Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy
Matt Ruff, 1997

Copyright 1997 by Matt Ruff

From Chapter 1
Down in the Canyons with Eddie Wilder (and Teddy May)

Eddie went over and introduced himself to his new colleagues. Then he asked, with a cautious nod at the strange photo: "Who's that?"

"That," Prohaska said, flaring his nostrils so that the zircon wiggled, "is Teddy May."

"The greatest human being ever to wade through the city's effluvia," added Hartower. "God bless him and rest him in peace."

"What's wrong with his right eye?"

"Job-related injury," said Prohaska. "He cooked it crawling into a utility duct to fix a ruptured steam line while simultaneously fighting off two alligators with his bare hands..."

"Alligators?" Eddie said.

"...and then, having taken care of that, he went back topside where the temperature was negative nine degrees Fahrenheit (forty below, factoring in wind chill), this being winter. The transition from hot to cold paralyzed every muscle and nerve in his eyelid."

"Wait a minute," Eddie said. "Alligators in the sewers? Wasn't that just a story?"

"What story?"

"You know: the book by that guy who nobody was allowed to take his picture."

"Did you ever read the book by that guy who nobody was allowed to take his picture?"

"Of course not. Nobody's ever read that book. And anyway I don't read books. But even up in the Hollow, everybody knows the story."

"Well," said Hartower, "Teddy May lived it."

"And that's what we do with the Zoological Bureau? Hunt 'gators?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Prohaska said. "Teddy May and his men finsihed off the last of them in the 1930s."



Note: Teddy May was a real person, a New York City sewer worker who was probably largely responsible for spreading the sewergator legend when he was quoted by Robert Daley in The World Beneath the City (1959, J.B. Lippincott Co.). Teddy May told stories of sewers swarming with alligators, and a subsequent sewergator extermination campaign. Teddy May told a lot of stories.


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