CABB’s 2021

April 12th Challenge

EXTRAORDINARY VOICES

TIME TELLING

by JoAnn Baca

Seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won’t you stop and remember me
At any convenient time?

 

~ A Hazy Shade of Winter, Simon & Garfunkel

 

Because of how long I’ve been here, I’m the leader of our little sorority of broken clocks. I’m the oldest – and I like to think the wisest – of the timepieces in Vincent’s chamber. My sturdy hands, which haven’t pointed to the correct time since the 1960s, have been deliberately and firmly set for decades – little hand on the six, big hand on twenty-two past the hour. My hands don’t reflect a time, however, but a date: June 22. That was the month and day that Vincent’s brother Devin disappeared from Below, and from his life.

An odd-looking, broken-hearted youngster had rotated my arms to that date after he found me, dumped in the trash behind a stately old Manhattan mansion, my works irreparably damaged by an overly inquisitive child. I had been frightened, knowing that nothing that left that house in a trashcan ever made it back inside. But the tousled-haired stranger had cradled me so gently and he made a new home for me in a strange place below the city. It was much different than my previous residence, but I was content. He paid me more attention than my former owners who, even though they had a servant wind me regularly, hardly ever looked at me where I sat on a neglected shelf in their little-used library.

The boy, who I came to know was called Vincent, would gaze at me, his precious strange face screwed up and tears flowing from his pretty blue eyes, crying for someone named Devin. It was only after many weeks, when the man he called Father came to speak to him rather sternly about snapping out of his moodiness, that he had slowly stopped caressing my hands…but he still often gazed at me and whispered that name in sorrow, even as the years went by.

I was alone with him for some time, sitting on his bedside bookcase. A few years later, an unusual clock was found in a dumpster and rescued by the then-teenaged Vincent: a graceful dancer hidden inside it was supposed to pop up on the hour. It had once played music, too, but did no longer, and the dancer was frozen in place atop the ruined clock. Did its owner over-wind her and eventually break her? Perhaps.

Although she, like me, would never keep time again, she was as useful for his purposes as I have been. For my young Vincent turned her hands to reflect November 15: small hand at eleven o’clock and large hand at fifteen past. It was, we soon found out, the date that his ballerina friend Lisa had left their home in these hidden tunnels. Then the whole sad process was repeated: his tears were shed night after night until yet another visit from that grim-faced father of his.

Over the years, the adult Vincent rescued and set the hands on more adopted members of our growing sorority, each one given new life and worth by reflecting dates of importance to him. It took me some time to realize that all these dates were sad ones. A rather scratched and chipped old thing identified the date a one-time friend of Vincent’s, a man named Mitch, was sentenced to prison in the city Above. And later, an elegant carved mahogany timepiece with bent springs was brought to share our cluttered mantel after a beloved mentor, Old Pascal, died, the date of his passing honored by the hands of that ruined clock.

Yes, we represent sad moments. But each of us clocks is proud of her position, knowing how much Vincent cares for us – polishing each of us until we shine, sometimes even creating new tableaus with us in various spots in his chamber. And so very often he will gaze on us in remembrance, tears spilling from those amazing eyes of his, and we recall anew how precious those memories are that we symbolize.

The newest broken clock arrived soon after one special woman left his chamber. This Catherine, you see, had been hurt and was in pain, frightened and confused, and Vincent comforted her night and day. That period was one of the few times he neglected us, sparing us no glances, not even dusting us while she was here.

But after he led his Catherine away, he came back with the most lovely china clock. The poor creature had been hollowed out for use by her artist owner for a project that was later abandoned. Luckily for her, Vincent – walking aimlessly, in despair – happened upon her lying on her side, half hidden behind a dumpster, muddy, slightly chipped, her hands bent at odd angles. With his gentle touch, Vincent refurbished her face and body until she gleamed. Then he set her hands at 4:22, the date the woman he loved – the transfigured Catherine – had been returned to her own home. Another of his losses, but this one the worst of all. Our whole sorority mourned for Vincent, knowing that each of his tears encompassed a golden moment of time that could never be recaptured. He was bereft, and even that old man’s admonishments did nothing to curb his sadness.

Time passed. He polished us all faithfully, he stroked our hands and smiled forlornly at the memories we stirred. Most often, though, his gaze lingered on our newest sister. She seemed to wrench the deepest sighs from him, the most abundant tears. He re-arranged our positions so that she had pride of place and, in the depths of the night, he sometimes cradled her as he wept, his head down, his gorgeous long hair sweeping across her graceful hands.

Months went by. Then…something unexpected happened. Late one evening, Vincent swept into his chamber, walked right up to the china clock, and did something he had never done with any of us: he moved her hands! Her day and date erased to Noon, he pressed a kiss to her face…and promptly set her in a drawer, nestled atop a homespun nightgown that his Catherine had worn.

While we miss the company of the sister that had been with us so short a time, it thrills us that her loss to us means that someone our dear Vincent lost has again been found, that time for once did not stop on a parting, that he will no longer weep as many tears. He has no need of the memory that china clock represented, for his Catherine comes to see him now, fresh memories are made, and those azure eyes of his smile.

My greatest hope? To join my sister in that armoire drawer – for it will mean more happiness and less pain for my savior. May we all end our time so well.

 

1 Comment

  1. Beautiful and touching story but also full of hope for change for our Vincent for a happy life.
    I see here his care for things, his good heart, understanding, sensitivity, he deserves the best. Another wonderful story that I have not read. How good that now I have such an opportunity to catch up:)

    Reply

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