Once upon a time, two boys were in an argument. The nature of the argument was over who had the shaggiest dog. One little boy, named Billy, was firmly convinced his dog, Spot, was the shaggiest. Another boy, Joe, was equally convinced that his dog, Rufus, was the shaggiest. Both little boys had had a fair bit of trouble at home, and were growing apart after long years of friendship. The arguing had grown nearly constant, but with both having distant parents and living in a suburban, uncaring neighborhood, nobody had really noticed aside from them and a few of their friends.
Billy had proposed a contest to determine whos dog was the shaggiest. It was to be a contest to be determined by the neighborhood children. The plans were made, and later that day, they got together all their friends in the neighborhood, and decided to vote. After the votes were counted, it came up as a tie. Both Billy and Joe were furious that their argument couldn't end (and a psychologist could easily explain that this is because they secretly wanted to be good friends again, but because apologizing was "sissy", they had to settle it in some competitive manner. This is not to imply that this is particularly wrong or makes boys weaker, but it's simply what little boys do.)
Furious, they decided to bring their dogs to the neighborhood chili cookoff (a suprising coincidence with their argument, considering it was early April, and the cookoff was usually held in mid July. However, weather forecasts had shown it was to be unseasonably hot and dry that summer (quite possibly a result of global warming, or perhaps more related to el nino) and they decided it would be more prudent to hold the cookoff in April, despite the risk of rain.) Everyone in the neighborhood gathered together for the cookoff (in an all too uncommon display of local solidarity. The job market was collapsing around the city, and the people had grown restless, if not bitter and cold, in the wake of the constant threat of losing their once high standard of living.) They got their dogs out, and asked everyone to vote on who was the shaggiest. It took quite a bit of time for the votes to be properly counted (there were many people in the neighborhood), but once they were, it again came up as a tie. The tone had become almost desperate between the two boys, as they so relentlessly sought to end this petty conflict and return to their once happy lives, but they still persisted in the competition.
This time, it was to be decided by the whole city. Everyone was gathered in the town hall to decide what to do about the recent waste workers strike. Garbage was piling up everywhere in the small town, and once again, the ever more desperate residents came together in a stunning show of solidarity, all there for the simple aim of ending the strike and resuming with their lives. The boys knew nothing of this, however. They saw the trash piling up, but, being little boys, had no concept of what was really going on, and how desperate times had become. So, to continue their competition, they brought their dogs to the town hall, where everyone could vote on whose dog was the shaggiest. The votes were tallied after a long and arduous process, but once again, it came up as a tie. Right after the results were announced, Joe collapsed on the stage.
He was immediately rushed to the hospital. His mother began weeping uncontrollably. Her life had taken another turn for the worse. Her husband had grown bitter, cruel, and was turning to alchohol and cheap strippers in the abscence of any real love in his life. She saw his suicide note while cleaning their room, and tried to ignore it, waiting for him to end his life, too afraid of another one of his violent outburts to confront him. The hospital had fired her, under suspicion she had stolen painkillers that her job as a nurse gave her access too (and she was, but only for a persistent back pain her overcautious doctors never gave her meds for). It was all out of control, and now her baby, the one and only love in her life (for she'd given up on loving herself a long time ago), was hurt and nobody knew what by.
After months of taking tests and Joe's condition getting graver, they finally ran the last resort test: a test for HIV. He came up positive. They asked him if he was ever sexually active, but he wasn't. They asked if he was molested, but he wasn't. Finally, it came down to seeing if he had obtained it from a needle. After about a week of research, they found that similar inexplicable cases of HIV came from the doctor the family had been seeing. It was obvious little Joe got AIDS from a needle. A doctor's negligence, for no real reason ruining the life of a little boy who had his whole life ahead of him. Joe didn't know what AIDS was, but he soon came to learn how grave it was.
Upon hearing the news, Joe's father finally went through with it. Joe's mother returned to their house, only to find her husband, still on the floor with an empty bottle of her painkillers. She just sat there. Staring, blankly into the distance. Where did she go wrong? Why was God punishing her? There was no explanation. Nobody could help her. The doctors had already given Joe 6 months, but it was probably going to be less. The medical bills increased by the moment, and she felt something inside of her die. She brushed her hair, put on a clean blouse, and called 911. She knew what she had to do.
About two weeks later, young Joe was put on the talk show circuit, talking about what his experiences had taught him. He said what he was expected to say, but really didn't believe it. Pretending his life was worth anything would just be ignorant. There was no beauty left anymore, and the greeting card philosophy he had to tell all these middle aged house wives was driving him insane. He still had something on his mind, and that was his friendship with Billy. If his illness had taught him anything, it was to stop hiding the real motivation behind what he was doing. He knew that the shaggy dog contest was just an attempt to patch up his friendship. However, Billy didn't, so he knew it had to be settled. Using whatever power he had, he got Oprah to host what was to be the last of the competitions. For all of America to vote on who had the shaggiest dog.
It was all made very cutesy and spun into a game that he and Billy were playing, but they both knew something dark was behind it all. Joe's desperation met Billy's anger. Billy had grown sick of how much attention Joe was getting. Joe didn't deserve it! he said to himself, and he grew more and more hateful with every moment Joe had on TV. Why did Joe get to have everything make sense??? Why does he get to feel all this peace he's talking about??? Billy was sick with rage and a desperate desire to end this whole thing, so he set out to Oprah's studio, just to settle the competition and come out on top.
The show aired (live, in a rare moment), and the votes were cast. When it came down to it, in defiance of all statistics, it came up as a perfect tie.
It was then that little Joe died. His soul departed, and went up to heaven. It was there he met God and asked,
"God? Who's dog was shaggiest?"
And God replied,