I awoke to horrible shrieking squeals of pain and agony. Bill was beating his dog. The animal had gotten out of the yard and killed some of the neighbor’s chickens. Bill reasoned the only way to teach the dog not to kill was to beat it senseless. I couldn’t understand and neither could the dog.
The dog couldn’t figure out cause and effect, just as I couldn’t puzzle out karma. To the dog, killing chickens was one thing and getting beaten was another unrelated thing. To me, being an asshole was one thing and bad luck another. Where was the justice? Justice being the thing that makes us aware we did wrong and were being punished for our actions. Karma seemed a nebulous entity, taking one seemingly unrelated event and tying it to a future event. Where’s the causality? To the dog, with her dog nature, killing chickens was justified, part of her nature. Getting beaten was an unjust event in the dog’s life, one where her master was a complete motherfucker for no good reason. To her it was just bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. She was a convenient excuse for violence. To Bill, he was judge and punisher and teacher, but he failed at all three because it was a dog and a dog doesn’t know.
Bill thought the dog knew, dog owners always give their dogs human attributes like guilt and shame that don’t exist in their true natures. The “guilty” look a dog has when it “knows” it did something bad is just a look, that’s all. Nothing in that look is knowledge it did something bad that will affect it later in life, whether it’s a beating in the morning or a disapproving word from its master. No, the look is what is called “hang-dog” and has nothing to do with guilt or innocence, justice or hope, peace or free will. Does karma affect dogs? Does a dog have Buddha nature?
As I said, the piteous cries from the dog woke me up and I staggered out of my room to see what was happening. In the yard I was disgusted at the sight of Bill whipping the dog with a belt. It reminded me of my father beating me with his belt, though my father was far less vicious and a tad more merciful.
“Bill, what the hell are you doing?” I shouted.
“This dog killed the neighbor’s chickens. I’m teaching her a lesson.”
I don’t argue with a man with a weapon, even if that weapon is only a belt. I turned and went back into the house. I was the only one there besides Bill and the dog and presumably a dead chicken or two. I wondered how long the beating would take and how long I’d have to endure the wailing from Ellie.
All these thoughts entered my mind as I pissed. It was not a good way to start the day. Philosophy is best pondered in a stuffed chair with a fresh pack of cigarettes on the side table and maybe a pad and pen in hand or in a tavern over a couple of pints of beer; not standing up taking a piss and listening to a dog cry in pain.
Matt seemed unaffected by Ellie’s unfortunate punishment. He was detached from his family, yet they were around him constantly. His brother, Chuck, lived on the other side Rainier Avenue South on South Director Street in the house I shared with Matt and Wayne only six months previously. We called it the “Rhesus House” after Rhesus Christ of the immaculate deception. It had been small for the three of us, since it only had two bedrooms and the landlord didn’t like Ellie hanging around. Bill and Buzz were always there, Buzz sometimes slept on the floor since Wayne had the couch. The landlord also disliked us for not mowing the lawn and performing other necessary and routine household tasks. We were anarchists, we didn’t mow lawns.