It was nine-thirty in the evening, and Nicholas decided it was time to take the woman with the lap for her walk. They strolled down the sidewalk and turned a corner to head to the place where Nicholas liked to look for the cat that always hid, crouched, under a bush or a car and never moved when Nicholas barked.
A few more steps, a few more sniffs, and there it was in the dimness of October nine-thirty gray. Nicholas leapt forth into valiant barking - then stopped. The cat was not a cat. The cat was an enormous raccoon.
For just a second, all three creatures - Nicholas, the raccoon and the woman with the lap - shared that very particular, intimate animal moment: locked in a stare, linked in mutual anticipation.
Nicholas figured he could take the raccoon. The raccoon figured he could take the woman with the lap.
Then the woman with the lap picked Nicholas up off the pavement and they got going back toward home. Coming down the sidewalk the other way were two men in conversation. As they passed Nicholas and the woman, one man said to the other, "When your team mate gets the ball, like, you have to get out of the way."