Rufus and I cross the street near the Psychology building on the night-time U.N.U.M. campus. An anonymous young woman approaches and stands in our way. We stop obligingly.
"What's the name of your dog?" she says.
"Hi, hon," she says to the dog. She bends to pet him and seeks his attention by scratching him under the chin. Thus, she passes beneath the arch of the broad Gates of Hell as Dante inscribes them. Rufus has no attention to spare when he walks at night with me. He is a dog with a mission and divides himself in 360 directions a second, watching for the campus cats with nose alert and eyes and ears turning to every sound and sight he catches. At times like these, he has no time for bipeds. Rufus is a scholar of the dark scents of the university.
She looks up at me. "Why do you carry that stick?"
"For the dog. I mean for other dogs. For breaking up dogfights. I got bit last year."
"Really?" she says. "Where? On the leg?"
"No. On the hand."
"Where?" she says.
"Right here." I point to a scar on my thumb.
"No, I mean where? Around here?"
"Oh, yeah. Over on the corner. At night. He came out of nowhere."
"Well," she says, "you should've had your dog with you."
I am struck dumb with wonder. The gates close and the gap widens.
Rufus doesn't once look in her direction as she rubs his fur. He is as impervious to her attentions as she is to his concentration. She stands, brushing each hand off on the other hand.
"Bye, hon," she says to the dog and crosses the street.