Two friends met for coffee one morning. This is what they talked about:
‘Oh, what a pig.’ Mrs. Holt said. ‘Right in front of you. What a bastard.’
‘I know,’ Mrs. Williams said. ‘He didn’t even try to hide it either. Just sat there staring down her blouse while she took our order. She was a pretty young thing, I’ll give you that. They were poking out like a pair of ripe peaches. Even I did a double take. But I mean, surely he could show a little restraint. Surely he could try to look away. I know we’re well into our forties, and it’s been years since mine have looked like that, but surely-’
‘He’s an animal,’ Mrs. Holt said.
‘And the way he called her Honey, and Sweetheart… I haven’t been Honey or Sweetheart, or anything remotely close to that for nigh on two decades. Just Jill.’
‘Disgusting,’ Mrs. Holt said. ‘You know, this is like that story of the dog and the spiked collar. Did you ever hear that one? This is how it goes. So there’s this farmer, who keeps chickens and sheep. He keeps a bunch of other animals too, but only the chickens and the sheep are really important. Hell, not even the sheep. You just need to know he has a dog to herd them. So he has chickens and this dog, and you know right away that’s a bad combination. One day the dog gets into the chicken coop where the farmer keeps all these chickens, and, well, you can guess what happens next.
‘So anyway, this farmer has this dog who keeps killing these chickens, but he needs the dog to herd his sheep. He can’t just get rid of it. So he decides he has to train this dog, and the way he does it is, he takes the dog’s collar, and hammers some nails into it so they’re poking through on the inside. Not big nails, mind you, just those thin little upholstery ones, kind of like thumb tacks. Not enough to kill the dog, but enough to cause him some pain, you know?
‘So yeah, he takes this collar, puts it around the dog’s neck, and chains the poor creature to the wall outside the house. Now, this is a long chain, so the dog can go wandering around pretty much wherever he likes. But it stops him just short of the chicken coop. So, every time he goes for the chickens, he gets pulled back at the last second and these nails dig into his neck. The farmer says, “That’ll teach him,” but what he doesn’t anticipate is that this is one dumb dog.
‘I mean, this dog just keeps going for it. He takes a run up, thinks, maybe this time it will work and I’ll get my paws on some juicy mother hen. But of course he goes flying back when the chain is pulled to tension. He lets out a yelp, retreats to lick his wounds, and the farmer says, “This time, he’ll learn.” But of course, the dog does not learn. It’s in his nature to chase those chickens. He goes torpedoing straight for the chicken coop, and SNAP! The dog’s head comes flying clean off, loops over the fence, and lands straight smack bang in the mud where the chickens proceed to peck his still-blinking eyeballs from their sockets.’
‘Jesus,’ Mrs. Williams said. ‘That’s horrible.’
‘Yes,’ Mrs. Holt said. ‘It is. But do you understand what I’m trying to say, Jill?’
‘Yes,’ Mrs. Williams said. ‘I think I do. You’re saying I’m the farmer, and Paul is the dog. You’re saying I shouldn’t tie him up, that I should let him roam free. Boys will be boys, and I should just cut him some slack. Or one day, I’ll lose him.’
Mrs. Holt smiled. ‘No,’ she said. ‘I’m saying all men are like dogs, and marriage is the chain. One day, either the chain will break, or, God willing, Paul’s head will come flying off his shoulders.’