I'm walking Sable along Park Avenue and I'm thinking about someone I want to call when a man crosses the street to my side, turning simultaneously with me down a long, empty street--there's a pine forest on my left and a parking lot on my right. He looks like a lawyer dressed for some evening exercise. We make small talk just as he's breaking ahead...something about the dog walking me or me walking the dog. Then, he keeps looking back at cracks in the sidewalk like he missed something important or saw something extraordinary. This behavior catches my attention so I watch him a little more carefully. He seems to be trying to talk himself into doing something. When he turns around, I look away. Finally, he stops and I consider stopping too. I'm about twenty feet behind him.
He says, "I just want to see if she'll bark at me."
Now, I'm really uncomfortable. So, I pull her toward the pine forest--auspiciously for a poop but it's a stupid move if he has menace on his mind. Actually, I'm pretty sure he's a harmless guy who is mustering the courage for casual conversation, but I'm not in the mood and this isn't the place. I can see he is emboldening himself, having already missed the chance for a casual chat and is positioning for a gutsy imposition against his own better judgment. Yeah, I see all this from the way he looks back at cracks, whispers to himself and keeps acting like he has just remembered something.
I decide to do an about-face and head back the other way. I cross a road and hear a distinct small-dog bark. It sounds like it's racing toward us, but all that's on the road is a kid on a bicycle.
Sable and I pick up speed. She's hungry now and heading to the barn for night grub.
The dog barks again, and Sable turns around. The kid on the bike is closer, close enough to have a conversation. "Where's the dog?" I ask.
The kid croons his neck up and barks. It's an amazing dog bark! "That's good!" I say. "Fooled me and Sable."
The kid says he knows us, seen me before, seen my daughter walking the dog too, says he talked to my daughter one day when she was outside talking to her boyfriend, says he saw her friend smoking a cigarette, and asks if I allow that in my yard, and since I say no, he says he has a yard and a gate too, says his birthday is coming up, six days, June 8th, Friday, he'll be 13, asks if Sable is fixed.
I say, "Yeah, she's fixed."
"Ah, I want some puppies," he says and pops a wheelie. He's a free kid--tall for 13, lanky, with a big set of white teeth and a quick grin. He's pedaling around me in a circle, talking. There's no sign of second guessing.
I say, "Sable's too old for you. You better find a dog your age."
He wants to laugh, and he sees I'm laughing, but he's confused about what I might mean, so he pedals off.
A truck passes us and the dog in the back barks at Sable. Up ahead, the kid on the bike barks back at the dog in the truck: 2 barks. He sounds exactly like a dog. I wonder if I can bark like that. So I decide to bark, too. So I do.
Sable looks at me like I've lost my mind.