Saturday, June 21, 2008

Who is Esther May Morrow?

If you fancy a time travel treat, here's a short story anthology with a most unique flavour...

Who is Esther May Morrow? Why is it that her strange shop, resembling something out of medieval England, has remained unchanged from the nineteenth to the twenty-third century. What is she selling? And who will come to buy...?

Stories in this collection feature a professional cardsharp with a dark secret; an old man, his dying dog, and a chance for immortality; a vengeful Marine and a special pocket watch; and a celebrated male prostitute and his unrequited love…for Olivia de Havilland!

Eerie, amusing and always original, these stories address the personal journeys of five haunted individuals, for whom quirks of time shed new light on their dilemmas. No one who enters Esther May’s shop is ever the same again.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Miss Olivia:

Reclining, deflating against his stack of pillows after a long day, he smiled as her familiar profile came to life. The backdrop only fidgeted, but Olivia herself, arguably at her most ravishing, began to walk toward him with breathtaking fluidity. She hoisted her dress slightly to prevent it snagging on the uneven ground. She watched her footing over stiff clumps of grass. Her smile bloomed into sweet dimples whenever she looked up. And as Olivia stood within inches of him—the close-up of all close-ups—he turned to walk with her. A beautiful, innocent piece of programming. Courtesy of Sexual Fantasies, Inc.

Rex tapped the pause button with Miss Olivia staring directly at him. What a remarkable technology, he thought, that inks in the pixels to approximate beauty. Her round, angelic face, flush cheeks, big eyes, butter-wouldn’t-melt smile with a hint of naughtiness behind the teeth. The visor had got her exactly right in every detail. Except one.

It wasn’t really Olivia.

And Rex was in love with the real Olivia.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Gin Rummy:

Horace Exeter didn’t like to lose.

From the moment he strolled into the Francis Drake, his waistcoat pocket bulging with wealth that was not his, he set about weighing up the competition. A blurry-eyed threesome emptying a pint apiece near the far window? Heck no, they were far gone, animated only by the cartoon gestures of a giddy colleague. They wouldn’t last two rounds—either beer or cards. A well-dressed couple lost between glances in a silent love charade? Hmm, slim pickings, he thought.

“Anything for you, sir?” asked the barkeep, ever so politely.

“Three gins. Make one a double, and you can point me to the third.”

The barkeep laughed. “Right you are, sir,” he said. “That’s the game just there—that table facin’ the far window. Gins…gin rummy...I’ll ’ave to remember that one.”

“Much obliged,” Horace replied curtly.


He’d always despised the quick-to-make-friends, particularly those with one hand in a till drawer. A smile cost nothing, so why should that suggest it was worth anything? He’d never understood why businessmen were so well-respected in a community. Their sole purpose was to relinquish others of wealth. Any benefit to the community was incidental. They were beneath contempt because they knew not of their crime. Larceny. Purveyors of platitudes, robbers with the law behind them.

At least I know I’m a son of a bitch, he thought, grinning. Time to ply a few platitudes of my own. Here’s to larceny!

With a flick of his chin, he downed the double gin.

Amber light from ship lanterns hanging in each alcove combined well with the varnished mahogany tables and plush maroon carpet to give an authentic period vibe. It was 1899, but to Horace, it felt more like 1599.

Whatever the century, they’re about to be fleeced.

And here’s a quick excerpt from Cretaceous:

“Come with me,” she said, untying her apron and nodding him toward the curtain door. Her small, slim figure and prematurely veined hands suggested to Vincent she’d spent a lifetime washing up, doing housework, being run off her feet.

Very chirpy, though. A lot like my Esther...just not in looks.

Rows of shelves greeted him as he ducked under the low doorframe into the shop. Dozens of wooden shelves, items upon them neatly arranged in a Sunday morning, bric-a-brac sort of way. Without his glasses, he couldn’t see the contents in much detail, but those he could discern—a Bedouin headscarf, a violin bow, a beige fedora hat, an old copy of the Bible, a futuristic-looking crystal clock—tickled his curiosity.

“What business are you in, Esther?” he asked, inhaling a gorgeous smell of fresh pastry from a shelf behind the counter labelled “something...something...Pies.”

“Buy or borrow. I’m in the time business,” she replied.

He leaned in, straining his old eyes for a closer look at the label.

Hmm...Fresh-Baked Pies.

“Buy or borrow? What’s that when it’s at home?” he queried. In seventy years of car boot sales, flea markets, and what have you, he thought he’d seen every kind of money-raising idea known to man. But “buy or borrow”?

Esther smiled and beckoned him over to another shelf set along the back wall, one full of coloured bottles. Vincent thought it resembled something from a Victorian pharmacy or perhaps even older than that, an apothecary’s stash.

“What’s this buy or borrow?” he asked again, softer this time as he stood beside her.

“It’s exactly as it sounds. You say whether you’d like to keep an item or rent it, and then make us an offer. It’s very rare we refuse.”

“Fair enough.” Vincent smiled, instantly dubious of the whole idea.

Esther’s snowy-white skin contrasted with the colours of viscous liquids across three jam-packed rows of glass bottles. her, he thought, glancing approvingly at the woman who’d saved his life.
Thanks to the lovely Ginger for letting me share these stories. Till the next time, keep an eye out when you go never know what Esther May Morrow's Buy or Borrow might be selling.
Arthur Everest

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