“Stanley, how do you feel?”

“I feel great.”

“Seriously, Stan, your back legs are collapsing more and more. Last night your legs splayed apart and you fell with your butt right into the water bowl.”

“I feel great.”

“You splashed the entire floor!”

“I feel fine.”

“Stan, it’s been hot and humid all July and into August, and you pant night and day. That thick black fur of yours can’t be much help, either.”

“I feel fine.”

“Stanley, you can tell me the truth. You’re eating less than ever.”

“More, less, it’s all okay.”

“I can’t believe my ears, Stanley. More or less is okay? From the dog who wanted to eat New England?”

“It’s all fine.”

“You slammed into the edge of the chair this morning because you can’t see much, Stan. It’s hard for you to poop because you can’t squat.”

“Things are coming out fine.”

“Leeann told me yesterday that your body’s working hard to do even a short walk. You still recognize all the dogs—”

“They love me! They call me Sensei Stanley—”

“But you walk really slow and you pant a lot.”

“Everything is fine.”

“You can tell me the truth, Stanley, things are tough for you, aren’t they?”

“I’m a Zen teacher, so everything is okay,”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Ahh, defective student, learn from me and weep. If you are enlightened, nothing troubles you.”

“Who says, Stanley?”

“If you are awake, everything is the same: seeing, not-seeing, walking, not-walking, hearing-not hearing—”

“Marrow bone/no marrow bone?”

“Ah, essence of confusion, are you feeling threatened by my superior understanding?”

“No, Stanley, I think you’re the one who’s confused. Walking and not walking, seeing and not-seeing are not the same. They’re all manifestations of absolute reality, and in that sense they’re equal in value, but in day to day life they’re definitely not the same.”

“I’m a teacher, who cares about day to day life? I’m all into essence.”

“Okay, Sensei Essence, I was going to give you what was left of last night’s roast chicken for dinner, but tell me, is roast chicken essence?”

“Of course roast chicken is essence, gobbler of drek.”

“I believe the aspersion is gobbler of dregs, Stanley, not gobbler of drek. In fact, if anyone gobbles drek around here, it’s—”

“Dregs, drek, it’s all the same.”

“Stop saying that, Stan, you’re driving me crazy.”

“Tsk tsk tsk, what kind of teacher are you? Zen teachers are never crazy, they’re always peaceful. They never have problems.”

“The Man walks with a cane indoors and needs someone at his elbow when he walks outdoors, Stan.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“He can’t open the catsup on his own, Stanley.”

“That’s why you’re there. What’s the problem?”

“He talks a lot less than he used to and rests a lot more, Stan.”

“You more than make up for him, at least talking-wise. I’m telling you, everything’s fine. Since the Man gave me dharma transmission, I never get rattled. I’m nice to everybody.”

“Everybody? What happened when Minnie the dachshund ran over to you the other day when you arrived at Leeann’s, Stan?”

“I told her to get of my face you ugly dog—but I said it very spontaneously. Zen is about being fully spontaneous..”

“Oh Stan, you’re been saying the same thing to Minnie for ages. In Zen we have no problem with feelings, just with grasping. And we don’t harm other beings. Doing no harm is very important. I think you should apologize to Minnie next week.”

“Zen teachers don’t apologize.”

“The good ones do, Stanley, the good ones do.”