All posts are dated April and May 2009 due to chronological necessity, and yet, many posts are new!

Check out the research section for many of the most recent updates.



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Residence: Queens, New York

Incident Location: New York City Water Tunnel No. 3

“Hundreds of feet beneath the bumper-to-bumper traffic of New York City is one of the world’s most ambitious engineering projects. Though it goes by the prosaic name of City Water Tunnel No. 3, when work wraps up in 2020 the subterranean aqueduct will have taken five decades and at least $6 billion to complete. It will snake 60 miles from the Kensico Reservoir in Westchester County through the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, supplying water to more than 8 million residents and thousands of factories and businesses.

City Water Tunnels No. 1 and No. 2, finished in 1917 and 1936, transport more than a billion gallons of water daily, but they leak badly in places. In 1954, engineers realized the only way to repair and maintain the older tunnels–and to increase capacity to meet growing demand–was to build a third, more sophisticated tunnel with valves to shut down and divert the flow of water. Plus, it would provide a fallback should any portion of the system be damaged by an event like an earthquake.”

Age: 34

Gender: Male

Occupation: Sandhog

Injury or Fatality: No

Other Witnesses: Yes – Refused Comment

BEGIN RECORDING

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

Mike Warfield: I use a pneumatic drill that sinks 10-ft. holes into the rock. Dynamite is then tamped in with wooden poles. We use a massive machine to bore through the longest stretches of bedrock, and I love the sometimes dangerous, always labor-intensive drill-and-blast work. Planning for the tunnel began in the 1960s, and in 1970 the “sandhogs” began to dig. My dad was one of the first sandhogs.

The guys I work with are the closest friends I have on Earth. If all hell breaks loose and a hog is in danger, you go after him, no questions asked. I trust them with my life.

We’d brought in some piping to drain off excessive water. It had been a rainy spring and water in the tunnel was knee-high. We were all wearing waders. It was hard to move. Hard to work.

I don’t know if the beast was in the piping upon arrival, or if the gator had managed to find it’s way into the tunnel on its own. Regardless, it was enormous!

I waded into the deeper water to pound in the dynamite. I was halfway across the waterway when I came face to face with the hungry gator. I looked back and the gator surfaced and I looked him right in the face and stared at him for what seemed like an eternity.

He dragged me under the water five times. Though I wasn’t aware at the time, my arm was being ripped off. The gator hit me in my stomach and knocked the wind out of me and I dug and took my finger and gouged its eye. It spun and turned around and went away from me. I didn’t know I was missing an arm until I was wading back.

I got away from him, luckily. I mean, it was just a fight for survival. He was trying to eat and I was trying not to get eaten. The whole time I just felt myself bleeding to death. The whole time I was just screaming for help and asking God for forgiveness. I was shouting and then men were applying pressure to prevent me from bleeding out. I was praying and after that everything went dark. They called 911 and the ambulance picked me up.

A New York Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission captured the 15-foot-long alligator responsible for the attack and destroyed it. The photo below was taken after the incident. A necropsy was performed on the gator and examiners were able to recover my arm, but were unable to reattach it. Nine months later I received a bionic arm – a gift from Mayor Bloomberg.

The gator was incinerated and all media was kept away to prevent mass hysteria. People shouldn’t know that these animals are living beneath their city. People shouldn’t have to worry about these beasts. This is New York! Not the Everglades!

Picture taken when Alligator was Found:

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Maps:

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Residence: Not Provided

Incident Location: City Hall Subway Station (Not In Use), Opened 10/27/1904, Closed 12/31/1945

Age: Not Provided

Gender: Male

Occupation: MTA Employee

Injury or Fatality: Yes

Other Witnesses: Unknown

MTA Employee did not provide name. For further information see police report.

BEGIN RECORDING

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

MTA Employee: Located under City Hall Park is the world’s most beautiful subway station! It is located at the south edge of the loop that turns Lexington Avenue Interborough Rapid Transit subway (#6) around to the south of the Brooklyn Bridge station. It can be seen, if your conductor allows, by staying on the #6 local after the end of the line riding southbound, and looping around to enter the Brooklyn Bridge station northbound.

At the 1900 groundbreaking, this station was designed to be the showpiece of the new subway. Unusually elegant in architectural style, it is unique among the original New York subway stations. The platform and mezzanine feature Guastavino arches and skylights, colored glass tilework, and brass chandeliers. The curved platform is about 400 feet long (the length of a five car train minus the front and rear doors as was the IRT’s standard design for a local station when it was constructed). In the center of the platform is an archway over stairs leading to the mezzanine. On each side of the stairway, there is a glass tile “City Hall” sign, and a third is on the archway above the stairs. No other signs like these were used in the other IRT stations of the era. The lettering is quite unique in deep blue and tan glass tiling.

Twice a month, I am assigned to a brief City Hall station inspection. I always disregard the brevity, preferring to linger in this unused, but beautiful space for as long as possible.

I had arrived on time and began my inspection as I always had. I quickly picked up any garbage that had blown down the tracks or been carried in by pests. I checked the rodenticide delivery system, to ensure that the station was fighting the constant threat of rat overpopulation. Next, I check the light fixtures to ensure that everything was in proper working order.

I saw him as I moved my stepladder to the next fixture. His body was between the side rail and the platform, piled in a heap like dirty laundry. He was unrecognizable. Hardly human. Most of his skin and muscle tissue had been removed. I couldn’t tell you what color hair he’d had. A black tee-shirt and a pair of jeans were wrapped in the remains. The body was approximately 6 feet tall. I immediately called the police and my dispatcher. They both asked me to stay and supervise the body until they arrived.

I placed my step ladder at the edge of the platform within view of the body. He appeared to be a white male. I couldn’t tell you how old he was. I spotted his footwear and hypothesized that he’d broken in and was electrocuted by the active third rail. People were always breaking into the City Hall station. Either that-or he was homeless and sought shelter here. We occasionally find the bodies of “mole” people who are not actually related to moles in anyway, but are given that name because live in a secret society in the subway infrastructure and rarely come up for air. Sometimes these “mole” people drink too much and fall asleep on the tracks only to be run over when the next train rolls through. We’ve found “mole” people who have been rejected by their underground society and accordingly murdered.

I didn’t know this man’s story, but I knew there was something odd about this body. In my ten years with the MTA, I’d seen three bodies on the tracks. This body seemed damaged in a way that passing trains and rodents could not have caused. Large chunks of the body were missing. They were ripped from his body and could not be located.

That’s when I saw it. A small white tooth, located in the shoulder. I leaned closer, peering over the platform for a closer view. Without thinking, I reached down and pulled the tooth from the man’s shoulder.

After realizing that I might have impeded the investigation and incriminated myself by leaving fingerprints on the tooth, I quickly shuffled the item into my pocket. I gave my statement to the NYPD (casually leaving out the part about a tooth).

At first, I wasn’t sure the tooth belonged to an alligator. I completed research online and after doing a Google image search felt certain that this item had been in the mouth of a gator. Samples of alligator teeth could be found as lucky charms and jewelry, available for purchase online.

After that day I asked to be removed from the City Hall shift. The body was never identified.

END OF INTERVIEW

Alligator Tooth:

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Photos of Incident Location:

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Residence: Chinatown, Manhattan

Incident Location: Chinatown, Manhattan

Age: 8 and 36

Gender: Female and Male

Injury or Fatality: No

Other Witnesses: Yes – Wife and Mother

BEGIN RECORDING

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

Richard Wake: Madison should begin. The alligator was her pet.

Turning and addressing Madison, an 8 year old girl with pigtails.

Madison, honey, could you tell Mr. Cousteau about your pet?

Madison is distracted by the recording equipment and does not answer.

Madison, this man would like to talk to you.

Madison Wake: Yes daddy?

Madison shyly agrees to discuss her pet. She refuses to make eye contact with Captain Cousteau and climbs onto her father’s lap.

Madison pats her father on the face. She retracts her hand, surprised by the feeling of his whiskers against her palm. She frowns.

You want to talk about Albert?

Richard Wake: Yes, Maddy, tell Mr. Cousteau about Albert, your alligator.

Madison Wake: Albert was my pet. I kept him in a terrr-air-e-um on the desk in my room next to my bed. Daddy built him a water pool. And I found sticks and bark and rocks and dirt in the park for him to live on. Then we went to the pet store and purchased a heating lamp.

Richard Wake: Tell the Captain where the alligator came from.

Madison Wake: Madison looks to her father for direction and then looks away.

Suddenly her eyes light up and she leans closer to the recording device.

Grandpa Wake! I got him with Grandpa Wake.

Richard Wake: Let me explain. Madison went to Florida last summer to visit her grandfather. They went fishing on the boardwalk and Madison caught Albert!

Madison Wake: I reeled him in!

Richard Wake: My father purchased a terrarium that mimicked the natural environment the animal would live in. The cage had a jungle motif. The alligator and terrarium arrived by mail just after Madison returned from vacation.

Madison crawls off her father’s lap and walks to the door.

Go see mommy. She’s in the lobby.

Madison nodded okay and ran out the door. She made heavy footsteps that the recording device picked up.

Richard Wake: Sighs and brings his hand to his forehead.

I’m sorry… now I can tell you what really happened…

The city warden service took possession of the alligator because we did not have a permit to possess the reptile. We were issued a summons for keeping wildlife in captivity and importing and receiving wildlife without a permit. I appeared before the Supreme Court on March 4th of last year and receive a fine of $300. The warden received a tip about the alligator from a “confidential informant” who saw pictures of it on the Internet. We posted photos of Maddy and Albert on Flickr for my father to view. The photos were of Albert, with tape around his mouth, sitting at the table for Madison’s birthday celebration. We were all gathered around the table singing and the gator looked happy enough. He was part of the family then.

A zoologist accompanied the warden. When they took the gator out to their truck, they cut the tape that secured the Albert’s mouth and the gator began to thrash wildly. The zoologist wanted to check the integrity of the gator’s teeth. The beast bucked wildly and the zoologist lost the gator down a storm drain next to the curb.

The police arrived and removed the drain cover. City workers crawled into the drain after the alligator, but Albert was gone. They never found him.

Had the alligator been safely transported to the animal rescue facility in Brooklyn that has a permit to possess exotic animals, we could have visited and Madison could have said goodbye. As it is, it seemed best to tell Maddy that God had taken Albert to heaven.

END OF INTERVIEW

Photos of Incident Location:

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Permit Information:

An importation permit is $27, and a possession permit for propagators and general wildlife or fish also is $27. An exhibitor permit is $147.

An individual seeking a permit would call the department about their interest to import and possess an exotic, non-native animal. A discussion would take place as to what the intended use is of the animal. Once a prospective classification is determined, the applicant would need to submit all of the required information asked on the application as well as a veterinarian inspection. If an animal is going to be possessed, the caging facilities also would need to be inspected.

Photo of Albert:

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Photo of Richard and Madison Wake:

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Residence: Brooklyn, NY

Incident Location: The Fulton Fish Market

Age: 42

Gender: Male

Occupation: Commercial Fisherman

Injury or Fatality: None

Other Witnesses: Unknown

BEGIN RECORDING

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

Rusty (refused to provide last name): In 1989, we sold our house in Queens and moved in with my wife’s parents in Brooklyn. We used the capital to purchase a 40-foot 1978 commercial fishing vessel. It had a fiberglass hull and a diesel engine and came from Nova Scotia. I was able to pay in full at the time of the purchase, picking it up for $13,500. I named my boat “Riot Ready.”

At that time, the Fulton Fish Market was in its historic location near the Brooklyn Bridge—above Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan. In its original location, the Fulton market was one of the last, and most significant, of the great wholesale food markets on the East Coast. The market was already transitioning from a commercial dock to a truck depository. As a local, I was still able to dock and sell my haul directly to the market without a middleman. I would wake up at 4 a.m. and prepare the Riot for the Atlantic. On a good day, I would finish unloading at 3 p.m. While the Riot is not a factory ship, I use large nets and over the years I sought to harvest tuna, cod, salmon, shrimp, krill, lobster, squid, and crab from wild fisheries far out in the Atlantic Ocean.

After selling my load, I head home for dinner. My catch is then sold to restaurateurs and retailers who purchase fresh fish of every imaginable variety. Fulton prices are tracked and reported to the national government as the market distributes and buys fish to and from ports across New England.

New York is a city of rats, so on the waterfront we have a great need for cats. When the traffic dwindles and most people sleep the neighborhoods are swept by strays. The strays live a life drastically different from kept cats and often die from malnutrition, exposure or food poisoning. Part-time grocery store or restaurant cats were once used to keep rodents away. The number of kept commercial cats has diminished with the decline of small grocery stores and rise of supermarkets, along with more stringent health inspection guidelines. Flea ridden felines are no longer the go-to source for rat removal.

At the fish market the need for cats remains great, but not everyone believes their service outweighs their nuisance. Once, a longshoreman with a severe allergy tried to get rid of all the cats by poisoning their food supply. Within a day the rat infestation was out of control. They covered the crates and stole the workmen’s lunches. Finally, cats were recruited from surrounding neighborhoods, but even then a group of virile rats will sometimes manage to kill a cat. That’s why the cats refuse to sleep at the market. Fearing that the rats would overrun them, they retire behind dumpsters in abandoned alleyways.

The first summer after purchasing the Riot, I began feeding Chester. Cats are punctual and Chester kept track of my schedule and knew my weakness for orange tabbies. As a boy, I’d had an orange tabby named Rambler who I kept until I began fishing commercially as a crew member on a factory ship. I moved out of my father’s bi-level in New Jersey and got an apartment in the city. I saw Rambler on the weekends and always remembered to bring home a bag of catnip with a side of fresh tuna from Friday’s catch.

There’s nothing more depressing than old age in animals. It seems somehow wrong that Rambler, my childhood confidant, should have graying fur, sagging skin and old blind eyes. Rambler became more quiet, and coughed in his sleep and on one December day, while I was in Ft. Lauderdale with friends, Rambler died alone on my parent’s living room floor. My parents kept him in the outdoor refrigerator where they stockpile meat for family barbeques until I returned from vacation. We buried him in the backyard in a small cardboard box I’d taken from the market.

Chester looked a lot like Rambler. He had yet to acquire the cagy, expressionless, haunted look of the other felines of the waterfront. His face was still so full of expression, and I swear that cat had an uncanny sense of time. He was so punctual that a day never passed when Rambler wasn’t awaiting my arrival. When I adjusted my schedule for the 4th of July holiday, I worked a makeup Saturday and was surprised to find that Chester knew not to await my arrival on weekends, knowing that I didn’t work on those days.

That August the cat population once again began to decline. Supervisors questioned all of the longshoremen, but no one admitted to laying down the poison. They contacted the local shelter to see if they had increased their pickup in the area and found that the pickup had also declined. By September the rats had infested the market again.

Chester was thriving and no longer needed my assistance to pull in his dinner. He still awaited my arrival and I always paused to let him rub against my boots. I often scratched him behind the eats as he proudly displayed the large carcass of the rat he’d caught that day. He’d already slit the vermin down the belly and eaten its liver, but he always waited for my arrival to finish off his prey. Occasionally, his dinner was still alive upon my arrival, but always very near death. The rat would squeal as Chester pressed his paw into its broken ribcage. He would tap the rat to ensure that it was still alive. After it cried out in pain, he would pounce on it, tossing it in the air before once again securing it to the ground with sturdy grip on its tail. Before leaving I always congratulated Chester with a celebratory belly rub.

Every day Chester’s catch grew larger, while my load decreased. The market was having trouble maintaining its dock service with its continued rat problem. Crate carries quit and discussion of relocating to Hunt’s Point had already begun among the longshoremen. Pressure was building to redevelop the area due to the Market’s desirable location, high real estate value, and increasing financial problems. Moreover, the market was cramped and lacked modern amenities. More and more men in great shiny suits walked the docks, discussing the site’s potential for retail and residential use. And every day there were more rats.

–Sure, the Bronx market is technologically advanced. It offers climate control. But there’s something nostalgic about an old open-air fish market. There’s some value in hauling my load onto a dock where commercial fishing has gone on for more than a century. I particularly miss the urban legends.

At the time, the rumor began to circulate that the rat problem wasn’t really a rat problem at all. Alligators, although not commonly found along the northeast Atlantic shore, had been sighted in sewers and rivers around throughout the city for decades. The cats could have been killed by gators, which preyed on the felines’ curious nature. Dock cats weren’t afraid of the water and would follow rats running through debris that floated at the water’s edge. Old oil drums floated upside down and discarded lumber was stacked recklessly against the barricades. Hundreds of plastic bottles and soda cans created a thick layer that would sustain a cat’s weight as it bounded after his prey. Some cats misjudged the thickness, and getting too close to the edge of the debris, fell into the bath—an easy meal. But that was just the beginning. Eventually, the gators learned to stalk cats that came near the waterfront, lying in wait in a location the cat was likely to traverse.

The only problem with this theory was that no one actually saw an alligator, no substantiated report of any large reptile with teeth, scales, and large, muscular tails. Not a single confirmed account. Still, somehow every log that fell into the water looked more and more reptilian. The city grew wary of the waterfronts. I began to worry for Chester. He had become the top cat, King of the Docks, proudly presenting me with freshly killed rats nearly equal to himself in size. But even Chester, like the others, might one day disappear. I didn’t know whether the alligator theory was a real possibility, but it was one possibility I could do something about.

My wife and I had been married five years and she wanted to have a baby. Lucy hated cats. She came from a family of dog lovers and animatedly refused to allow a litter box in the house. “Real pets do their business in the bushes,” she said. Until I’d met Chester, I hadn’t even considered asking Lucy if we could acquire a pet. But, now, the conversation seemed inevitable.

I asked Lucy if she wanted to go out to dinner on Friday night and she agreed. I put on the dress shirt and slacks I wore to church and made a reservation at an expensive-looking restaurant in Little Italy. Lucy bought a new dress and seemed anxious. I hadn’t been this nervous since I’d asked her to marry me. Just before the check came I paused, leaned forward and placed my hand on hers.

“I want to adopt a cat,” I muttered.

Lucy retracted and pulled her hand from underneath mine. Before I realized what was happening Lucy had slapped me across the face and left the table. Everyone in the room was looking in my direction. The sting of her fingers on my cheek continued to burn as I rushed to the matradee’s stand and offered him a wad of bills from my wallet. I didn’t bother to count the money and only later realized that I must have spent over $300 on that meal, certainly the most expensive dinner we had and will have eaten in this city.

I followed her to the parking garage. She was pressing herself against the passenger door. I had the keys.

“I thought you were going to ask me to have a baby!” she shouted into the empty garage.

I couldn’t respond. I was standing directly in front of her and yet she continued to shout. I unlocked the car door without saying a word and she climbed in. The silence continued all the way home. The next morning we woke up and without finishing our discussion we continued as if nothing had happened.

I left early that morning, eager to get out of the house. I arrived at the market and finished unloading my catch early as well. Chester wasn’t waiting in his usual spot.

“I’m early,” I told myself. “He’ll be here soon.”

I tied the boat up and seated myself on a crate. It was October and the sun had begun setting earlier. As the shadows lengthened dozens of fur clad, bulbous lumps scampered in the growing darkness.

Thirty minutes passed with no sign of Chester.

An hour.

I walked to the end of the dock and counted the logs that looked like alligators. There were three that had a mild resemblance.

“What are you still doing here?” a supervisor shouted from the landing.

“Have you seen Chester?” I asked.

“That orange cat you like so much?”

“Yeah.”

The man looked confused. He didn’t seem to understand why I cared.

“He’s inside. Cat got into a bit of trouble today. Go check the locker room.”

I wanted to run, but hesitated while the supervisor was watching. My feet were light and I struggled to lay down heavy, slow steps. I swung the door to the locker room open, but didn’t see Chester. I stepped between two wooden benches and walked to the end of a row of lockers. At my feet was a small cardboard box, not unlike the box I’d used to bury Rambler.

I was devastated. I loathed the idea of looking inside. I sat down on the end of one of the benches and moved closer, pressing my ear against the cardboard. I quieted myself. The room was noiseless except for the hum of a distant motor. If Chester was alive I should be able to hear him rustling inside.

Finally, I gained the courage to peel back the cardboard and look inside. Chester looked up at me with a pleased grin as if to say, “You found me!” nestled in a tangle of shop rags and old towels. I reached inside so that I could give him a proper greeting. I pulled the towel away. It was stained with blood.

Despite the injury, Chester quickly popped up to say hello. I rubbed his head and neck and counted his legs—four—he still had four legs. And as I ran my fingers down his back he turned so that I could rub the crest of his spine. Then I noticed the damage. Chester’s tail was gone!

That was all the proof I needed. The Fulton fish market was overrun with alligators and Chester was coming home with me. I tucked him into the cardboard box and safely stowed it below deck.

That night, at Lucy’s suggestion, I slept on the couch with Chester. My punishment didn’t last long, as Lucy was soon pregnant. We had a baby girl in July.

END OF INTERVIEW

Photos of Incident Location:

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Photo of “Riot Ready” Commercial Fishing Vessel:

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Photo of Sewergator Victim: Chester (Missing Tail Not Shown)

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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:

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Photo of Sewergator Victim: Pollock Coventry

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Photo of Sewergator: None