Dawn was just breaking, and the creature lay curled in a ball near the tree sleeping. Elmer landed near his head, gave it a little peck, and said, “Hey, Fathead!”
The creature groggily propped himself on an elbow and rubbed his eyes until he could focus.
Elmer said, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning!”
The creature swiped at the bird, and Elmer squawked and flew away.
Oliver emerged from the house. “Aaah, you're awake. Good. Maybe life in the country is starting to toughen you up from that soft city life. Would you like some breakfast?”
The creature rubbed his eyes more and sat up. “It’s still dark. Where am I?”
“You’re at your Uncle’s house, and it’s a new day. Would you like some breakfast?”
The creature digested this for a moment and shook his head as if trying to wake from a dream. Seeing his vision of Oliver did not dissipate, he hung his head dejectedly.
“Oh yeah...the torture farm.”
“Would you like some breakfast?”
The creature was silent for only a moment. “Yes.”
“Coming up.” Oliver immediately turned and went back inside the house. He returned with the same tin bowl and manual can opener of the previous evening, and another can of dog food. He placed the bowl in front of the creature, opened the can, and plopped the contents into the bowl.
“What...is this all you’re gonna feed me?”
“It’s the best food I have for animals. Most of my friends think the food I feed my animals is too good, but not me. Only the best for my animals.”
With whining, whimpering, irritated agitation, the creature said, “I’m not an animal. Why are you doing this to me? What did I ever do to you?”
“To me? You haven’t done much to me. You couldn’t even if you wanted to. You should concern yourself with doing something for me, instead.”
“For you? Why would I want to do anything for you?
“Because, for the moment, your life is in my hands. Your food, your clothing, your comfort... everything concerning you...is in my hands. I’d think you’d want to do things for me to please me...if not out of love for me, then simply to try to improve your circumstances. Doesn’t that make sense?”
“Well, what do you want me to do for you?”
“For starters, I want you to eat your breakfast.” With that, Oliver went back into the house to finish cooking the breakfast he had already begun for himself.
The creature sat and sulked with the bowl in front of him. He tentatively touched his finger to the oily, cylindrical mass, but withdrew it with a look of revulsion. However, the look faded from his face, and he began to sniff the air. He stood and walked slowly toward the house, sniffing as he walked. At the end of his taut tether, he leaned toward the house and inhaled the smell of Oliver’s breakfast.
“Oh, man....” he said, lost in a reverie for a short time, but a fit of anger soon exploded it. He ran back and grabbed the bowl with a growl, ran back toward the house, and hurled the bowl, which clattered onto the porch.
Oliver almost instantly ran from the house. “What’s the trouble out here?”
The creature stabbed a finger at Oliver. “You think you can make me eat dog food while you sit in your castle eating like a king? Well, I got news for you...I’ll STARVE first! You hear me? I’ll STARVE, and you’ll spend the rest of your life in jail!”
Oliver looked at the creature intently, then said simply, “Suit yourself. Bayo!” The dog, which peered out the screen door from inside the house, now pushed the door open and padded onto the porch. Oliver pointed to the mess, and the dog immediately gobbled it up as the creature watched. Oliver went back into the house to finish his breakfast.
The creature burst into tears of frustration and fury. He danced with convulsive whirls punctuated with angry shouts and howls before he collapsed and pounded the ground with his little fist.
The creature eventually settled into a simmering sulk, sitting with his back against the flagpole. After about a half hour, he saw Oliver in the bay window of the house. Oliver stood for a moment, gazing out at the sunrise, then knelt. The creature could just see the top of his head through the window. He remained in this position for approximately a half hour, then stood and exited the house with Bayo. He placed his tools from the porch into the bed of the truck as Bayo jumped in with them. After he placed his water cooler on the passenger side of the front seat, he took the creature’s water bowl, filled it with water, and placed it back where he found it.
“See you at lunchtime,” he said. The creature scowled at him.
At lunchtime, Oliver stepped cheerily out of his truck and said, “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it? Would you like some lunch?”
“Yes, but only if it’s good food.”
Oliver returned with the same bowl and can opener and another can of the same dog food. After the food plopped into the bowl, the creature looked at Oliver with defiance and anger and called out "Bayo!" The dog came running, and the creature stabbed a finger toward the food. He watched for a reaction from Oliver, who simply shrugged his shoulders and went into the house to make himself lunch. The creature scowled in angry frustration, lowly cursing Oliver as tears flowed down his cheeks and Elmer landed on the porch rail and said, “It's twelve o'clock! It's twelve o'clock!'
After lunch, Oliver passed the creature with a spirited step and said, "See you at dinnertime."
At dinnertime, Oliver again stepped cheerily out of his truck and said, "Ah, it's a good day of work I've done. How about some dinner?"
The creature entreated Oliver. "Yes. I want dinner, but I want good food. I want real food. Do you understand? Real food. Bring me real food, OK?"
"Understood," said Oliver. "Coming right up."
Oliver returned with the same bowl and can opener and another can of the same dog food. As he opened it, the creature whined and cried. His voice squeaked as he gestured with stabbing motions.
“No! Noooooo! Why are you doing this? Didn’t you hear me? I don’t wanna eat dog food! Sheesh! Give me real food! I want real food. Give me real food.” The last words he said with a whimper as he collapsed to the ground.
“I don’t know what you mean. This is as real as food gets.” And with that, Oliver gouged a chunk out of the cylindrical mass with his fingers and ate it. The creature’s jaw dropped and eyes widened.
“But...have it your way. Bayo!”
As the dog bounded from the porch toward his master, the creature scurried to the bowl with a loud “No!” and hovered over it, protecting it with his arms and hands.
Oliver blocked the dog from reaching the bowl. “What? You’ve changed your mind?”
“I-I want to...try it. OK? I’ll try it.”
"Well, good. I was starting to worry. Bayo's starting to get a little fat eating all your food." Oliver went inside the house with the dog to eat dinner.
The creature stopped hovering over the bowl and looked at the mass in its center. He frowned with disgust.
"Sheesh, it looks like poop," he muttered. He tentatively stuck his left index finger in the area Oliver gouged and dug out a small lump that stuck to his finger.
"Ewwwww..." He slowly put the finger to his mouth, clenched his eyes shut, and scraped off the little lump with his teeth, not wanting any of it to touch his lips. Slowly, his eyes opened as he chewed, then audibly swallowed. His eyebrows raised and his mouth closed and lost a little of its sickened twist.
"Well, that wasn't so bad," he said.
He took a bigger bite, still with just his teeth, and swallowed much faster.
"That's really not that bad. Man, I've had worse."
He gouged a chunk out as Oliver did and popped it into his mouth and ate it as he would normal food.
"Huh. That's the last time I watch that dog eat my food." Then the creature cleaned the bowl.