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The Grandfather Clock (standard:romance, 946 words)
Author: CyranoAdded: Jan 01 2009Views/Reads: 1643/841Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Time, in the end, is only what we agree it should be.
 



Jack wakes, rises and makes himself ready. Today he wants to be extra
smart because today is his last day. This evening he will walk home 
recalling sixty years working at the docks, and never once late. Jack 
will be missed. His face is familiar all over town, not just in the 
docks where he began as tea boy, till this as the ‘whistleblower'. It 
is a very important position; he was told when the promotion was 
offered to him. Jack attended a ‘special' school before being hired at 
the docks. He wasn't the brightest flame in his class, suffering mild 
learning difficulties, but Jack is a happy man for all his 
tribulations, and is well liked by all who know him. Jack found his 
place as a thirteen-year-old among brawny men, hard working, hard 
talking, no nonsense kind of men. There are no bullies in his 
environment, no braggarts; just do your job and you'll be okay kind of 
men. Jack had long earned the respect of his workmates by his 
unswerving diligence. 

Tonight Jack will return to an empty house. Never married, never had a
girlfriend, but Jack cannot walk the streets without women, young and 
old, asking after him, touching his shoulder and smiling. Jack has a 
great many friends. He will go to his bed wondering what his future 
will look like. It will feel strange not to get up at 5 A.M. on Monday, 
and for every day after that, for the rest of his life. 

Outside snow is lightly falling, covering the ground in a powdery film.
He sets off a little early, conscious that walking will be trickier, as 
he shambles his bent and buckled frame using his stick for support, a 
woolen scarf wrapped a couple of times around his neck, and his 
favorite flat cap covering his scalp. His long, tidily groomed beard, 
as white as the fresh fallen snow, is reminiscent of another well-loved 
figure at this time of year. To an outsider he might look like a lonely 
figure, shuffling along in his big dockman boots, but Jack is not 
lonely. 

His route is the same one he's trod five days of every week, for every
year of his working life and to which he's seen much change. It is 
Jack's responsibility to sound the ‘whistle' at six in the morning for 
the start of work, then again at ten, so the men can break for tea, 
another blast at one for lunch, then three thirty for another break, 
and five, not his favorite whistle, to signal the end of the day. Today 
it will signal the end of Jack's working career. 

Jack makes one stop on his way to work, to check his watch against the
old grandfather clock standing at the back of Simpson's watchmakers. 
Founded exactly fifty years ago this very day. Jack remembers the shop 
opening. He remembers his first look at the old grandfather clock. It 
took four men to lift and move it into position. It was a fine piece 
indeed. He stood at the window and looked at it for a long spell. Since 
the day it took its place at the back of the shop Jack has checked his 
watch against it. Perfect. The old grandfather clock never failed him. 
It keeps perfect time. 

Jack is about to continue his way when a man approaches. It is Mr.
Simpson junior. His father 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." 

"Young? I like that, Jack, I wish.  Yes, 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 since the day 
your father opened it. You were but a lad in short trousers. The day I 
was promoted to whistleblower, and every week day morning since, I look 
in here and set my watch by it. Never been a minute late, do you know 
that?" 

"Is that so, Jack?" He laughs wildly, as though he knows something
no-one else does. "You've set your watch by the old grandfather clock 
for fifty years and then  gone into the dockyard to blow the work 
whistle?" 


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