character Doc Daneeka, an army psychiatrist uses the term to explain why any pilot seeking to be found not sane enough to fly and thereby escape dangerous missions is demonstrating his own sanity in creating the request. Catch-22 said that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to.
How do you know all that? Asks the Owner. Have you been eating books in the Cellar again?
I might have chewed one slightly, I say.
I seem to recall the Moral Dog Promising not to Chew, she says.
I say it was a Past Chew, prior to the Moratorium on Chewing and the Contract which we Both Signed. I could not Chew now, I say. Not Even if you Asked Me To. I have Taken Vows.
Oh, says the Owner. Well right, yes, phew, I should think so too. I wonder if she is about to Reminisce Once Again about the Many Reasons why the Moral Dog should Not Chew but she closes her mouth again. A Strange Expression crosses her face. She looks at the Scissors. She looks at me.
Hergest, she says. I don’t suppose you have anything Sharp I could use to get at the Scissors…?
Sharp? I ask. I seem to recall the Moral Dog was not allowed a Swiss Army Knife when he asked for one, owing to not needing to get Stones out of Horse’s Hooves. There was no mention of getting Scissors out of Packets at the time.
I didn’t mean a Swiss Army knife, says the Owner, who still seems to be struggling to get her words out, I meant…. teeth.
I raise my eyebrows. I cannot believe it, I say. You are asking me to Chew?
I thought, she says, just this once, she says, you might be an excellent Substitute for the Old Scissors.
I am deeply troubled, I say. I would love to help, I say. But I have promised. It was a Solemn Vow.
I am giving you permission, says the Owner.
That does not help, I say. It is not a Matter of Permission. The Moral Dog swore the Oath of Cheese. I seem to recall the Words were something along the lines of I Do Hereby Solemnly Swear that Never Again shall I Chew the Owners Books, nor her Magazines, nor Any other item that comes from Amazon. I Swore on the Cheese. Such Oaths cannot be Undone.
I can see that, says the Owner. The Moral Dog is Noble Indeed.
I could not chew the Scissors unless Life depended on it, I say.
I see, says the Owner.
Although, I say, were I to lie here with my Mouth Open and you to Happen by with the Scissors…
Hergest, she says, that is an excellent idea. I would not Dream of asking you to Chew. But perhaps if you Opened Your Mouth I might Use Your Teeth.
Absolutely, I say. Always ready to Oblige. I rather hope that Santa is watching but of course I am Being Good for Goodness’ Sake.
The Moral Dog, both Trusty Companion and Kitchen Implement. If only Joseph Heller had known him.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.