The Devil’s Day

calm

© Sue Vincent

Everybody calls me the Devil, and right now I wish I really was, because the only way I’m gonna save little 10-year-old Gracie Budd’s life is to stop a real Devil. Hard to believe, it being so quiet, green, and peaceful out here, but I ain’t got much time if I’m going to stop Albert Fish from killing and eating poor Gracie.

How the hell did I get myself in this mess? No, I didn’t do it. Maybe God did it. I don’t know. All I know is that I’m a 16-year-old printer’s devil named Timothy Patrick Quinn, and on April 13, 1928, I started hearing radio messages from the future.

One reason they call me “devil” is because that’s my job. I’m a printer’s devil, an apprentice in the print shop under old Shamus MacPherson at the New York Post. Been doing that since I was 12, mainly mixing tubs of ink and sorting metal type in the hellbox, putting those fit to be used again back in the job case, and melting down the broken bits.

Our foreman, Grady Owens brought a brand new All American Mohawk Lyric S50 radio right into the shop, saying it would help us boys pass the time a bit easier. Had to turn the sound way up on account of all the noise from the printers, but we got to hear berries tunes like “Cow Cow Blues,” “A Gay Caballero,” and “Sonny Boy.”

I could even hear it on the dock while having a smoke with the loaders and the colored Joes who swept up the place. Even the old truckers respected me on account of my bouts at Clancy’s Boxing Gym. I’ve always been big for my age, and ever since I was a tyke, I liked mixing it up with the guys.

I get over to Clancy’s whenever I can. He says I’ve got potential, says I fight hard enough to knock out the Devil himself, which is another reason they call me that. Turns out, though, I’d have to earn that name in a different way, even if it damn near killed me.

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Seven Weeks of the Devil

hell's kitchen

Hell’s Kitchen in the 1920s – This file is licensed under a free license.

I was working as a printer’s devil for old man MacPherson, me, an Irish boy of only sixteen, but it was good pay, through my hands became black as night as I sorted the cast metal type in the hellbox and put ’em back in the job case. I’d gotten used to the noise, but in order to kill the monotony, Grady Owens, the chief printer, set up a radio so we could listen to music and the news, though he had to turn the volume up pretty high.

I figured I’d do my hitch at MacPherson’s, learn my way around the trade, then move up to something more substantial. Occasionally, he’d have me move heavy reams of newsprint, but I didn’t mind. Gave me a chance to wash my hands, then have a smoke with the other boys and men on the dock before putting my back into it. Even the older Joes respected me on account of my bouts at Clancy’s on the weekends. Clancy says I’ve got potential, box like the devil, which is another reason they call me that name.

I’ve always been big for my age, which causes Ma fits because she keeps having to let the hem out of my trouser legs.

For a long while, I didn’t have a clue that what I was hearing on the radio was different than everyone else. While they were listening to “Cow Cow Blues,” “A Gay Caballero,” and “Sonny Boy,” I was hearing nothing but the news. That wouldn’t be too unusual, but I’d get all kinds of news, from different days, and weeks, and months, all in the same hour.

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12:04 p.m.

broken time

“What the hell? It happened again.”

“What’s that, Jase?”

Jason McClure continued to look at his watch with a puzzled expression on his face.

“I said my watch did it again. Says it’s 12:04 p.m.”

Val was finishing the last of the sushi rolls in the kitchen, getting ready for the kids to come over for dinner.

“It’s broken, Jase. It was your Dad’s watch, remember? Who knows how old it is.”

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