PROSE

She had only one friend in all this town. It stayed still, it didn’t dance, that was one thing in its favor. And it was always on hand, night after night, seeming to say: “Buck up, kid, you’ve only got another hour to go. You can do it, you’ve done it before.” And then in a little while: “Hang on tight, kid; another thirty minutes now, that’s all. I’m working for you.” And then finally: “Just once more around the floor, kid. Time’s up now. Just one more complete turn, and your sentence has been commuted for tonight. Just once more around, you can last that long, don’t cave in now; look, my minute-hand’s muscling in on my hour-hand. I’ve done it again for you, I’ve gotten you off. By the time you get back this way it’ll be one o’clock.”

It seemed to say those things to her every night. It never let her down. It was the only thing in the whole town that gave her a break. It was the only thing in all New York that was on her side, even if only passively. It was the only thing in all the endless world of her nights that had a heart.

Deadline at Dawn, by William Irish (Cornell Woolrich)