Art by Norman E. Masters
in the night, a guitar was being strummed softly."
from PARADISE PLAYLAND
Mr. Anderson was a small pale man who early every morning during the summer season could be seen rolling down the old and faded awning of the small must-odored shop which he owned, NATHAN'S NOVELTY SHOPPE.
Jody remembered how slowly he moved and how he looked in his white shirt with the faint blue stripes underneath a shiny black satin vest, sitting on the porch of the shop in his rocker in the dim rose twilight, so pale that from a distance he looked like a faded flower which had merely been painted onto the rocker after being cut out from one of his sister's paper doll books. He was very quiet in the evenings as he sat there, nothing moving except one spidery hand, the faint tip of a cigar pearling.
He talked to Jody of many things.
One night he drew a muffin-thick watch from his pocket. "See the brand name?" he asked Jody.
"Yeah," Jody said, squinting.
"This is the watch that made the dollar famous," he said, drawing on his cigar. "'Cept they made it too famous. People after a while began to associate their name with the dollar watch. Result : their higher-priced watches didn't sell."
"Gee, Mr. Anderson," Jody said, "I never thought of it that way before."
And of life:
He didn't want his life to be uncertain, as everyone's was bound to be. It was not neat and meticulous, but had a lot of painful jagged edges, edges which when his wife had died had almost made him want to... He wanted to do things precisely and then not worry about them... Clockwise, as it were.
Almost every Sunday morning during the summer Jody helped Mr. Anderson make ice cream in an old-fashioned ice cream freezer. The color of the freezer made it look as if it had been painted with melted snow which had been found along the railroad tracks. Jody fastened the clothespin in the top of the tall cool silvery cylinder after he had poured in the smooth thick warm yellow liquid made from a dishpanful of milk and Junket mix. Then, around the cylinder, he poured in the chopped ice which he'd gotten from the coal company on the way back from Sunday School.
Putting the slitted cover on, Jody cranked the handle for a good half hour.
And finally, the best part -- taking off the cover, pushing the cracked ice away carefully and removing the cylinder cover; then lifting out the dasher and cleaning it off with a big spoon. Sound of spoon against wooden dasher and on all the little turns and twirls of metal. How cool the cylinder felt when he carried it in to the icebox and the damp mark it made up the front of his t-shirt.
One time there was a clock set upon a counter of Nathan's Novelty Shoppe.
It was a small glass-enclosed clock of china with two small people and a mechanical band (piano, violin and bass drum) on it. The clock played upon the hour :
"Just a song at twilight|
When the lights are low
And the flick'ring shadows
Softly come and go..."
The man and woman were miniature relics of a bygone day; he smoking a tiny, just visible, cigarette (it seemed as though you could almost smell it) and wearing a straw hat, bow tie, pin-stripe suit and button-up shoes. The lady, in an old-fashioned hat and dress, wore upon her finger a cameo ring, ivory.
The band played: the bass drum beat, the violin scraped, the piano played, and the man and woman danced in small twirling circles, stopping and returning to their positions a minute later, still for another fifty-nine minutes.
It was nearly autumn that year, almost time to close PARADISE PLAYLAND for another season. It always seemed like the saddest time of the year. There was the soft spill of light from the concessions along the boardwalk trailing out softly across the sand, leaving no jagged edges. There were fires along the beach, and somewhere in the night, a guitar was being strummed softly.
"That's a nice clock," Jody said, looking out toward the playland through the open door.
"Sure is," Mr. Anderson said. "Made in Switzerland."
"Yep. In 1892."
"Gee, that's sure nice."
"Would you like to have it?"
"Gosh, yeah. How much? I can give it to my mother for her birthday next month."
"Take it with you. It's yours."
"Thanks, Mr. Anderson," Jody said, placing his hands tenderly on the glass case. "Thanks a lot." He picked it up admiringly.
"One thing about that clock. It's never been a minute slow. Tells time exactly. Worth more'n a lotta people."
The next morning was when the OUT OF BUSINESS sign was tacked on the front door and the door itself was locked. Jody went in through the cellar door and up into the kitchen, where there was no mess at all. The dishes had all been washed and neatly stacked in the cupboard. On the table was a note from him :
There is a little ice cream left. Finish
it if you wish. I hope your mother enjoys
the clock. This life at least had no
Wondering, Jody pushed open the door into Mr. Anderson's bedroom, where he had never been before. The body was lying very neatly in the center of the bed. And then he was running. That afternoon he went out on Paradise Lake and lay floating on an inner tube, still a little afraid because there was something so very frightening about the way Mr. Anderson's eyes had been fixed on his thick pocket watch which was slowly revolving; first clockwise, then counter-clockwise, clockwise and then counter-clockwise, clockwise...
[pp. 4 - 7, PARADISE PLAYLAND by Paul Powlesland, NO-EYED MONSTER #17, Summer 1969]