At the Trolley Station
The day started off pretty good. I earned a coupla quats shovelin’ out some alleyways over Palisades way and then met up with Tubby who was just kickin’ about lookin’ for something to do. The two of us decided to take a trolley to Clockhaven to see all the snowmen everyone was talkin’ about.
Then Mr. Petharic come by and we all chatted right nice until Tubby seen a baby carriage on the tracks and then the trolley started coming way too fast and it was going to kill a baby – if there was a baby in the carriage onna counta we didn’t know.for certain.
Mister Petharic went off on some mumbo jumbo of the sort he does from time to time then all of a sudden he snaps to his senses and runs off toward the baby carriage onna counta he was tryin’ to beat the trolley. He almost made it too, but the streets was a bit too slippy and slidey. And just as he gets to where he was goin’ and knocks the baby carriage outta the way he gets himself smashed full on by the trolley and knocked to the side of the tracks.
It’s a right pity that I have to tell you there weren’t no baby in that carriage and poor Mister Petharic got himself hit by a trolley for nought. It were them dumb workers that was huddlin’ on the secondary track that was playing a prank is all. But more on that in a minute.
I ran as fast as I could to see if Mister Petharic were okay but he weren’t. He were a far cry from okay. “
HE AIN”T BREATHIN’ TUBBY!” I scream out. “And I don’t feel no pulse in his neck! WHAT DO I DO?”
“You gotta do the seepy arse on him,” says Tubby. Right knowledgeable bugger, that Tubby but in times of stress I forget all kinds of stuff and need it repeated.
“I don’t know how to do the seepy arse!” I tell him. “I ain’t never done no seepy arse. You give him the seepy arse.”
“No way!” Tubby protested. “That bugger was going to throw me under the trolley.”
“Oh, Come on! He weren’t never gonna do that,” I says ‘cause I want to clarify that Mister Petharic is no bad guy.“He was just sayin’ that stuff onna counta he wants me to think outside of the box.”
“What box?” Tubby asks.
“How am I supposed to know?” I shrug. “He didn’t never say which box.”
Sometimes I imagine Mister Petharic comes from a place where all the people live in little boxes or something crazy like that; and there’s no door handles in this world neither so all these folks is trapped in their little boxes unless they think their way out of ‘em somehow. That’s why he wants me to learn to think outside the box.
“Johnny, I can’t do it.” Tubby says to me. “That guy looks pretty dirty and I got asthma. If he’s got germs I’m going to get sick for Christmas. Besides you don’t get sick anymore since that crazy, old Dunsany doctor messed with your munisystem – so you can’t catch a cold offa him even if he’s snotty.”
“Alright, alright already,” I says. I mighta sounded gruff onna counta I’m still friggin upset about that crazy old Doctor Joe sticking needles in my arm and fillin’ me with morlock serum. It weren’t the kinda serum that turns me into a morlock, which is a good thing, but it don’t let me get sick neither. It’s been a curse. I can’t beg in front of no more Sunday churches to maximum effect onna counta that.
More important right now, though is I’m really scared that my friend is gonna die again. And even if he comes back, like he does, he’s always a little different. Remembering some things and not others. Maybe it’s spending time in New Babbage that makes him different, who can rightly say on such matters? It’s just really weird and really sad at the same time. And so now I’m feelin’ kinda frantic.
“Hurry up and tell me what to do, Tubby?” I says, focussin’ now on Mister Petharic.
“First you plug up his nostrils with your fingers and then you blow in his mouth.” says Tubby, puffing up his cheeks in demonstration. “After that we both beat on his chest with our fists until he wakes up.”
“Okay,” I say, then I take a deep breath. “Here I go.”
Now listen, I’m gonna skip tellin’ the next little part onna counta Mister Petharic had words for us that weren’t too nice when he come to and found us beatin’ on his chest with our fists.
One thing I’ll tell you though, when he come too Mister Petharic was totally out of it.
“You was dead, Mister Petharic, but me and Tubby brung you back.” At first I wasn’t sure it worked, he still seemed a little touched in the head. He was saying all kinds of weird stuff like:
It’s as though I can’t shake the sensation that some vague yet disturbing dream holds me locked in a cell of confusion.
Me n Tubby thought thought it was kinda cuckoo but then we started to get nervous onna counta the six worker guys who was loiterin’ on the secondary track turned out to be bad guys. Like I said, they was the ones that put that carriage on the tracks just to play a prank but now they was comin’ over and they looked like they meant to rob Mister Petharic.
“You’re a tough bugger,” one of the workmen says. He was a grim fella in a green sweater and he didn’t look too pleasant, not one little bit. “Glad you wasn’t hurt too bad on account of our little prank.” But the way he talked I could tell he didn’t mean it, you know how you can just sense that sort of thing? His kind of guy is the kind that always makes me nervous when they are around and always makes me mad when they ain’t.
“You put that baby carriage on the tracks!” I shout out right loud onna counta I’m really, really upset. “Only complete asses would do such a thing!”
“Watch your mouth kid or you are going to get a smack in the jaw.” The guy makes a back hand gesture like he’s gonna hit me.
Then Mister Petharic done something that I don’t know how he done it but I saw it with my own eyes so it’s true. He shot all six men one after the other all with a bullet in the leg. Bang, bang, bang. He done it so fast none of them buggers had a chance to move before they fell to the ground clutchin’ their legs and cryin’ out for mercy.
“You are lucky that prank you pulled didn’t result in the injury of either of those boys behind me.” said Petharic as he holstered one pistol then drew a second. “Otherwise, I would have shot every last one of you in the spleen so you could watch each other bleed to death in the snow. Now, let’s not hear any more tales of carriages on rail lines. I know what each of you look like. If I even hear rumours of baby carriages on trolley lines I’ll find you eventually. Do you understand what I am saying?”
It was a right solemn moment and no one spoke not a word for the longest time. Then the bugger in the green sweater that had seemed right nasty earlier started to groan onna counta it looked like his leg were broke right through the bone.
“You there in the green.” says Mister Petharic. “Those are nice boots. You don’t look like you will be needing them for awhile. What size are your feet?”
At the Break of Day
Petharik shook his head, trying to clear the lingering sensation of some vague yet disturbing dream that continued to lock him in a cell of confusion. He needed water or the day would start with a headache. There was a package on the floor by the door. An agent had been by during the night.
Almost as though he had no free will he felt himself rise to cross the room and retrieve the large manila envelope. He read the name written boldly in black across the front. It identified the city where the target could be located.
“So who are we looking for in New Babbage?” said Petharik as he broke the seal and removed the contents of the envelope. “Two targets? That is unusual.”
The first target was as he expected, Emerson Lighthouse had been a pain in everyone’s ass long enough. It was only a matter of time before he went too far. But the second target had to be a mistake. It looked to be a child. Petharik read the name. ‘Johnny Dawkins,’ something about that name seemed familiar. He looked at the picture again but whatever sense of deja vu had held him started to lift.
“Johnny Dawkins,” he repeated again but the significance it may have held was lost. He folded the picture and slipped it into his waistcoat pocket. “What did you do, see or hear to warrant a death sentence?”