Javier and I reached the elevator at the end of the hall. I turned around to look behind us. Down the hallway came more than a dozen tiny dogs, gnashing their teeth and howling for blood!
“Madre de Dios!” screamed Javier. The sight was too much for him. Leaping from the elevator, he ran past the scattering crowd in the hallway and escaped down the stairs.
I remained in the elevator. It was an old-fashioned elevator with two sets of doors. An inner sliding door made of hinged iron bars that moved with a concertina action, and a solid outer door that closed in the middle from the sides. I frantically pulled the inner door of the elevator shut and hit the Down button.
Then I felt the bite of tiny teeth on my ankle and looked down to see, clamped to my ankle and looking back up at me with his coal black eyes, the smallest dog of the pack, chewing and gnawing at my ankle like it was a T-bone steak. His coat was pure white without a blemish. He snarled and wiggled with delight, obviously enjoying my tender taste, or perhaps just pleased to have a change from the unsuspecting mail carrier or an elderly, inattentive neighbor.
I shook my leg and off he flew between the bars of the inner elevator doors and into the hallway, sailing away in a tumbling white arc. To my dismay he landed at the feet of Mrs Harp.
“You bastard!” screamed Mrs Harp. “Kick my dog, will ya?”
In an instant the little white dog was up from the place where he had landed at Mrs Harp’s feet, his tiny paws slipping on the polished floor as he struggled for traction. Drops of my blood dotted his pure white muzzle. Unbidden to my mind came the image of this insanely determined, little white dog as Moby Dick, the great white whale, evilly seeking its vengeance not just on me, a hapless Ishmael, but upon the entire world.
“There are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke, though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody's expense but his own.”
(From Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, by Herman Melville)
Ah, Melville, you magnificent bastard!
The dogs lunged on, Moby Dick at their head.
What was keeping the outer elevator doors from closing, I wondered? I frantically pressed the Down button repeatedly, mightily cursing the pitiless, heartless gods who had forsaken me.
On rushed the yipping pack. Their tiny teeth gnashed in their drooling red mouths and their little black button eyes bulged with hatred. Seeing no alternative to my imminent, horrible death, I crouched down in the corner of the elevator and covered my head, hoping it would be over quickly. For a moment all went quiet and I saw events from my life replayed before my eyes. I thought of loved ones I would leave behind on Earth. Of Suzie and her smile. Of my first wife, Ethne, and our child and what a poor husband and father I’d been. I thought of my mother. Would I see her soon? Again I cursed the pitiless gods. This was no way to die, crouching in an elevator, devoured by lapdogs!
Who would survive me to tell of my death by devil dogs in the heart of NYC?
All this only took an instant. As I crouched there, the elevator doors closed and it started down. I heard a series of whacking thuds as the dogs, unable to slow from their ferocious attack speed, skidded and slammed into the closed elevator doors with yelps and whimpers.
“Serves you right, you little bastards!” I yelled up at them as the elevator descended, shaking my fist. I was so relieved to be alive that I started to dance a little jig of victory right there in the elevator, but the agony in my foot stopped me short. I had forgotten about that. It started to throb painfully.
I now thanked the same merciless, pitiless, heartless gods whom I was cursing a minute before.
The elevator sighed and came to a stop. The outer doors opened. There stood Javier, a look of panic and disbelief on his face. He was panting for breath and pointing away to the left, but at what I couldn’t see.
“Come on, man!” Javier shouted into the elevator. “The dogs take the stairs! Madre de Madres! Rapido!”
Leaving the elevator, I caught my jacket sleeve on the inner door latch and tore it from the cuff to the shoulder.
“Damn!” I cursed. Twisting to free myself, the jacket was pulled completely from my back, spinning me around and causing me to lose my balance. I stumbled to the floor.
I looked ahead to see Javier running from the building’s lobby into Irving Place and turn left towards Fourteenth Street.
I looked back and saw my jacket on the floor outside the elevator. It looked eerily abandoned, laying there like a fallen comrade on the battlefield. I shuddered and looked away, strangely upset by the image of my empty, discarded jacket.
What had Javier shouted when he told me the dogs were taking the stairs? Madre de Madres? It sounded beautiful. I made a mental note to ask Javier what it meant, when I saw him next time.
Then I laughed at myself.
What was I thinking? I meant if I saw him next time.
To be continued…