canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999


What?

by John Lowry

Thompson liked to sit in St. George Park on a Saturday or a Sunday, reading and meditating, observing the trees and grass, the pigeons, the children playing. He never paid much attention to the statue of Binder St. George, a famous college president no one remembered, holding a book in his hand and gazing into the distance while trying to ignore the pigeon perched on his head. 

Nor did he pay much more attention to the clock, set across from the statue, preferring to consult his expensive wristwatch. He imagined it had always been there, its broad face displaying Roman numerals, its massive case supported by a thick steel base. He also imagined it tolled the hours, but it did not.

Late one Saturday afternoon, when Thompson was reaching the end of a dull article in the New Yorker, distracted by thoughts of going home, being both sleepy and hungry, a car pulled up outside the park. Three men jumped out and came running. They were dressed in black and wore hoods with large eyeholes. Alarmed, Thompson got to his feet. But it wasnít him. It was the clock. Two of them pulled pistols from their belts and shot at its face. 

At first, nothing seemed to happen but the glass shattered, two pieces falling together and flashing in the light before crashing to the walkway. The man without a gun ran to the base, a blowtorch in his hand. Kneeling, he turned it on, the flame first yellow and then blue and began to cut through the metal. Silver drops rolled down the side. The others took up defensive postures on the path, standing back to back. 

Hurry! one of them called. Itís too thick! the man with the blowtorch answered. The two raised their guns again. The man with the blowtorch ducked and ran back to them. 

The shots made cracking sounds. Holes, like black specs, appeared between the Roman numbers. A spring, looking like a black coil, jumped out of the clock, making a ringing sound. The hour hand exploded, its stump falling to the numeral six, rocking back and forth. Go! one of the men shouted, waving his pistol. 

The man with the blowtorch looked at Thompson and tapped his wrist. Reluctantly, Thompson took off his watch and handed it to him. Holding it by the tip of its band, the man blasted it with the blowtorch. A large teardrop of steel, mixed with gold, fell to the ground. Keep your mouth shut, he said, handing back the watch. He ran to the car and they drove off.

Thompson waited a while before calling 911. 

What? the operator said.

John Lowry's on-line contributions have appeared in In Posse Review and Lit Bits. His paper life is Fiction and Hanging Loose and a book of stories called Travelling Through Space. He doesn't
work; that has resulted in two attempts on his life. He had published in TDR in 2002.

 

 

 

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