You know, Bernie, in my first marriage my then mother-in-law kept telling us that what she wanted was for us to settle down. “Settle down,” she would implore me, “please.” I think she looked more at me than at her son because she already knew where the trouble lay.

Settling down is good, says Stanley, settled on the rug.

Parents always want their children to settle down.

What does that mean? asks Bernie.

I’m not sure, but I hear it all the time when parents talk about their children: “This one is doing well, this one is fine,” but there’s always one child who has problems because s/he never settled down. I think it refers to getting married, having a career, having kids, having a home.

Two out of four ain’t bad, says Stanley, chewing on his bone.

Which two, Stan?

I have a home and I built a career as Montague’s greatest guard dog.

My point is, I always had the impression that settling down—family, career, possessions—showed maturity. If you didn’t choose that path it meant you hadn’t settled down and your parents worried about you day and night.

Do you think I’ll ever settle down? asks Bernie.

Naah, you’ll be a wild man for the rest of your life.

What about you? he asks.

I used to be wild but I can’t do that anymore, I have to take care of you.

Taking care of me is you being you, he says.

What does that mean?

Taking care of me is you having your life; that’s what taking care of me is.

No one says anything till Stanley’s black nose pushes up against the tablecloth. Did you finish eating? Is it time for me to lick dishes?

Settle down, Stan, I tell him. Just settle down.