Watching & Waiting
Edward Rook woke in the grass and weeds at the base of the Broken Clock Tower. He placed his hands on his chest and breathed a deep breath and felt around for his heartbeat. He listened to the chattering birds at the Chattering Pond, and he looked up through the treetops and out into the new blue sky.
He considered his day.
Every morning, Edward lay in his makeshift bed and considered his day and wondered what to do. There were always two options:
Edward never knew which was the better choice.
Maybe I should stay, he thought, lie here and wait until the dark returns and I can sleep again and not have to remember.
Maybe, he thought. Or maybe I should get up and keep searching.
Edward searched for something he had lost. He had lost it somewhere nearby in the Park, and he had searched every day of every week of every month for nearly a year and still not found it.
It could be anywhere, he thought. Too much time has passed. I should give up.
I need a sign.
Edward looked around for a sign. The bushes and the weeds and the trees and the Tower all looked the same as they had the day before—and the day before that. He sighed.
Above him, a bird fluttered by with something blue wrapped about her neck, and she dipped and wobbled and flew into the treetops and disappeared.
Get up, or give up, thought Edward.
Give up, or get up?
As Edward lay there and considered his dilemma, he noticed a small, shiny object in the sky above him. The object appeared to be falling at great speed. It appeared to be falling toward him.
Edward realized that if he didn’t move, the small, shiny object would most likely hit him. Not only would it most likely hit him—it would most likely hit him on the head. And because Edward had not yet answered the question of whether or not he should get up, he found it impossible to tackle this next problem.
My head is probably my least favorite place to be hit, thought Edward. On the other hand, it might not matter if—
“Ow!” said Edward.
The small, shiny object bounced off Edward’s forehead and landed beside him.
My head is definitely my least favorite place to be hit, he thought.
He rolled over to see what had struck him. A small boulder, he guessed.
It was an earring.
Edward picked up the earring. It was a shiny, gold, star-shaped thing, with one large red ruby surrounded by several small diamonds. It looked expensive.
Edward thought: An expensive star has fallen and hit me on the head.
It must be a sign.
Fortunately for Edward, he did not actually know how to give up. Each morning he woke and pressed his fingers against the tender heart-shaped hollow in his chest and wondered how he could possibly continue. He asked himself if the previous day had finally defeated, vanquished, and emptied him completely. And each morning, the birds sat in the branches above him and sang and stitched the new day into the old night and Edward knew he had no other choice but to stand up and continue.
Even if it isn’t a sign, he thought, I can’t just lie around and let the stars fall on me.
Edward stood up.
Nearby, a man sat hunched behind a newspaper and pretended to read in the morning light. Detective Weisell peered over the top of the paper and kept his eyes fixed on the bushes beside the Broken Clock Tower.
A good detective knows how to wait, he thought.
Above him, a small brown bird with a long blue scarf dipped and bobbed as she flew past.
Weisell didn’t notice. He kept watching.
As the sun rose higher, he put down the newspaper and removed his overcoat. He folded the coat carefully and hung it over his arm. Without looking, he smoothed away the wrinkles and picked a stray thread from the collar.
The noise of someone bumping their head came from the direction of the Tower. Weisell took a notebook from his pocket and looked at his wristwatch.
Suspect is awake, he thought.
He noted the time.
The suspect stood, yawned, rubbed his forehead and stretched his arms.
The detective took out a form to record the suspect’s appearance. He frowned.
Large capital letters at the top of the form read:
A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SUSPECT
The detective wrote: Edward Rook. Male, medium height and build. Dark complexion, no glasses. Dirt-colored shirt and frayed gray suit. No hat or tie or scars or jewelry.
Weisell hated guessing people’s weight. He wrote:
FACIAL HAIR: too much
Detective Weisell paused.
Carrying, he thought. Carrying what?
He didn’t know. He wrote:
The weight of the world on his shoulders.
The previous day, the Police Chief called Weisell into his office.
“I have a pickpocket case for you,” said the Chief. “Check it, collect clues, and report back for further instructions.”
A good detective know how to wait, he thought.
The Chief tapped a thick pile of reports with a round finger.
“Pickpocket thefts are through the roof,” he said. “People are losing watches, keys, jewelry, everything. No one has seen the thief, but nearly all the thefts take place within the Park.”
The Chief held up a map of the city. On the map, he had placed a red dot at the site of each crime. He pointed at the center of the map where the Broken Clock Tower stood. Red dots surrounded the Tower.
“I want you to keep your eye on Edward,” said the Chief. “I have a feeling about him.”
“Edward?” said Weisell. “What kind of a feeling?”
“A feeling that something is about to happen.”
“Something!” said the Chief. “He’s the man in the middle of this mess. I have a feeling in my gut.”
The Chief leaned back and poked his round belly.
Weisell didn’t agree.
“It doesn’t make sense,” said Weisell. “Edward lives in the Park. He sleeps in the weeds. He doesn’t shave, or bathe, and he has worn the same clothes for a year. The man has nothing—no watches, or money, or hope.”
The Chief’s face flushed a pale pink, and ruddy red spots blossomed on his cheeks.
“I’m not sure I was asking for your opinion,” he said. “Let me check. No, I’m sure I wasn’t.”
Weisell looked away.
When the Chief gets angry, thought Weisell, his face turns the same color as my mother’s hydrangeas.
Weisell had never liked those hydrangeas.
He knew what he had to do.
Weisell glanced around the Park and squirmed uncomfortably on his bench. He looked at his watch again.
My days slip away so quickly, he thought.
The suspect completed a short series of calisthenics, emerged from the bushes and walked down the path to a fountain where he splashed water on his hands and face.
Weisell went over to Edward and greeted him.
“Do you have the time?” he asked.
Edward shook his head. Water dripped from his beard.
“Not me,” he said. “Who knows? Even the clock stopped ticking.”
They looked up at the Tower.
“So it did,” said Weisell. “Don’t you have a watch?”
“I used to,” said Edward. “It’s gone. It doesn’t matter. Time has no meaning to me anyway.”
“Aha,” said Weisell. “I knew you didn’t have a watch.”
“It was a silver pocket watch that my father gave me. He even had it engraved. To Edward, it read. It vanished one night.”
“Right,” said Weisell.
He thought: I am not a good detective.
Edward rubbed the lump on his forehead.
“What happened to your face?” asked Weisell.
“An earring hit me,” said Edward.
“It hit you?” said Weisell.
“It fell on me,” explained Edward. “It fell out of thin air and hit me on the head, which is my least favorite place to be hit.”
He showed the detective the star-shaped earring.
“This fell on you?” asked Weisell. “Out of thin air?”
“Yes,” said Edward. “I was lying on the ground next to the Tower,” he said. “And it fell. On me. Out of thin air.”
Edward wished he had a more convincing story. It sounded a little strange when he said the words aloud.
The detective tried to look convinced.
“You’re lucky it wasn’t a tiara,” he said. “Can I borrow this?”
Weisell pocketed the earring and realized it meant filling out another form. He frowned, and looked up at the Broken Clock Tower.
The time, as usual, was stuck at 10:32.
For nearly a year, the clock in the Broken Clock Tower had neither ticked nor tocked. Every day, people wrote new complaints about the Broken Clock to the mayor, and every week the mayor’s secretary bundled the complaints together and forwarded them to the Master Clockmaker.
Long ago when you were young, wrote the secretary, you made us the greatest clock in the world. It now requires your service. Can you help us?
Each week, the Master Clockmaker replied with the same three words:
How disappointing, thought the secretary. There must be something we can do.
Each week, the secretary sent the reply to the mayor.
“How disappointing,” said the mayor. “There must be something we can do.”
The non-ticking and non-tocking of the clock was of great concern to the citizens of the city. People missed buses, mealtimes and dentist appointments. Meetings were canceled and decisions delayed. Arrangements flipped and flopped and fell through. A wistful longing filled the city. The people remembered that when the clock had worked, it was unlike anything anyone had ever seen.
The clock showed the time, as all clocks do.
It showed the day of the week, as some clocks do.
It also displayed the phases of the moon and the sweep of the stars, the visible planets and the arcing comets and the annual shimmers of meteor showers. It turned ordinary days into holidays, and holidays into extravaganzas. Hidden doors fell open on New Year’s Eve, and the grinding wheels that spun behind them sent out showers of sparks at midnight. On the first day of spring, dozens of mirrors swung out to catch and reflect beams of light across the Park. The clock played a slow lullaby in the morning on the Festival of Sleep, and then remained silent for the rest of the day. A mechanical conductor popped out and directed a wild rendition of a randomly selected symphony during the Feast of Sound. Parades of mechanical statues circled below the clock face everyday, and inside the Tower a small army of automatons crowded and waited for their day to march.
People flocked to the Tower year-round to listen to and watch these festivities. They sang and danced when the clock played music, and their voices, feet, and lives all followed the rhythm set by clicking of the gears and the toll of the bells. It was a mechanical masterpiece, and for sixty-one years, fourteen days, nine hours and thirteen minutes it had ticked and chimed without losing a second.
And then one night it had stopped, at 10:32 in the evening, when no one was looking.
Week after week, the mayor’s secretary bundled the complaints and forwarded them to the Master Clockmaker.
Please understand, replied the Master Clockmaker. I made this clock when I was young. Today I am too old to climb towers, and I find it unfeasible and impossible to complete your request.
The people, the mayor, and the secretary persisted. If the Master Clockmaker was too old to climb towers, maybe he could get someone younger to help him?
“Huh,” said the Master Clockmaker.
Maybe, he thought.
The Master Clockmaker contacted the regional chapter of the National Clockmakers Guild, and a few weeks later mailed a new reply:
Although I am still too old to climb towers, he wrote, it is now possible for my young apprentice to examine the clock in my place.
On his first day of work, the young apprentice’s mother cooked him an extra large breakfast and saw him to the door. She stood on her toes and kissed him on the cheek and said, “Make me proud.”
The young apprentice nodded.
I will, he said.
I must, he thought.
At the workshop, the Master Clockmaker gave the apprentice his first task. It contained three easy steps:
Climb the Tower.
Examine the clock.
It was now the twenty-ninth day of his apprenticeship, and the young apprentice had not yet examined the clock. He had not reported back. He had also not climbed the Tower.
And every evening when he returned home from the work he had not completed, the young apprentice’s mother said, “Did you make your mother proud today?”
“Yes,” said the young apprentice.
He kept his eyes on the floor and his fingers crossed behind his back, and he thought: Tomorrow, I have to fix everything.
Detective Weisell stared at the Broken Clock Tower. The time was still stuck at 10:32.
There is a reason why that clock stopped running, he thought, and a reason why Edward lost his watch, and a reason why an earring fell on him today. And I don’t know what any of these reasons are.
He turned back to Edward.
This man has nothing, he thought. He has no watches, or money, or hope.
This wasn’t exactly true.
Edward still had hope.
Be patient, thought Weisell. A good detective exercises patience.
Facts. A good detective gathers facts.
“Edward,” he said, “tell me your story.”
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© 2018 Colin Lewis · Brought to you by Unlikely Objects