The tennis ball arched up and then down through the sky, hit the ground, decided to try the sky again, decided to try the ground again, reconsidered the sky, and then finally settled in the grass for a rest.
‘Fetch, boy!’ cried Paul. ‘Go on! Biscuit, fetch! Get the ball! Biscuit, go! Ball!’
‘We need to talk,’ said Biscuit.
Paul forgot about the ball. ‘You can talk?!’
‘Of course I can talk.’
‘You’ve never said anything before.’
‘I’m very stoic.’
Paul found no flaw in this logic. ‘Why now?’
‘It’s a bit of a delicate subject, actually,’ said Biscuit. ‘To be honest, I’d rather not bring it up at all, but it’s sort of getting out of hand.’
‘Do you have worms?’
If a dog can be flabbergasted, Biscuit was. ‘What? No! This might completely blow your mind, but not everything’s about me.’
‘Then, what is it?’ said Paul.
Biscuit took a moment to select and arrange his words for maximum delicacy. ‘It’s about your obsession with my excrement.’
‘Watch this.’ Biscuit squatted, and his breakfast’s transformative journey through his digestive system reached its conclusion.
Paul immediately pulled a small plastic bag from a pocket and picked up what, hours ago, he had put into Biscuit’s bowl.
‘There!’ cried Biscuit in repulsed triumph. ‘That!’
‘What?’ said Paul.
‘Every time I go to the toilet, you pick it up. That’s not normal! It’s weird!’
‘But I have to,’ said Paul.
‘Do you have to pick up your own excrement and take it with you?’ said Biscuit. ‘Do you have to pick up Madeline’s? Or the Prime Minister’s?’
‘Of course not.’
‘Exactly! You’re obsessed with me, and I think it’s getting unhealthy. And don’t even get me started on that ball.’
‘What’s wrong with the ball?’ said Paul.
‘Do you want it or not? Make up your mind!’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘You throw it away, and then suddenly it’s “Biscuit, go get the ball,” I go and get it for you as fast as I can so nobody will notice your odd behaviour, and then you just throw it away again. And over and over.’
‘I thought you liked it.’
‘Why would I like a pointless, repetitive, menial task? Do you like pointless, repetitive, menial tasks? Aside from collecting my excrement, of course.’
‘It’s a fun game.’
‘There’s no rules, no points, no way to win, what kind of game is that?’
‘I’m just trying to give you a good life.’
‘You lock me in your house, you bathe me, you collect my excrement, you’re basically an overconfident stalker.’
Paul bowed his head, saddened. ‘I didn’t know you felt this way.’
‘Well, now you do.’
Paul looked at the bag in his hand. ‘So, what do you want to do now?’
‘Keep a lookout while I wee on this tree.’