The Nemesis of Pequod Lane by J Paul Ross

After his wife divorces him, formerly kind and placid veterinary doctor Abraham Enderby is besieged by a deranged feline beast.

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They call him Doc, but tonight he's no longer a healer, no longer a guardian of the innocent, no longer a savior of companions feathered, furred and scaled. Tonight, Doctor Abraham Enderby, DVM has become something else. He's become an executioner in torn flannel, a hunter with inflamed eyes and bifocals chipped and blood-spattered. He's turned into a silver-haired killer lost to the grim billow of waiting, patient Death and as he glares out at the heavy Nantucket snow, all he can think of is vengeance, brutal, sharp and cruel.

"Kingdom: Animalia," he rasps over the clip of his minivan's studded tires. "Phylum: Chordata. Clade: Synapsida. Class: Mammalia..."

He can sense his prey, almost hear it beckoning his hungry rage forward; it tempts him with every leeward turn upon the sleet-pelted road and it dares him to follow from the autumn nor'easter roiling just beyond his windshield. It's out there, defying him, mocking him, and he knows it's lurking and scheming, moving from hollow to hollow, protected within the shadows it's made its own. But he knows it can lurk all it wants, knows it can scheme all it wants. None of those things matter because the healer-turned-hunter has sworn never to give up this chase. Whether it's seconds, minutes or hours, time's on his side and nothing will allay his insatiate wrath, nothing can stop his hate-fueled quest and if he has to drive from Polpis Harbor to Starbuck Road, nothing will keep him from standing astride the carcass of his tormenter.

"Order: Carnivora," he goes on, his fingers moving from the cigar box on the passenger seat to the fire poker beside it. "Family: Felidae..."

Doc Enderby wasn't always like this. He wasn't always a bleary-eyed assassin with a thousand-yard stare, or a spite-filled prowler of byways desolate and forlorn. A third generation Nantucketer, he'd grown up playing on the island's streets, exploring its shores and sailing its coasts. It was the place where he'd lived and practiced, met his spouse and raised his children. In fact, for seventy-two years, he'd been a paragon of kindness and mercy, a man who'd literally saved hundreds of Tabbies and Rexes, Pikachus, Mr. Hoppities and Dracos. He'd helped practically every family within miles, and finding anyone who didn't know and respect the man would've been almost impossible.

That however, was before he came home one fall day and found the letter from his wife.

"I want a divorce..." it began.

The typed, three-page missive went on to describe, in rambling, torturous detail, her dream of one day growing hemp in the Yukon, her recent obsession with body piercing, and her six-hour, tantric lovemaking sessions with world famous television podiatrist, Dr. Genevieve Copper-Carmichael, DPM. Doc read the whole thing in silence but it wasn't until the last line and its hastily scribbled coup de grâce that he broke down.

"And for the record," it declared, "I hate your eyebrows."

Needless to say, these revelations stunned the man, and as the divorce went on and the legal papers arrived in stacks, he began to change. He sold his television; a brooding, sunken frown replaced his pervasive smile; and his infectious laughter was reduced to a gloomy sigh. He turned into a maudlin recluse, and his once cheerful abode on Pequod Lane became a haven for rumor and speculation: some postulated Doc was depressed and suicidal, some declared he was having rambling monologs with his canary, and others claimed to have seen him in his front window, scowling at the flower beds his wife had tended for thirty-eight years. No one was absolutely sure, but it didn't take long for the whispers of dipsomania to begin, and the fickle townsfolk quickly declared that the once-respected physician was an alcoholic who spent more time at the liquor store than the clinic, more time drinking than spaying, more time stumbling across his 200-year-old hardwood floors than bandaging injured paws.

These whispers went on for months, then a year, and the vet didn't stir from his doldrums until the acrimonious divorce was finalized - suddenly appearing one morning with a warm grin and a sincere "Heyhowareya!" to everyone he met. He gossiped with passersby, joked with tourists, and even queried his neighbors about what was new at Argonauts' World of Wine. He seemed like the old Abraham Enderby, but while he chatted in the first breaths of autumn, he was also inspecting his neglected yard. Obviously distracted, one minute he'd be deep in conversation and the next he'd wander off in mid-sentence to his garage, returning first with a shovel, then a mattock, and finally a broad tarp. Once his homespun clichés were exhausted, Doc gathered his implements and deracinated his ex-wife's grove of always-flattened blossoms.

There's something on Mayhew Lane and, turning the minivan's bow onto the snow-fanned thoroughfare, the rhythm of Doc's murderous chant quickens.

"Kingdom: Animalia," he mutters, saliva and mucus flying. "Phylum: Chordata. Clade: Synapsida. Class: Mammalia. Order -"

And then his breath stalls in a labored wheeze for there's definitely a figure of some sort moving, shuffling along the roadside.

The distant form hidden by convulsive gusts, its shape obscured by the beaded, white precipitation, the spittle-daubed chasseur can't tell exactly what it is. The horizon disappears and revolves, and in the tempest's frenzy, everything's become part of the same pale cascade. He narrows his eyes and there, breaking against the wind's fulminating vortex, a familiar, huddled outline takes shape beneath the collapsed Atlantic sky.

"Hey, Doc," Fire Chief De Deer yells as the hunter pulls up and lowers his window. "What're you doing out? Ever since your wife left, I thought you stopped doing house calls."

"Have ye seen -"

"I'm gonna catch hell for this," the chief breaks in, motioning to his becalmed truck, its front end smashed against a gnarled elm and haloed by a cloud of steaming antifreeze. "The guys are never gonna believe I had to swerve to -"

"Have ye seen a -"

"What's that you say, Doc?" De Deer asks, moving closer. "I can barely hear you. I hope you're not getting the flu or -"

"Allergies," Doc sputters.

"Allergies? You? Aw, you're pulling my leg. I didn't think you were allergic to anything. Fact, I still remember the time you..." The fire chief strokes his thick mustache and frowns. "Say, you sure it's an allergy and not a little too much port? Jesus, Doc, you could get into real trouble for that. 'Course, I should talk. Sheriff Boomer'll probably think I'm the one drinking tonight, 'specially when I explain how I hit this here elm 'cause of a big white something-or-other. I bet they'll make me pee in a cup like they did the last -"

Doc hisses. "A white something did ye say?"

"Yep. Animal of some sort. Don't know what kind. Whatever it was, it -"

"Did it have a tail? Was it bent like a -"

"A tail? Beats me. Hell, I barely had time to -"

"When was this?"

"Well, I'd come around the corner there and -"


The chief leans forward. "I know things have been rough since your wife started getting her bunions checked by that other gal but maybe you shouldn't drink before you get behind -"


"Okay, okay. Relax, Doc. It was a few minutes ago. Headed west from what I -"

Doc comes about, accelerating into the snow-pelted night-tides and showering the mustachioed fire captain with a wall of gray slush.

Unaware the plants by his front porch were no longer his to cut and hack, unaware of what was using them in the evening's vacant recesses, Doc's troubles became worse once he removed the diminutive, lavender flowers. Pointing to the empty space in his yard, the townsfolk of Nantucket soon grew annoyed at their vet: neighbors lambasted him about property values, the tourism board lectured him on "town spirit", and the Community Preservation Committee weekly sent him pamphlets on architectural coherence. They kept after him for days, and when the barren gap began to sprout weeds, the subtle hints turned into harassments: realtors called early Sunday mornings, landscapers choked his mailbox with flyers, and his neighbors stopped cleaning up when their dogs defecated on his walkway. Yet the eyesore remained, and it wasn't until his home began to undergo a nightly festooning of toilet paper that Doc finally planted six young juniper trees in the empty beds.

The half-dozen evergreens were wispy and barely three-feet high, but their lumpy forms accentuated his house's square frame. Their cylindrical needles were perfect contrasts to what had been his wife's trumpet-shaped flowers and, once grown, he was sure they'd become majestic and welcoming. He imagined them reaching high above his rooftop and one day becoming both a much-needed windbreak and a good screen against nosy neighbors.

But the plants never grew strong and tall, were never allowed to provide shelter from prying eyes. Stepping onto his porch the next morning, Doc faced a scene reminiscent of a typhoon's aftermath: mulch was scattered across the grass, clumps of damp soil peppered his sidewalks, and amber-colored splinters decorated his entire yard. His eyes unfocused in the turmoil of waking, he initially couldn't fathom exactly what had occurred, but then he leaned over the railing and witnessed the true scope of the massacre.

Not a juniper had been spared. Most were snapped in half with the bark peeled away and the trunks raked with deep, violent gouges. Needles were strewn from property line to property line and the trees stood forlorn and naked like a row of skeletal fence posts. Two of them were actually missing, wrenched out of their holes and hauled away as if something had risen from the sea and dragged them under Nantucket Sound's turbid waters.

Of course, the police blamed "hoodlum" kids, but Doc was positive it was his neighbors because a new round of harassments began soon afterward: the early-morning calls resumed, streams of toilet paper again wafted from his chimney, and members of both the Historic District Commission and Board of Selectmen began mentioning "eminent domain" whenever in earshot. He could feel the hostile eyes appraising him, and fortunately, by the time the Nantucket Tattler ran a photo of his house beneath a story on meth labs, Doc had replaced the frayed stumps.

Stouter, more mature, he set the root-balls of the six new junipers deep into the earth and encircled their scaly bark with a chicken wire palisade. And so, believing things were taken care of, the veterinarian tried to enjoy his life. He went to work. He visited friends, and he relaxed by observing his three tropical fish in their ninety-gallon aquarium. He could almost sense things were changing for the better but, pulling up to the curb a few weeks later, he saw the tattered screen of his open front window and heard the desperate chittering of his Belgian canary.

Instantly, he imagined his beloved pets in danger, and he scrambled through the front door, rushing past the now eviscerated sofa and its cloud of downy batting and ignoring the shattered pictures and knickknacks on the rugs. He didn't see the curtains torn brutally from the walls, nor the marred furniture, because he was consumed by thoughts of his tiny, innocent friends, those companions who were his to take care of and protect.

Breathless and panicked, he didn't even notice his precious oak floor, ruined by deep gashes crisscrossing its planks and a putrid film of urine spreading into the grooves carved into its centuries-old surface. The culprit had clearly spent hours scratching and micturating, and Doc only breathed again when he saw his canary's sunshine-yellow plumage flapping in its cage - an act he repeated when he saw his fish hiding in the back of their aquarium. And, after reaching out and touching the cool glass, he then examined his home. He moved from room to room, amazed, appalled, but it wasn't until he entered the kitchen that the true depths of the interloper's spite became clear.

There, set in the middle of the floor was the vandal's final insult, its snide calling card.

A spindly mound of feces.

"Species... Felis catus," he concludes.

His flannel shirt drenched from the ever-present current of tears and spittle, he proceeds to run the five stoplights on Main Street, their glow flashing upon his swollen cheeks in kaleidoscopic blemishes until each one bleeds into his vision like a dying cinder.

"Kingdom: Animalia," he resumes, his hand stroking the cigar box's cardboard lid, the storm tearing through the open window at his shoulder. "Phylum: Chordata. Clade -"

In the distance, he thinks there's a figure hiding amid the southwesterly leaning trees, their branches sagging, leaf-leaden and blanketed in ice. He can't be certain however because indistinct forms choke the road ahead, and he peers and scans from within the pinched slits of his eyes for any movement.

Again, he sees it, and again, he accelerates - but, instead of surging forward in a violent pounce, the tires lose traction and the minivan broaches, spinning backward with one turn and sideways with the next. He steers into the skid, but the streetlamps and stoplights continue to twist, their luminance awash in a roseate blaze while Doc slides inexorably toward the Spouter's Inn.

He mopped and disinfected the ravaged surfaces of his home, but the hours of defiant scrubbing did little to improve things for, a few days after the cleaning was done, he discovered a fresh hairball under his quilt.

How the creature was routinely fouling his sheets with its scurf and other vileness was a mystery to him, but at least he knew the reason for his eyes growing increasingly bloodshot with each towel's wipe. So, with snot drooling from his nose and the air passages in his lungs constricted, he began to fortify his homestead. Thin mesh window screens were replaced by ones of heavy wire, stands of prickly firethorn were set in front of the windows, and every tiny hole and moderate opening was sealed tight. Yet he wanted to ensure his safety behind his bulwarks so he sprayed his entire property with fox urine.

And then the terrible, banshee-like screeching began.

Appearing to rise from the very foundations of Doc's house and claw across Pequod Lane, the high-pitched, estrual howl nightly haunted the slumbering island in a witching hour serenade, bone chilling and painful-to-hear. Beginning with a restrained moan and growing until it sounded like the wail of an imprisoned child, by two a.m. it would climax to an unearthly shriek so disturbing that his neighbors believed some horrible, pedophilic atrocity was occurring deep within the walls of the Enderby sanctum.

"But it's the cat," the veterinary sniffled to the authorities.

"I don't doubt it's a cat, Doc," Sheriff Boomer replied. "It's just -"

The man paused at the stomach-churning yowl spewing into the Nantucket wind.

"See what I mean, sheriff? You should take a gander at my books! There was this discharge and I'm telling you, it wasn't urine. I don't know what it was -"

"Have you been drinking, Doc?" He shook his head. "Look, I know things have sucked since Una moved out but folks have been talking and let's face it; never have I heard an animal sound like that."

"Neither have I, but I saw how your men were looking at me. They -"

"Aw, that's from the smell in there, Doc. I don't know what you made for dinner -"

"But that's from the cat, too! I can't get rid of it! I've -"

"I'm sorry you're having a rough time," Boomer cut in, rubbing his eyes. "I've called Animal Control and they said they'd come out tomorrow. Again, I'm sorry for the mess. Now, I have to get outta here before my head explodes. I swear my cat allergy's getting as bad as yours."

"But that's just it," Doc mewled. "I'm not allergic to cats!"

The next morning, Animal Control appeared; they followed the wide paw prints circling his property, chuckled at the chicken wire and swore to return with traps but never did. Once again, Doc was abandoned and he waited in dread, knowing those maliciously drawn-out squeals would continue the moment the sun fell. He couldn't rest, couldn't read, couldn't even listen to his favorite symphonies on his antique radio. He turned on every light, thinking it would scare the animal off. He used up the remaining fox urine and eventually, he set out cans of mothballs. Nothing worked; and so, recalling the feline hatred of bathing, the frazzled vet bought four motion-activated water sprinklers.

If he couldn't force it away, he reasoned, he'd soak it away.

But coming home the next afternoon, he was faced with yet another scene of overwhelming destruction: sprinkler fragments were everywhere, the shredded remains of his hose - water still pumping through it - littered his ex-wife's flowerbeds and his juniper trees stood tilted and floating in a pool of muddy soil. Their needles already starting to droop, it was obvious they wouldn't survive and, too tired to stop the tears, Doc let out a heartbroken sob.

Then he realized the true horror lay just ahead.

For the beast had somehow again gotten inside his now silent home.

"I say, Doc! Are you hurt?"

The bumper inches from the Spouter's Inn, the windshield cracked from the fire poker's impact, the hunter stares out, his vision smeared by an ocean of contorted blobs, a salty bouillon of tears, and snot dribbling into his lap.

"Doc!" Selectman Gardiner yells. "Are you okay? How many fingers am I holding up?"

The bar's COLD BEER sign lighting his swollen face, the old man coughs. "Have ye -"

"Jesus, I was sure you were done for."

"Have ye seen a white -"

"From how fast you were going, I was sure the Spouter's was done for. 'Course, if any place deserves to go, it's the Spouter's. Fact, I was thinking about that exact thing right before you came barreling toward me. Yep, I'd decided to buy a new television, because the town hall just got one for the latest discussions on eminent domain when -"

"Have ye seen a white cat -"

"Oh, yeah, speaking of TV. I finally got a gander at your wife's girlfriend. What a looker. I have to say this about your ex: she sure has good taste when it comes to lesbians."

"Have ye seen a white cat? Its -"

"What's that you want, Doc? A cat? Aw, don't tell me Mrs. Hussey forgot to bring in Jasper. I swear, she spends more time chasing -"

"Have ye seen a white cat? Its tail -"

"Mrs. Hussey doesn't have a white cat, Doc. It's a calico with brown -"

"Have ye seen a white cat?" Doc repeats. "Its tail bent and twisted?"

"Yep, it's definitely a calico. I know because it's always watching me from Mrs. Hussey's upstairs window, acting like it's better than me. Thinking it -"

"Oh, the devil take Mrs. Hussey's cat! It's the white -"

"Have you been drinking again, Doc?" the politician asks with a critical lift of his brows. "I mean, ever since you tore out your wife's catmint, the whole town's been talking. 'Course, I can't imagine what it must be like to have your wife leave you, a respected healer, for a podiatrist. Plus, with the way your property's -"

"Have ye seen a white cat!"

"I just told you Mrs. Hussey doesn't have a white cat, Doc. It's a calico with..." The selectman rubs his chin. "Did you say something was wrong with your cat's tail?"

The huntsman sneers. "Yes, it's twisted, bent and turned like a broken mast."

"Hmmm. Now that you mention it, right before you showed up, I did see a cat with a funny tail - don't know if I'd describe it like a mast. For a second, I thought it was Mrs. -"

"Was it pearl-white, like an eggshell on new-fallen snow?"

"Don't know about that. But it was definitely white and must've weighed a good thirty pounds. I'd guess it's a Maine Coon cat - though I've never seen one that big in my -"

"Where was it running to?"

"I didn't say it was running anywhere. I said it -"


Gardiner nods westward. "Toward Millbrook, I think. Probably headed to the ponds. That's where Mrs. Hussey's cat likes to -"

Doc slams the accelerator and heads toward Madaket Road, skidding and swaying and blindly ignoring the traffic lights dancing in the surging gale. Winn Street and Dukes Road soar past in a wake vindictive and unceasing while his bloody digits clench and unclench the fire poker's handle. His vision smeared with mucus, the entrance of Crooked Lane blurs. Maxie Pond Road fades in the engine's hum and the dried blood on his fingers cracks when he turns onto Millbrook Road. The path ahead is but a tunnel before him, and in the growing storm he almost misses the figure standing practically invisible, its ghostly, achromatic coat standing out against the darkened sky, its head turned toward him in the savage wind.

His home was filled with an excruciating sense of barren desolation, and within a few steps, Doc had come face-to-maw with the insidious trespasser. For there, just past the foyer, the albino leviathan stood, its yellow eyes glowing banefully, its left nostril split from some nameless clash years before, its tail hanging like a demon's barb.

"Okay," he whispered with a careful tread forward. "Take it easy now."

He'd already noticed the empty birdcage on the ground but it was the squish of his loafers that caused him to stop, to glance at the fragmentary remnants of his fish tank. Its metal frame lay in bent, twisted pieces, fluorescent substrate and glass shards extended over most of the room, but there was no sound, no echo of flopping, no rattle of a struggle to survive amid the wreckage. It was an ominous, unearthly silence; and then, poised above the coves of water oozing toward his basement stairs, he saw the carcass of his Angelfish skewered upon a finger of broken coral.

Doc scowled at the cat, and in response the animal hissed, its matted fur dripping, its body pulsing slowly up and down. Staring malevolently, it was almost as if the beast were waiting for the old man and, moving closer, the veterinary finally understood the animal's odd, rhythmic dance.

Pinned to the floor, his Corydoras gasped helplessly beneath the cat's paw, its visible eye bulging at each downward press. It seemed to be looking at its master with an accusatorial grimace of hopeless disgust, but before the white-furred monster could be driven off, the animal shifted, flattening the fish's ribs like a crab cake and forcing a tiny spurt of water from its lips.

Whimpering, Doc grabbed a fire poker and moved in. He swung and swung in blind, reckless attacks, and at every strike, the feline moved out of reach, leaping away and spitting in fearless defiance. They clashed in the living room where Doc splintered his vintage console radio. They fought in the dining room where chairs and tables crumbled; and they met in the kitchen where dishes were smashed and light fixtures exploded. The conflict went on and on, with the poker either assailing empty air or dispatching another part of the home to ruin.

A few times, the feral intruder even raked Doc's hand, peeling open his skin and causing dribbles of warm blood to cover his fingers, but the aweary vet continued his campaign. For the better part of ten minutes, the battle raged, and by the time the poker slipped from his bloody hand and shattered his front window, the old man knew he was beaten. He collapsed to his knees and, exhausted and sweating, watched the ivory-furred butcher prance onto the sill and disappear.

Hunched before the wreckage of his cracked shelves, demolished furniture and fractured doorjambs, Doc rolled into a fetal ball. He was trying to gather the strength to weep, but before any sob could overcome his rasps, he discovered a lone sunshine-yellow wing and the remains of a flensed Gold Gourami beneath the couch, their viscera mixed together in a smear of plumage, fins and gills. His temples then began to pound and, struggling to his feet, he raised his fist and screamed a pitiless oath into the looming clouds just as his waterlogged junipers toppled into a sea of mud.

Doc yells an unintelligible malediction and hits the accelerator, but the animal moves quickly into the winter's shadows. It blends into the landscape, and for a second his prey is lost from sight; he pounds the steering wheel. His hate-filled glare probes the horizon, still searching, still hunting, and he's heading toward Hummock Pond when the minivan fishtails on the icy gravel. He turns, and the undercarriage is pelted with smooth, round pebbles, but then he sees his foe. It's standing dead ahead, relaxed, impassive and frozen in mid-step.

"Towards thee I roll!" he howls, moving the poker to his lap while the minivan charges toward the animal, its body hunched, its spiteful eyes cold and unafraid, its narrow canines glistening.

Suddenly, he notices the black expanse behind the creature, and he understands why it stopped - it's the northern head of the pond. He jams both feet into the brake pedal. His tires slide upon the frictionless gravel, the edge jumps toward him, and the last thing Doc sees before the minivan topples into the deep pool is the cat's broken tail and the clinched pucker of its anus vanishing into the darkness.

The windshield shatters, air bags detonate, and the minivan's tires spin in the glow of its drowning headlights. Freezing water rushes over the dashboard to engulf his feet and legs, and when the numbing deluge makes him gasp, he looks down and sees the fire poker jutting from his chest. It's pinned him to the seat, and gaping at the worn, crimson-spattered handle inches from his rib cage, he knows it's gone completely through. He can feel the cold of its metal inside him, but when he tries to remove it, a jolt of pain sweeps across his body. The taste of blood pollutes the salty flavor of snot in his mouth, the throb of his heartbeat roars in his ears, and he begins to strain and writhe. He shouts and blasphemes, and with the frigid water caressing his jaw, he struggles until the cigar box lists past him, just out of reach. Filled with a canary's wing and the remains of three mutilated fish, it slowly glides out the window and, watching the improvised coffin bob into the briny pond, Doctor Abraham Enderby sneers.

"Kingdom: Animalia," he gurgles. "Phylum: Chordata. Clade..."


  1. This is a great read! I really like the tongue in cheek version of Moby Dick that this is (Pequod Lane being a very nice touch). And, like Moby Dick, there is a richly descriptive, almost Victorian/Edgar Allen Poe feel to this with a brilliantly handled comic streak through it. The prose is quick paced, but also detailed (I even had to look up a couple of words - which is a good thing) and so style, voice, and narrative, all make this excellent writing.

  2. This quote was great: “ And for the record," it declared, "I hate your eyebrows." The theme of the broken marriage interested me. I wasn’t sure how it related to the Moby Dick experience. I also looked up words, which was cool. It was a really good read! It moved ever forward. It was otherworldly, and then something normal would punctuate it. So it had layers. Thank you!

  3. Who knew? Ahab’s wife left him for a podiatrist. Well done, J. Paul!

  4. It is never made explicit - but I suspect that the white cat is a visual hallucination from alcohol-induced psychosis… …and it leads him to his doom.

  5. While there was not a great deal of dialogue, what was there was keen. It showed the degree to which Doc’s friends and neighbors were immune from paying attention to him and understanding what he was trying to say. Instead, they diminished his remarks to nothing by observing Doc’s ex-wife’s auspicious eye for fetching lesbians. What terror and frustration Doc must have felt by others’ inability to understand or even listen. We are led to conclude that Doc is traumatically losing his marbles, but what if he’s not? What if there really is a demon Maine coon cat? We’ll never really know, and that makes J Paul’s story even more fascinating. It started slow, but swiftly gained momentum and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  6. A great read, this retelling of Moby Dick, congratulations!

  7. This was fun, equal parts dread and absurdity running throughout, I really enjoyed it. I really liked how Doc and his story seemed of long ago (Victorian as Paul K says above), while everybody else comes off as totally modern, great juxtaposition. And, oh, as a fellow aquarist ... ouch!