IChurch Chetwood, renowned motion picture director, is given an ultimatum by his studio: film a movie with romance or else. Since this is the height of the Depression, and since Church enjoys eating, he reluctantly agrees. He finds a beautiful woman who’s willing to sail on the August Moon to the uncharted island of Iwi Po’o. While there, he makes the discovery of a lifetime, guaranteed to make them all millionaires ...
Only it doesn’t exactly turn out like that. The “discovery of a lifetime,” a saber-toothed tiger the press dubs Chetwood’s Kitty, breaks free and runs amok in Manhattan, causing death and mayhem. Months later, Church is facing indictment and a long stretch up the river and has no choice but to lie low until he can get out of town. While nursing his troubles in a saloon, he spots a young man who’s even more down on his luck than Church.
Johnny Smith has been on his own since Black Tuesday, four years earlier, and he does what he has to in order to keep body and soul -- what’s left of it -- together, even if it isn’t what he ever expected to do. He enters the saloon, hoping for a little warmth and perhaps a meal. What he finds is Church Chetwood, the director whose documentaries have fascinated him for years. Mr. Chetwood buys him that meal, and Johnny willingly goes with him to his rooming house, ready to do whatever Mr. Chetwood wants, even if Mr. Chetwood claims he isn’t “like that.” Is Johnny’s luck about to take a turn for the better? After all, Mr. Chetwood has a plan to get out of town, and if Johnny’s really lucky, maybe Church will let him come along.
Johnny crosses paths with Church in a dingy saloon. Two orphans of the storm that’s the Depression, what will their future bring, and will it bring it to them together?
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Life during the Depression was hard. There wasn’t much to be happy about, to entertain us, so when Church ‘Chet’ Chetwood, the renowned film director, returned from the South Seas with what he claimed was the most astounding find in ten thousand years… well, everyone wanted to see it.
No one expected a throwback to the Ice Age to suddenly appear on Manhattan Island, and people stormed the box office to buy tickets.
I’d wanted so badly to go see the creature that was supposed to be extinct, but I couldn’t afford it. Well, I could barely afford to eat.
For once God was on my side, although so many others weren’t as fortunate. I wasn’t there when “Chetwood’s Kitty” somehow managed to escape from the theater where it was being exhibited.READ MORE
The buildings along 42nd Street still bore splatters of dried blood from the path the giant saber-toothed tiger had taken. It had torn apart dozens of homeward-bound workers. Bodies had been disemboweled, decapitated, literally torn limb from limb. Cars had swerved to get out of the path of the infuriated creature. They’d run over pedestrians and had crashed into buildings, into the beams of the el, into buses, into one another.
A few days later, while I was scrounging in an alley, I’d come across the torso of a woman that had been somehow overlooked in the cleanup. Razor-sharp claws had shredded the shirtwaist she’d worn and the flesh beneath it, and the expression on her face revealed her pain and terror. I’d wheeled around and thrown up, although there had been little in my stomach.
The sabertooth had escaped to Central Park, and for three days the city was under martial law. That hadn’t helped the people who lived in Hooverville, in the drained reservoir. Six of them had been slaughtered before the Army had tracked down the sabertooth and fired enough rounds into it to bring it down.
I followed the story whenever I came across a discarded newspaper. The Daily News, being just a step up from a scandal sheet, had the juiciest stories. Its reporters told in gory, minute detail all the carnage that had descended upon New York City in those three days.
The survivors, as well as those who had lost loved ones, were among the many suing Church Chetwood, along with the city, the state, and the federal government, which was out to get him for bringing an unlicensed animal onto American soil.
However, no one knew where Mr. Chetwood was.