When Navin was seven, the Potters next door had a black poodle named Charlotte. Not a toy poodle, one of those tiny yappy things that you see in movies, but a real one, large and intimidating to a boy who hadn’t quite grown into his new sneakers.

It was the sneakers’ fault more than anything else, in hindsight.

On a Monday afternoon, Navin was in the driveway dribbling an underinflated basketball. The ball struck the ground with more of a thump than a bounce, and hit the backboard with the same sound. Navin followed the ball down the driveway and into the street, lunging and missing. His shoes were loose around his ankles and he tripped, colliding with Charlotte, who was unleashed and very excited about it.

It was never clear why the Potters thought walking Charlotte without a leash was a good idea. She wasn’t a bad dog, but she was very self-absorbed in the way that intelligent dogs are, and she had a tendency to follow her passions (cars, small children, etc.) with a single-minded intensity. It was not her intention to hurt Navin that day, but intentions matter little to a boy with bite marks around his wrist.

In short, Navin was afraid of dogs.


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