10:14 pm. Miserable weather, a stupid spitting rain that might as well be a cloud of flies.
The dog is walking me into a cul-de-sac when I hear a noise on my left. There's a woman standing in an open doorway, a complete stranger in slippers and a long shirt with wild hair, hissing at my dog.
"Oh no," I think, "what madness have I stumbled into now?" It's dark, but the woman has a mad silhouette. Is she on some drug? Heroin? Meth? I think of her coming at me with filthy nails at my face - permanent scarring. I'm not likely to fight her off with Lina's leash in one hand and a bag of shit in the other.
The dog of course thinks "Friend!" and starts running across the street. "No, Lina," I say, tugging her back, "not now." But there's no way out of the cul-de-sac without passing this madwoman again, and she's still hissing even when I'm halfway around the circle.
Then the noise stops. I look up and she's gone from the doorway. Is she following - no, a silhouette in the house, a light turning off. What in-
Then it hits me: the woman was calling her own dog, some tiny breed that I missed in the wet. Relief washes over me, closely followed by a tree dumping its load of rainwater down my neck.
Back home in the light, dry and seated with a drink at hand and the dog eating kibble, I stop and wonder what I look like on these stinking nights. A pale, half-dressed bearded figure with a blue bag in his hand, cursing and dragging against a twenty-six pound animal that's running right at you, teeth bared and straining so hard that it's choking itself? Just another lunatic stranger, passing in the night.