Flashback Friday: Alstona’s Clock

For Fandango’s Flashback Friday

Alstona’s Clock

by anita marie moscoso

First published

January 6, 2006 

Alstona Kamacho’s clock is an Doomsday clock- that’s what she told everyone at her office. She also told them on the first day she brought it in that if the clock stops the world will end.

So for the past 20 years everyone she works with goes out of their way to make sure  Alstona’s  Tacky Ticker doesn’t wind down.

At first it was fun to find a way to make it first to avocado green clock with the pink feet and the silver mushroom bells sitting sideways against face so that you could be the one turn the little silver key  and save the entire world

Then it got to be serious.

When Alstona’ s six co-workers heard the little gears slowing down and just before second hand made this pop sound when it skipped past the glow in the dark five they’d already be pushing and shoving, tripping towards Alstona’s desk.

One year Barnell Bloss fractured right arm when he tried- and failed to clear Fales Digby’s desk to get to Alstona’ s Armageddon clock.

Of course he didn’t clear Fales’ desk because Fales was sitting at it and when Barnell raced by it was more the Fales could stand.

He’d reached up and slammed Barnell down and Fales had been the one to save the world that day.

In any other office on the face of the Earth that stunt would probably have ended in some sort of legal action.

But Lonsdale and Mead’s wasn’t  like anyplace on the face of the Earth- there wasn’t anyplace else on the face of the Earth that had an Armageddon clock sitting on an employee’s desk.

Delia Wing was a Courier from All City Express, she had won the Lonsdale and Mead stop in a lunch time card game at All City.

 But that was nothing new- drivers at All City had been known to pay each other cold hard cash just for one trip because everyone in the city of Mayweed knew the L & M staff were a bunch of whack jobs.

What can you say? Nothing broke up the day like getting the chance to see a bunch of desk jockeys beat the snot out of each other to get to this cheap and nasty windup clock first.

As you’ve probably guessed by now Mayweed was short on entertainment venues.

Delia’ first trip into L & M was on a Friday and there they were- all seven of them sitting at their desks, working on the phones and doing data entry and the entire time they all had at least one eye on the Receptionist’s Desk.

At least that one eye looked alive and alert because the faces they were housed in were pale and all of the worker’s hands were twitching and shaking.

Delia decided right then and there she didn’t want to go back to L & M- all of those people looked like they already had one foot in the grave and she was afraid whatever they had might be something you could catch.

But first Delia had a job to do.

She went over to the receptionist’s desk where the clock was sitting and cleared her throat, ” Package for you. “

Alstona looked up and reached for small box a in Delia’s hand.

” So that’s the clock. ” Delia said.

” That’s the clock. “

” So, if you’re sitting there how come they….” Delia pointed to the rows of desks behind Alstona ” race to wind it up?  Why don’t you do it yourself?”

Someone said from the back of the office, ” because she doesn’t care anymore…she wants the world to end.”

From a little closer to where Delia and Alstona were another voice said, ” she’s nuts “

And everyone agreed.

Delia never actually saw the L & M people racing to the clock but on some days she thought they looked more nervous and pale then on other days and she figured that must have been at about the time the clock was probably starting to wind down.

Then one day, even though she had nothing to drop off and no one had called in a pickup Delia went into the Office.

” Nothing to pick up? ” she asked Alstona.

” No. ” the Receptionist said.

Delia didn’t want to leave and she didn’t want to be there but for several nights Delia would wake up to the sound of ticking and she’d have to bite down hard on her lip to keep from screaming out loud.

So she decided to get this over with.

” It’s a joke…right? ” Delia asked.

” It certainly is ” a woman who sat directly behind Alstona said. She had heavy dark circles under her eyes and her blouse was inside out. ” It’s the funniest joke anyone could have ever come up with and I’m sick to death of it.”

Then a man said, ” I say we let it go…we just let go.”

Alstona turned around and she said, ” didn’t I say it would come to this?”

The six staffers nodded and Alstona looked up at Delia and nodded, ” it’s a joke and I’m going to end it. “

Then Alstona reached over picked up the clock and smashed it against her desk over and over until her hands were cut and bleeding and the clock was mashed flat.

” It’s over, right? ” Delia asked. ” The joke is over. “

Alstona said quiet as a Cemetery at Midnight, ” it certainly is.”

Outside a dark cloud crossed in front of the Sun then the ground shook just a little…

And that was

THE END

 

Mark Of The Penny Snatchers

” So you finally get to go on vacation, ” Chesa Appleway’s friend said to her at lunch. ” I can’t believe it. You on vacation. So. Where are you guys going?”

” To Seattle. ” Chesa said into her plate of Chilli-Fries.

” Well. That sounds nice ” Vicky said wondering why Chesa looked like she was going to Seattle for a funeral as opposed to Seattle which was at least six  States  away from work. ” Is it for a special occasion or …” Vicky snuck another look at the expression on Chesa’s face and thought- God, it has to be bad. but maybe it wasn’t so she asked, “I know you’re going to see that volcano- Mount Helen, right?”

” Mount Helen…geeze Vic is that all  you ever think about? It’s called Mount Saint Helens and we won’t be doing anything fun like walking up and down the side of a live volcano on this trip.”

” Oh no. ” Vicky could have pinched herself for being so dumb, of course it was for a Funeral or something like that- Chesa and Norbert never took vacations – Chesa and Norbert owned the biggest, the most well known Coffin making company in the United States. Those two were always working and if they weren’t working they were thinking about working.

” So why the trip? ” Vicky asked quietly, gently.

” It’s Norbert’s 40 year High-school Reunion.”

Both women looked at each other for a minute and then burst into tears.

” Oh God. I’m sorry Chesa. ” Vicky gave her friend’s sagging shoulders a hug. ” I am so sorry.”

 

Later, Chesa had to admit that the four days in Seattle weren’t her worst days, maybe not the best but they were far from being the worst.

Most of Norbert’s classmates enjoyed telling her stories about the Norbert they used to know and in turn they seemed happy to hear Chesa’s stories which more or less confirmed that Norbert  was indeed still Norbert.

Norbert still liked to read History books for fun, he still sang in a rock band on the weekends and he still drove to slow on the freeways- which meant he still got pulled over a lot because nothing looks more suspicious to a Cop then a sports car going to slow on a practically empty road.

And the one thing you could count on was that the roads Norbert drove on were going to empty because Norbert hated to drive in heavy traffic.

” Good old Norbert ” they said separately and together ” he’s still the same good old Norbert. “

 

So it was the night of dinner / dance down at waterfront when Chesa, Norbert and some of his friends stopped into a tourist shop that featured a Mummy, a collection of shrunken heads and a machine that flattened pennies that Chesa really did learn something new about Norbert- something that she never thought he would do.

Norbert was a member of a secret club.

 Chesa learned about the Club just after she and Norbert and some of his friends were all looking at the Shrunken Heads collection together. Chesa moved down to take a look at a two headed calf  and when she turned around a few minutes later she saw Norbert, Mark, Keith, Tony and Darren standing there in front of the Penny Flattening  Machine looking slightly embarrassed and a little guilty.

Norbert said, ” well if we had used this thing it would have saved us a lot of trouble.”

” What do you mean? ” Chesa asked.

” I mean, ” Norbert held his right hand up ” I could have been a Piano player AND a singer.

” What do pennies have to do with you not having the tops of two of your fingers?”

Darren looked around and said almost in a whisper, ” we were part of a secret Society called  ‘The Penny Snatchers’ “

” You lost your fingers stealing pennies Norbert ? Good. That was stupid. If you were going to steal money you should have at least gone for nickles. Maybe even…dimes.”

” No- ” Keith took her by her elbow and leaned down and whispered into her ear, ” we used to go down to the tracks on King Street and put pennies under the trains wheels while the trains were parked and right after they flattened them we’d snatch them off the tracks before the next set of wheels came along. They cars were moving slow at that point. Most of the time.”

” That.Is.The. Dumbest. Thing. That. Anyone.Has. Ever. Done.”

” Yeah. Well, we were kids. We were eight years old when we started  The Club. We cared more about that then being in the Boy Scouts even” Darren said as he started to go through the change in his pocket.

” Why on Earth did you do that?”

”  For the dare” Norbert said defensively “and we collected flattened pennies. Those things were valuable.”

 Invaluable ” The Penny Snatchers said all at once.

And then they heartily agreed at the tops of their  lungs with each other and just in time remembered to lower their voices. Fifty years may have gone by since the first official meeting of the Penny Snatchers, but from the looks on their faces it could have been two hours ago.

Chesa rolled her eyes upwards at the comments that followed about bravery it took to be a Penny Snatcher and the cool comics and candy you could trade your flattened pennies for. And as Chesa looked down and considered what to say to that she noticed that Norbert wasn’t the only one of the Penny Snatchers with missing fingers.

” Whose stupid idea was this penny snatching thing? “

Mark raised his hand and smiled. “Guilty.”

Norbert and the other guys – who had indeed bought some flattened pennies from the Machine started to walk towards the front of the store.

Chesa and Mark were left standing alone by the Penny Flattening Machine and a shelf full of soaps set with scorpions and leeches- plastic ones Chesa guessed.

” For real, this was all about collecting flattened pennies?” Chesa demanded.

 Mark held his hands up in mock self defense and Chesa saw he still had all of  his fingers still attached to his hand,  ” I wasn’t there to collect pennies.”

At The Bottom Of The Stairs

When I was little my  family told story about a girl who used to live in my Great Grandmother’s House.

She disappeared one day, the story goes, and the neighbors were sure her Mother had something to do with that and that her Father  buried her in their basement.

That’s why my Great Grandmother got the house so cheap, that story apparently drove the price down.

In addition to the neighbors told that story to keep the curious from putting as much as a single toe on the property. The place was after all notorious.

Here’s the thing about my Great Grandmother- should put her toes wherever the heck she wanted and so my Great Grandmother bought the house- for next to nothing  –  and as the years went on my family would talk about how they should really dig around down there to find out once and for all if that story was true.

My six year old self used questions about the girl.

 What was her name? What grade was she in and did she like cats? Did she like McDonald’s french fries and of course…

” Is she a ghost?” I used to ask hopefully.

” No. ” I was told

” But she could be buried down there, right?”

” Could be.” I was informed.

Just before she unexpectedly died I was over at my Great Grandmother’s house. I was in her sitting room playing these little glass animals you used to get for free in boxes of Red Rose Tea when I had a great idea.

Why don’t I just put the little animals back on their shelf and go dig that girl up? I’d never seen a real human skeleton before and I figured this was my last chance to see one- it was an odd feeling but I remember just knowing I wouldn’t’ be back again.

So I put one of the little animals ( it was a dog ) in my pocket for company and headed to the pantry where the door to the basement was.

I went into the kitchen and opened the basement door and was halfway down the dark  stairway to the basement when I remembered to turn the light on.

So I ran back up the stairs and straight into my Great Grandmother.

” What are you doing down there? ” she asked.

” Nothing. ” I said with disappointment.

” You were going down there after that body, weren’t you.”

” Well…”

” Your going to break your neck running up and down those stairs in the dark. I don’t want you going down there again. Am I making myself clear? Those stairs are dangerous.  You could get yourself killed running on them like that.”

I stared back at her and didn’t answer.

My Great Grandmother’s eyes, which were green and I swear to God they glowed like a cats, took in the look on my face.

She walked to her kitchen table, pulled out a chair and carried it to the kitchen window that overlooked her backyard.

” Come here. “

I walked over to the chair and she lifted me up and stood me on it. Then she pointed to a small group of her favorite rose bushes that she had planted to an existing  small rose garden years ago just after she moved into her house.

I looked up into her face and she nodded.

” Now stay out of the basement. Mind me. Those  stairs are dangerous.”

My Great Grandmother died a little while later. I still have that little glass dog. And her house was actually moved years later. I guess it was some kind of architectural wonder. I can’t remember if it was because of who built it but it had something to do with it being built to look like a ship inside- which was true.

The basement I assume was filled in when they redeveloped the property and they  put up two new single story homes where her beautiful Victorian styled home used to be.

But the Rose garden is still there.