Outside an older building on a not very busy street in a neighborhood not far from the docks in a city just over the mountains and down by where the river meets the sea, a young man was playing fetch with his dog. He would throw a slimy, deflated, well-gnawed football as far down the sidewalk as he could, starting around the halfway point of the block, and then see if he could run to the other end of the block before the dog snagged up the football and caught up to him, shaking the dead ball back and forth violently, spit flying everywhere. He almost always lost, but then, the young man would tell himself, he wasn't trying very hard either (which was not strictly true).
But today, he was almost at the far intersection before he realized that not only was he out-running the dog, but didn't even hear him coming up from behind. No snorts, no swallowed barks, no nails on concrete. The young man turned around to see what was going on. The dog was just sitting there, two-thirds of the way down the block, staring at the dead ball on the ground. He didn't seem hurt, he wasn't making any noise. Just staring at the ball. The young man frowned and half-jogged back to the dog.
"What are you doing?", the young man asked. The dog just sat there silently for a moment, and then said, "Why do I do this?"
"Do what? Chase the ball?"
"Yes. How long have we been doing this, off and on? How many years? But only now, only just now did I think, what the hell am I doing? Not only is it utterly pointless, but this thing is disgusting to boot."
"You don't have to convince me of that - it always ends up feeling like some kind of big dead alien slug."
"Hey, at least you only have touch it with your hands. I've got to carry it around in my mouth. Woof."
"Don't curse. So, what, now you want to know why you're here?"
"Yes. Not that way. Just right here here. What the hell got into me to ever start this up? And now? It's so pointless. But all you have to do is raise your arm up, like you're about to toss it, and I go insane, jumping all over - inside out if I could figure out how. Then tearing away after it, like my life depended on getting a mouthful of rubber ant mausoleum. All the little parts of the act, over and over again. And it never even occurred to me to ask why."
"Well I'm sure I don't know. I'm in the same position, you know. Except yes, I get to use hands. But as soon as I see you take off after the ball, I'm gone down to the corner like there wasn't anything else in the world. And I still lose on top of it."
"So why do you do it?"
"Told you, dunno. It was just something we started doing and haven't stopped yet. Because we still can, I guess."
The dog looked back down at the ball for a minute. Then he stood up on all fours, stretched a bit, picked up the ball in his jaws and walked over to drop it on the young man's feet. Then he sat down again and stared at the young man a bit. The young man just looked back without any particular expression.
"So," said the dog.
"So, this is fun then, right? We do it because it's fun?"
"Sounds good to me."
"And because we still can."
The young man didn't say anything for a bit, and then only nodded. He gestured back to the starting point, the halfway mark of the block, gesturing to the dog like the fancy restaurant maitre'ds they'd seen in pictures. The dog picked the ball up again, and they moved into position. This time, thought the dog, the young man would definitely lose. Definitely.
* with vast apologies to Harlan Ellison