Bill's challenge was to write a short story that one or more of his photos of Puget Sound inspired. I chose all three of his photos to create my story: The Street Clock; the Mansion; the Bair Museum. (I added my own photo at the closing paragraph.) One of the challenges in writing this flash fiction short was maintaining the street clock's tone of narration when I decided to use the clock as the storyteller from his point of view, while not including any dialogue that I love to write.
I took the liberty of combining a few facts with a lot of fiction in 'Street Clock Green.' It was fun. Thank you, Bill.
Street Clock Green
My home is in an old small town off of Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest. I've stood here for over thirty years embedded in streetscape pavement, immutable as the cast iron tower that holds me. My face is luminous-round like the moon, with hands that summon and guide the wanderers of time. Solitary but not alone, I have many friends in neighboring cities and towns. Some are more ornate, taller or older than others. Yet locals, tourists and strays still find comfort in our mystic beacons of the past, and the sureness of the heart that beats -- melodious or silent. We whisper to each other in the small hours of the morning. You may have heard us on the wind or in your dreams. For we are the clock watchers...and oh, the stories we could tell.
Aside from our wonderful vistas of blue water, something else distinguishes my coastal community: Ghosts. I can see them at night and hear them during the day. You would be surprised to learn how many revenants linger in your world.
To the right of my view of Puget Sound rests a stately Victorian mansion, painted street clock green. It has borne many enterprises over the years, including a bed and breakfast once owned by Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Pugsley.
What is not commonly known -- at least, not on the fleshly plane of the living -- is that Samuel murdered his wife, Katherine. Like the salt-sea air, the energy of the ill-departed can seep furtively into the surrounding walls. Kate sought refuge there as she imposed her revenge. Swathed in white, she would float in the air near the ceiling along the hallways. Her vaporous image and mournful wails soon spurred the hasty departure of her husband's guests.
She has since journeyed through the welcoming gateways of Heaven. Samuel was never called. Having little tolerance for the social norms, after his death, he would make his presence known by causing parts of his decaying torso to materialize in the main foyer. He has mellowed in recent decades. The current owners are wise to shrug off the occasional scratching sounds in the attic, the cold drafts, the sporadic flickering of lights. It is fortunate they cannot see the red coals of Samuel's eyes.
The wanderers of time should never engage the uninvited, no matter how ardent and taunting their overtures may seem. To do so gives them the power they seek to possess the living, growing inside -- slowly, imperceptibly -- until they become replicants of their former selves. I have seen this happen.
To the left of my view of The Sound rests the Bair Drug and Hardware Museum. Originally built in 1895, the pharmacy was expanded with the addition of a hardware store, post office and soda fountain. The white clapboard building is now a museum, managed by members of a local historical society who lease the rear section to the owners of a cozy bistro.
The founder, Warren Bair, was a kindly man. Meticulous by nature, he spent many hours attending to his cherished business. I know this because he is still there. Fearing that his mark upon the world would be erased if he moved on, he preferred instead to define his presence by a different clock. And he is not alone. After his daughter, Mary, succumbed to pneumonia, rather than traveling to the higher spiritual realm, her heart chose another path...to remain behind with the father she loved.
Nocturnal in their endeavors, Warren busies himself with wiping imaginary dust from the old potbelly stove or adjusting bottles on the fountain counter-top. Mary prefers kitchen tasks that afford other tactile stimulation such as polishing the bistro cutlery.
Dramas do occur. One evening, a tourist entered the museum with a large and unruly Sheepdog tethered to a leash. Appalled at her impertinence, Warren shot a blast of hot breath down the back of the woman's neck. He chuckled quietly as she fled the establishment in a tight-lipped panic, dragging the bewildered dog behind her. Mary was not amused. She later scolded her father for his behavior by scorching bagels on the bistro grill. The offensive odor lingered throughout his prized soda fountain for hours.
Such family squabbles are rare and fleeting, however. More often, their silent presence speaks through other mediums -- the restaurant chairs that overturn themselves into tidy huddles, the scent of cinnamon that warms the morning air. Both owners and patrons accept these odd happenings with the same spirit of humor and grace they are intended.
My stories must come to a close for now. The sun grows frail on the horizon and the whispers will soon begin. How pleasant it is to watch the ocean coax the molten gold and copper from the sky.
I have enjoyed our visit together, and wish you well on your journey and choice of paths. My name is Horatius. Perhaps we shall meet again -- either here, on the wind or in your dreams. Only time will tell.
(Although the Bair Museum is reputed to be haunted, the local historical society and Bair Bistro do not endorse such events by members of the Bair family. These stories are purely fiction. The names, Samuel and Katharine Pugsley, are products of the author's imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.)
2020 Genna Eastman
© 2020 Genna East