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Billy at One O'clock-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
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Paid in Full-Fiction by Bill Baber
Is Today the Day?-Fiction by Thomas X. Cross
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dear tom-Poem by Meg Baird
the canvas-Poem by Meg Baird
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Green Grass-Poem by Ian C. Smith
No Joke-Poem by Ian C. Smith
a soft landing-Poem by JJ Campbell
going through the motions-Poem by JJ Campbell
the shotgun still rests in the corner-Poem by JJ Campbell
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death loves the deep-space pirate-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
robotic mistress-Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

83_ym_billy_afknott.jpg
Art by A. F. Knott 2020

Billy at One o'clock

 

by Kenneth J. Crist

                                            

 

"I really can't find anything wrong with the clock, Mr. Bascombe," the man at the Tick Tock Doc said, "it seems to work fine whenever it's here. Just make sure you hang it perfectly level." He smiled at me and added, "No charge this time."

My friend Billy had brought me the clock a few weeks before his death on Christmas day, 2011, and this was the third trip to the repair shop. I didn't yet realize what was going on, but I was starting to get a glimmer.

Billy was one of my good friends. I wouldn't go so far as to say that he was my best friend, but in my small circle of friends, he was right up there near the top. We had been policemen together, in the old days, when they still let you be a cop, rather than a social worker. We both retired from the police department and took other jobs to make up the difference, until we were ready to really retire. We shared an interest in motorcycles and we had ridden through all forty-eight of the lower states, at one time or another, and we had done Canada, too. Twice.

   It made me pretty sad when I found out Billy was dying. He called me one day in April and of course, he didn't say, "Harry, I'm dying.", or anything dramatic like that. He just said he'd been diagnosed with cancer and it was already in his liver, stomach, chest and lymph nodes. In other words, he was dying.

   He took the chemotherapy and he had good weeks and bad weeks. He was vulnerable to a lot of secondary infections, a touch of flu here, a cold there, and they all took their toll.

During the time he was sick, I saw Billy a lot. More than usual, actually. I'd go over to his place and just sit with him, and we'd talk. Usually just small talk and talking about where we'd ride to, when he got well. We both knew it was all a load of crap, but we still did it. One thing about him, he never lost his sense of humor, or his ready smile. He thought it somewhat funny that he'd been a motor cop for so many years, had done so much dangerous riding, and now he was most likely going to die in bed.

   One day, about six weeks before he died, we talked about death and what happens and where you go. Billy believed in an afterlife, not the standard Heaven and Hell stuff of religion, but something entirely different. Billy believed that this life on Earth was like the middle stage in the life of a butterfly, just a phase we have to go through to get to our final stage, and that death was just a transition. Or maybe he was just whistling past the graveyard. Anyway, that was what I thought then. As for myself, I didn't have much in the way of beliefs, so I was pretty much open-minded.

Anyway, at some point, probably quite a few beers into a thoroughly maudlin evening, Billy and I made a pact. He told me that after he died, he would let me know if there was anything over there. He said he would come back, if he could, or send word, or give me a sign, if nothing else. I went along with this more to humor him than anything and of course, he also made the stipulation that if I preceded him in death, I would do the same for him. Well, it could happen. I ride motorcycles a lot and you never know.

About three weeks before he died, Billy stopped by my place and gave me the old German clock. It had hung above his fireplace mantel for years. I had always admired it, as much for its simplicity as for its beauty and he wanted me to have it. In a lot of ways, it was a strange clock.

Billy was kind of a collector of clocks and he had bought this one at a garage sale for eighty bucks from somebody who had no idea what it was worth. Like I say, it was old. So old, in fact, that its interior works were all held together with tapered steel pins, driven into holes in the rod stock that the gears were mounted on. No screws. No bolts. Just those pins. The case was of oak and it had three bevel-glass windows in the lower half, to show the brass pendulum. It had two winding holes, one for the clock itself and one for the single chime, that struck the hour and half-hour.

It also had no manufacturer's marks. No numbers, letters, or dates. Nothing. Billy had taken it to a clock repair place, and they told him who made it and about what year, but I've forgotten all that, if I ever even knew.

I hung the clock in my living room and kept it wound and learned to enjoy its deep, rich tone when it would chime the hour.

Billy died on Christmas Day, at one in the morning. His wife and two of his kids were there with him and they say he went peacefully. I was glad of that, anyway. It had been painful for him at the end, so I was glad it was over.

I had trouble sleeping the next night and the day after the funeral, I took some time to myself and went on a ride. Because of the time of year, I rode south into Texas, to some of the places Billy and I had enjoyed, and I was gone five days. I have to admit that I stopped in one or two places and cried. That's hard for a man to say, but I did. When a good friend passes, you don't just miss him, you miss all the good times you had and all the good times you won't be having anymore, and you get a little peek at your own mortality.

 

When I got back from the trip, my wife told me to get my clock fixed. She said it wouldn't strike one o'clock. Everything else was fine. That seemed a little creepy to me, but then at one in the afternoon, it struck the hour and I thought she was probably imagining things, or she forgot to wind it.

I don't know why I woke up just before one in the morning, but at one o'clock, it failed to strike. I lay there for a while, thinking about Billy, and then I decided my wife was right and I'd take it to the repairman the next day.

At the "Tick Tock Doc," the repairman recognized the clock and I told him what was wrong. He said it was not uncommon for an old clock to stop chiming, and he'd check it out.

A week later, I got it back, with a sixty-dollar bill and the assurance that all was well. He'd cleaned it, oiled it, and adjusted everything, and his work was guaranteed.

Within a week, we once again noticed that it was back to skipping that 1 AM chime, so back to the shop it went. That was when I got it back with the admonition to be sure it was level.

 

 

   After a week went by, I found myself getting in the habit of waking up at one o'clock, to go to the bathroom and hear the clock not chime. Finally, when Sunday came around, the day we always wound the clock, I told my wife not to wind it. The constant reminder of Billy and the time of day he died was starting to bother me. The clock had an eight-day movement and on Monday it stopped running.

On Tuesday morning, at 1 AM, I was awake, and I heard the clock chime. I scrambled out of bed and went into the living room and gazed at the clock that Billy had given me. As I looked at it in the dim light of a single floor lamp, I felt the back of my neck prickle slightly. The pendulum was as still as death.

 

 

   It’s been four months since Billy passed on, and I still have his clock. It hasn't been wound since I gave up on it nine weeks ago. It still chimes once a day, at one o'clock in the morning, and I'm starting to get used to it, I think. Billy said he would get word to me, or send me a sign, and I'm getting the message loud and clear. The wife thinks we should sell the clock, but I think I'll keep it. Call it a Christmas present. Or, call it my assurance policy.

It assures me, once each day, that death is not the end of all things and that somewhere Billy is waiting for me, his smile and sense of humor intact.

Besides, Billy wanted me to have it, and Billy was one of my good friends. Maybe not my best friend, but he was right up there.

 “Billy at One o’clock” originally appeared in the April 1999 issue of Black Petals.


Kenneth James Crist is Editor Emeritus of Black Petals Magazine and is on staff at Yellow Mama ezine. He has been a published writer since 1998, having had almost two hundred short stories and poems in venues ranging from Skin and Bones and The Edge-Tales of Suspense to Kudzu Monthly. He is particularly fond of supernatural biker stories. He reads everything he can get his hands on, not just in horror or sci-fi, but in mystery, hardboiled, biographies, westerns and adventure tales. He retired from the Wichita, Kansas police department in 1992 and from the security department at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita in 2016. Now 76, he is an avid motorcyclist and handgun shooter. He is active in the American Legion Riders and the Patriot Guard, helping to honor and look after our military. He is also a volunteer driver for the American Red Cross, Midway Kansas Chapter. He is the owner of Fossil Publications, a desktop publishing venture that seems incapable of making any money at all. On June the ninth, 2018, he did his first (and last) parachute jump and crossed that shit off his bucket list.



A. F. Knott is a self-taught collage artist focused on book layout and book cover design as well networking in conjunction with Hekate Publishing, one of its missions, bringing together artist and writer. Sometimes seen selling in New York City's Union Square Park. Work can be found on 

flickr.com/photos/afknott/ Any exchange of ideas welcome: anthony_knott@hekatepublishing.com



In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020