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The Grandfather Clock (standard:other, 886 words)
Author: JordonAdded: Jan 22 2002Views/Reads: 3419/1Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Who is to say what time is?

When Jack Thomlinson finished work on that Thursday evening he walked
home knowing he had one single days work left in him. On Friday 17th 
December Jack was finished work for good. Fifty five years he'd given 
over to the docks. Fifty five years of his seventy year old life and 
never once been late. This was a record that hadn't passed the 
attention of the owners of the shipyard. Jack would be missed. His face 
was known all over the town, not just in the docks where he had worked 
that first day as a tea boy. In the next twenty years he had worked 
himself up to the position of 'whistle man'. A very important position, 
he was told, when the job was offered to him. Jack, you see, had come 
from a very special school to get this job. He wasn't the brightest 
flame in the class, even then. 

Jack suffered from a very poor I.Q. and severe mental restrictions but
he was a happy man for all his problems and he was well liked by all 
who knew him. There were no bullies in this environment for Jack, those 
days were long gone. He had earned the respect of his working pals. 

Jack was going home to an empty house because Jack had never married,
never had a girlfriend and never taken a girl out but Jack could not 
walk the streets without women asking after him and touching his 
shoulder and smiling at him. Yes, Jack had his friends. 

That night Jack went to bed wondering what his future looked like. It
would feel strange not to have to get up at 5 a.m. for the rest of his 

Next morning Jack woke and made himself ready. Outside snow had lightly
fallen and covered the ground in a thin powdery layer. He set off for 
work in his usual style, shambling along with his stick and his scarf 
wrapped a couple of times around his neck. He looked a lonely figure 
walking through the town. It was Jack's responsibility to blow the 
Harbour whistle for the start of work at 6 a.m. Not once had he missed. 
He blew it again for the men's break at 10.a.m. and then again at 1 
p.m. for lunch. At 3.30 p.m. it would signal another break and finally 
the 6 p.m. whistle to signal the end of the day. 

Today it would signal the end of Jack's working career. 

As he headed through the town he stopped, as he always did, to check his
watch against the old Grandfather clock at the back of Simpson's 
watchmakers. Founded exactly fifty years ago this very day. Jack 
remembered the shop opening. He remembered the old Grandfather clock 
being brought in to the shop. It took four men just to lift it and move 
it gently into position. It was a fine piece indeed. He stood at the 
window and looked at it for a long spell. He checked his watch against 
it. Perfect. The old Grandfather clock never failed him. It kept 
perfect time. 

Jack was about to make his way on through the town when a man approached
him. It was Mr. Simpson junior. His father had opened the shop exactly 
fifty years ago but had died twenty years since. 

"Hello Jack." 

"Hello young Mr. Simpson, you're opening early this morning." 

"I am Jack, I have a special delivery to make this afternoon and I want
to be sure that everything is perfect." 

"Must be special indeed to bring you out on a winter's morning. I was
just admiring the old Grandfather clock in the back of the shop. Do you 
know, young Simpson, lad, I've been passing this shop for the last 
fifty years, in fact since the day your father opened, and you were but 
a lad in short trousers. Every morning I look in here and set my watch 
by it. Never been a minute late, do you know that?" 

"Is that so, Jack?" He smiled wildly, as though he knew something no-one
else did. "You've set your watch by the old Grandfather clock for fifty 
five years and then you've gone into the Harbour to blow the work 

"That's right, lad, never been late ever." 

Mr. Simpson junior roared with laughter and that laughter echoed through
the streets of the town. 

"Jack, let me tell you something about my father. When I was old enough
I would come to the shop to help dad out and he would stand by the 
grandfather clock every day at 1 p.m. and he would set the Grandfather 
clock to the whistle at the Harbour. 'That Harbour whistle, he said, 
was never a second early or late.' Since dad died I have done exactly 
the same thing." 

Both men chuckled at the simplicity of time before Jack bid him goodbye
and shambled along toward the Harbour gates. 

Mr. Simpson junior was still smiling as he made his way to the Harbour
in the afternoon in his smart new lorry carrying the beautiful old 
Grandfather clock. It had been removed from the shop at the request of 
the Harbour Authority Board. Mr Simpson junior knew it was going to a 
good home. 

Time, in the end, is only what we agree it should be. 


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