Interview #1 – Constance Coventry

April 28, 2009

Residence: Park Avenue and 88th Street, New York, NY (Upper East Side)

Incident Location: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park

Age: 86

Gender: Female

Injury or Fatality: Yes

Other Witnesses: Yes – Attorney Louis Goldberg

BEGIN RECORDING

Captain Cousteau: Hello Constance!  Thank you for meeting with me.  Please recount your sewergator encounter with as much detail as possible…

Constance Coventry: I’m a social person. I’m often referred to as a socialite or Grande Dame of New York philanthropy. While these I enjoy these titles, I much prefer my quiet mornings in Central Park and spending time with my dog, Pollock, a descendant of Peggy Guggenheim’s brood of Lhasa Apsos (hence the name Pollock, for Jackson Pollock, to whom Peggy gave his first four one-man shows). Like me, Peggy’s most successful relationships were with animals and works of art. I rarely see my only living relative, my son William, and so my lawyer, Louis Goldberg, has assumed my guardianship.

I was a longtime fixture on the New York social scene after inheriting my husband’s real estate fortune. These days, I rarely attend afternoon lunches or evening parties, preferring to wake up early, before the pads of my feet begin to hurt and prevent me from walking Pollock. My son prefers to keep me shut up in my apartment, saying I should not walk Pollock any longer. But Louis understands and often joins us as we tour 88th Street on our way to 5th Avenue.

I refuse to use a cane, although my doctor recommends it. Because my walks are now the highlight of my day I often wake up early, around 6 AM, to bathe and wash my hair. My mother always said that it was unnecessary to shampoo your hair every day, but I like it to look fresh. I often comb my chin-length hair off my face and, once dry, use a curling iron to add waves around my face. My hair is thinner now and it is difficult to tease out volume. I powder my face and rub on some color—but not too much! I carefully apply a dark red lipstick in a way that defines both lips, clearly separating them from the rest of my face. My eyebrows are always becoming lighter, so I pencil on some definition, an earthy brown. I still wear dresses and thick nude tights. I wear a sturdy black leather shoe with a flat sole. I often have difficulty zipping the back of my dress and bending over to tie my shoes. The laces slip through my fingers like wet spaghetti and my knuckles throb as I work my way through tying a bow.

I am usually thirty minutes late for my appointment with Louis, but he doesn’t mind. By the time I slip on Pollock’s collar and board the elevator to the ground floor, Louis has comfortably tucked himself away in a large leather lounge chair in the first floor lobby and dozed off. When the elevator doors open I drop Pollock’s leash and he runs to Louis to give him a good morning greeting. Louis stands immediately, but as though in the middle of a dream, wiping the sleep from his eyes, and begins pulling biscuits from his pockets for Pollock to enjoy. Pollock takes dainty nibbles, refusing to lick the smaller crumbs from the lobby carpet. After we leave, the doorman will remove a handheld vacuum from behind his desk sweep up any remaining biscuit.

Louis offers his arm as we step out of the building and under the big green awning that stretches across the sidewalk to the street. I hand him Pollock’s leash as I dig through my purse for sunglasses. We glide softly down the pavement, stopping only as a precaution when we meet an unusually large crack in the sidewalk. There are now three of these crevices on our stretch of 88th Street. I walk cautiously now, much less assured of my footing than in the past. Once I would prance down the sidewalk click-click-clicking in patent leather pumps. That day has passed.

Louis asks me about the weather and I respond that it’s much too hot. He agrees.

We pass Peggy’s museum on our way to the reservoir and I stop to balk at what a truly ugly structure it is. “Shame on you, Mr. Wright,” I mumble under my breath. Pollock barks loudly at the traffic on 5th Avenue and a taxi driver beeps in response. We wait for the light to change and then Louis steps off the curb and offers me both hands as I step into the street. Pollock can already smell the dogs in the Park. He tugs on his leash and nearly pulls me over. Louis picks him up and carries him safely to the other sidewalk. Pollock’s ears perk up as we get closer to the park’s entrance and he whines softly between pants. This air is thick and muggy, uncomfortable for a dog with such long hair. His tiny pink tongue hangs from his jaw as he struggles to catch his breath. I too am walking more slowly now as I putter forward through the humidity. Pollock breathes harder as his excitement grows. We walk in the Park, up a rise in the path, over the crest and down an incline toward the reservoir track. Young men and women in shorts and tight shirts run past at lightning speed. Pollock wishes he could join them. Louis holds the dog tightly to prevent him from slipping away.

The placid water perfectly reflects the tall buildings running along the Park’s western edge, creating a carbon-copy skyline in the reservoir. I wait until a group of runners have passed, then step onto the gravel path and let go of Louis’s arm. He continues to struggle with Pollock, who has become fussy and wants to be let down. I cross the path and reach out for the cast-iron fence and pull myself closer to the water. Turtles are sunning themselves on the rocks below and a pair of Canadian geese swim by. The sky is blue and the water is blue and the sun is bright and I am still happy to be alive.

Louis has taken the dog off the path to do his business. He curbs Pollock against a cement light post, then removes a plastic bag from his pocket to dispose of the waste. As Louis marches Pollock to the nearest trash receptacle, I begin walking north toward the pump house. I like to see both skylines before I return home. By walking north, then west around the track, I’ll soon be able to see my building.

The gravel is softer than pavement, and I enjoy rubbing the soles of my shoes on the uneven pebbles. I hold onto the iron fence just as I held onto Louis and begin walking more freely. The water smells fresh, and wet, and cool and I dream of striping naked and diving in. I dream of paddling deeper and deeper in my murky little sea, diving toward the bottom, but never finding it.

Pollock has gotten loose and is running zigzags around Louis. The man waves his arms after the dog. Pollock continues dodging on and off the track. The dog wiggles through the iron gate. Stepping down the rocky incline toward the water, Louis becomes frustrated and begins shouting at the dog, “Stop it! Stay still! Come here!” Unable to mount the gate due to his rotund stomach, Louis squats and reaches through the fence toward the dog. The dog turns his head to the side. His paws are in the water. He doesn’t understand Louis’s demands. Louis abruptly changes tactics. He begins to toss small rocks in the water behind Pollock hoping to move the dog away from the reservoir. Pollock thinks it is a game. He turns toward the water and readies himself to pounce toward the next rock as if it were a rubber ball. I have a clear view of this standoff and laugh at Louis’s attempts to subdue the rowdy dog.

Suddenly a large brown log to Pollock’s left springs to life and snaps up the dog. Pollock is surprised and lets out a muffled yelp before being drug into the water. Louis stands erect and steps away from the water’s edge. He realizes, as I do, that the moving log is not a log at all. Louis struggles to steady himself, not knowing whether to run away or assist Pollock. Louis looks at the dissipating ripples spreading over the surface of the water. Then he looks at me. I also look for Pollock, then spot Louis’s beet-red face. The dog is gone.

Forgetting Louis, I replay the incident in my head. There were no teeth. No biting or chomping. No blood or scales. It wasn’t even green. The beast simply secured Pollock in his jaw and lowered him into the water. His movement was swift and his jaw clamped tightly, but the encounter was not violent. The creature moved into the water in a zig-zag pattern, uncertain at first where to enjoy his tasty snack. The beast was dark and fluid and slipped away from the shallows. Only after sinking into deeper water would he swallow the dog whole.

I walked slowly to Louis, who held his head in his hands. Keeping an eye on the water I waited for Pollock to re-emerge, but the dog never came back up.

“Should we call the police?” Louis asked.

“No,” I responded. “But let’s wait a little while longer.”

Fifteen minutes passed, then thirty, and sweat ran down Louis’s face as he stared blankly as the water’s edge. He handed me Pollock’s leash, which had slipped off the dog during the scuffle. “What am I supposed to do with this?” I asked. Louis shrugged and tossed the leash into the water where it sunk slowly in search of poor Pollock. Louis was exasperated and exhausted.

I took to the unusual task of ushering him home, down the street I’d never need to walk again. Why would an old woman go to the park without a dog to walk? I said goodbye to 88th street as we turned onto Park Avenue, and then entered the lobby making note of the impeccably clean carpet.

END OF INTERVIEW

Photos of Incident Location:

800px-jacqueline_kennedy_onassis_reservoir

800px-central_park_reservoir_panorama

800px-nyc_central_park_reservoir

nyc-central-park-reservoir

499469857gcjbkd_fs

499470346rhrocw_fs

pd893691

42-17122724

3062163

992971_printemps_au_manhattan

Photo of Sewergator Victim: Pollock Coventry

lhasaapso_smith

Photo of Sewergator: None

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