Smut, my black Lab, woke me up about 4 AM New Year’s Eve. “I need to go to South Dakota,” he said. “Will you get up and drive me there now?”
“What? You silly dog, I’m not going to drive you to South Dakota or anywhere else. Go to sleep!”
“I have to go NOW!” Smut barked at me. “It’s urgent! LUX needs me!”
“What are you talking about, Smut? What is LUX? No, I don’t want to know. Just let me go back to sleep.” I shoved him away from the bed with my foot and pulled the covers over my head. “Just get out!”
“This is not debatable,” Smut said imperatively. “CMS contacted me about a half-hour ago and said I have to help LUX!”
I was awake now, without any chance of getting back to sleep. I got out of bed grudgingly, went to the kitchen and turned on the coffee pot. While the coffee was brewing, I told Smut to go to the living room and sit. He did, pulling his smoking jacket around him tightly, and straightening his fez, but he looked irritated.
“From the beginning now, tell me what you’re talking about,” I directed.
“CMS—that’s the Canine Message Service—barked me up to tell me that LUX is having trouble with an experiment, and they can’t find a WIMP, so they need me ASAP.”
“Wait, Canine Message Service did what? Barked you up?”
“That’s not important,” he said. “What’s important is that I need to go to South Dakota!”
“What is LUX? It can’t find what?”
“LUX is the Large Underground Xenon experiment in the Black Hills,” Smut explained. “To find dark matter, they buried a tank filled with liquid xenon surrounded by rock and a tank of water, all a mile underground. The only thing that gets through to the xenon tank will be WIMPs, weakly interacting massive particles. But they can’t detect any.”
“Maybe they aren’t there,” I remarked, pleased with myself for offering a solution to his physics problem.
“You silly human,” Smut said in an exasperated tone. “Of course they may not be there, but if they are and the experiment’s not set up right, we won’t know, will we? Oh, the coffee’s ready, by the way. Will you get me a cup with cream?”
When I returned with the coffee, one with cream and one black, I told Smut, “Well, we’re not going to South Dakota. The Black Hills are almost 2,000 miles from here.”
“Is that very far,” Smut asked. “Will we be back for supper?”
“No, because we’re not going,” I answered.
Just then, I heard the dogs down the road barking loudly.
“Never mind, Smut said,” CMS just let me know that LUX discovered the error in their experiment. They’ll reconfigure it and try again, so we don’t have to go to South Dakota this year.” He poured himself a dram of my scotch whisky, reached for his meerschaum pipe, and leaned back in his chair, no longer concerned about LUX and WIMPs, having received the message from CMS.
Smut licked his lips and asked, “What are you fixing for breakfast, then? Bacon?”
As I stared at the old black dog—dark matter, to be sure—through sleep-deprived eyes, it occurred to me that he may have detected a wimp after all: me.