Art by Ron Chironna
by O’Neil De Noux
Ester wondered, as she walked past the inn, if everyone looked at the big clock as they passed. The clock must be three feet in diameter, white hands on a crimson face. Coated with luminescent paint, the hands picked up the headlights of vehicles passing along Esplanade Avenue so anyone could tell the time—day or night. The clock hung above the inn’s front door alcove, the inn’s name standing out in large neon lights, crimson letters on the white wall above the clock:
Crimson Clock Inn
The clock’s big hand pointed to the nine, the little hand nearly to the five, 4:45 a.m. Ester had fifteen minutes to walk around the next corner to be on time for work when Mr. Angelette opened the bakery. She crossed Esplanade to the small neutral ground, stepped between two towering oaks to the other side of the avenue, and then up Royal Street. The neon sign above Angelette’s Bakery flickered on as Ester stepped to the door and Mr. Angelette opened it.
“Good morning. Good morning.” Bald, portly Mr. Angelette, in all white with a heavy white apron dotted with dough, smiled and moved aside to let Ester into the pristine bakery showroom filled with strong, wonderful aromas of freshly cooked bread and sugar.
She took her purse into the back room and drew down a fresh apron. She checked herself in the mirror, tucking a loose strand of hair back into place before peeking through the back door, where Carl shoved three loaves into one of the ovens. He spotted her and smiled and she smiled back and went up front to the counter to help Mr. Angelette fill the glass cases with eclairs and donuts and cakes and brownies and other confections. Mrs. Angelette, in a white dress, standing nearly as wide as her husband, took charge of positioning the goods in the cases. Carl came out with fresh loaves of French bread and baguettes and rye bread and muffuletta loaves dotted with sesame seeds.
Their eyes met and Carl gave Ester that familiar, warm look. She felt the stirring inside, like a nervous twitch. Carl’s eyes, darker brown than Ester’s, seemed to sparkle this morning. She wondered what was on his mind.
“I was thinking,” he said in a low voice as he slid a tray of croissants into the glass case. “Casablanca finally made it to the Saenger. Wanna go tonight?”
Ester felt a warmth in her chest, felt her heartbeat for the first time that morning.
“Good. It’s Friday. Mrs. J will fry fish and French fries. We’ll go to the seven ten showing.”
He left her with a smile on her face, this great looking guy with the dazzling smile, cleft chin. As he stepped back to the ovens, she watched his limp, the way his hip rolled as he moved. How many times in the three months she’d worked here had she explained to the curious it wasn’t a war wound? Carl could not go to war with his two brothers, one fighting the Japanese in the Pacific, the other fighting Nazis in Europe. It was nothing traumatic, she told old Mrs. Huffington who always wore mink, Carl Lawrence’s left leg was shorter than his right leg. He was born that way. READ MORE
Art by Kelly Denato
by Tim Burke
If you were to ask why J. P. Gorguts wanted to plant a pickax in my skull, you would think I could supply an answer. I mean to say, not exactly the kind of sitch that creeps up on one out of nowhere, is it? But after three weeks, I still can’t think of an answer.
The strange thing about old J. P. and me is our relationship started off with a bang. We were two peas in a pod. Two souls who saw the universe through the same prism. Two—if you will permit me to be so bold—artists whose vision burned like a flame on one of those incense candle thingies.
I’d read his story in an anthology entitled Horror of Horrors on a Dark and Stormy Night. While most of the stories were predictable and pedestrian, his gripping tale caught my interest immediately. Who wouldn’t be enthralled by a precocious clown that delights in beheading victims with a haunted pair of nail clippers? Mr. Jolly commits bloody deed upon bloody deed with the most sinister good nature, all the while smiling and complimenting his victims. Yes! I see you too envision the story’s translation to the big screen. A cinematic masterpiece, n’est-ce pas? All it needed was the proper creative mind to tweak the details—a minor cosmetic change here, a minuscule touch-up there.
I tracked J. P. down to an appalling diner. Truth be told, I was afraid of contracting a flesh-eating virus from merely sitting in the booth, never mind eating off a fork that would have intrigued an archaeologist. But one must take risks for great art, right?
I spotted my quarry immediately by his four-day-old beard and rumpled Cthulhu T-shirt. Who else would wear a picture of a ghastly octopus-ish dragon on his front in a place where others are trying to eat? He had picked up his plate and begun licking it clean as I slid into the seat across from him.
He paused, stared over the plate at me for a moment, then returned to the task of making sure no doggie bag would be necessary.
When he’d finally put it back on the table, I said, “How do you do! Mr. Gorguts? J. P. Gorguts?”
His eyes narrowed, and he wiped his jacket sleeve across his mouth. “Who’s asking?”
“Oh, please, Mr. Gorguts! I’m a friend. I most certainly am not a bill collector or anyone of that nasty nature.”
He said nothing, only continuing to stare at me suspiciously.
“As it turns out, I’m a big fan of yours, Mr. Gorguts. May I call you J. P.?”
He shrugged—rather sulkily, I might add—and said, “Suit yourself.”
“My name is Horton Whistleton IV. Perhaps you recognize the name?”
“Can’t say it rings a bell, sport.”
I repressed a sigh, feeling as though I were sitting across from Mater and Pater having yet another tiny request for a loan shot down. I buckled my armor on more tightly and charged back into the fray. However, I saw that it would take some effort to pierce his armor of insouciance. I imagined myself pointing out, “There’s a tarantula on your left shoulder,” only to be met with “Okay. Let me know when he’s on the right.” All in all, he didn’t exactly suffer from the restless creative flame within. READ MORE