THE GRANDFATHER CLOCK By Nathan Toulane
I stand against the wall stylishly, with a polished golden face, and numbers stamped in a circle upon it. My innards are an array of clockwork mechanics. Metal. Brass. Chains and tiny hammers. I’m always ticking. Grinding. Chiming. Letting my owners know I am alive and well. I’m an eccentric oldish type fellow. Seen so many things in my long and eventful life, though I sometimes wonder, during the hue of the light, which settles upon me, and when the sun fades and the platinum moon takes its place, that I have to endure another moment of my many owners’ faults.
Three hundred years I have existed. Lived in many house, castles, pubs, even a caravan—that had ‘thirty feral cats’ within it—meowing and scratching the old lady who used to collect them like sweets, until she disposed of them, when they had no further use, due to her insatiable and unstable moods.
My pendulum swings like an executioner’s axe underneath me, always without fail, except for when my owner forgets to wind me up with that magical steel key. The key which is my soul. My spirit. My existence. My very being.
My wooden shell is my clothing. It protects my vanity and instils confidence. I love it when the owner dusts me down, and I hate it when an owner leaves me to fester for months, accumulating spiders’ webs, beetles—moths, and woodlice that irritate me immensely. Though once I had an encounter with a truly repellent enemy—a woodworm. Luckily for me I had a kindly owner who eradicated it with some kind of fluid. Though the egg type smell it gave off was awful, and my chimes did not sound properly for a couple of days.
I love books. I've read thousands over the course of my lifetime. When my owners read, I read with them. I can see the words, chapters, pictures, and I consume them like warm candy bars. Reading a book is like having a trusty friend speaking to you. Telling you about their colourful past. It’s an invisible storyteller of words and names and countries and lovers—they give out so much detail and thrilling adventures, it takes you away from the present and into another world. Reading books has certainly helped me with my depressions while I stand against the wall—the depressions residing in me so stubbornly due to eternal loneliness. At times I wish I had a fellow Grandfather Clock, we could exchange greetings, chat about our fears and hopes, and make comments about the home we find ourselves in.
My owner at this present time is asleep upstairs. I sometimes hear him snoring, shuffling on his bed, bemoaning and wailing in his sleep. Also he sneezes loudly and his bed thumps against the wall due to the ‘dreams’ he endures on most nights. And in addition, there are his unspeakable habits, which float down the staircase like a crazy poltergeist.
To be frank, I prefer the company of ghosts, and I have seen quite a few in my lifetime. Creeping out of the walls and dripping down from the ceiling like melting snowflakes. They often sneak about like crafty burglars, but they have an advantage, they know they’ll never be caught. So, I hear you ask, what do they like to do? Well to play tricks and scare people. However, some of them just watch the owners of the buildings they’re trapped in grow old. There is sadness to a few of these ghosts. They feel lonely, sad, envious, enraged. They are angry because they cannot walk in the world of the living anymore. Ghosts act only as a slideshow in the world of human existence, to be tormented by ardent psychics, probed by bumbling electronic engineers, and shouted at by pathetic ghost hunters with their television crews following their every step. And to add insult to injury, they are abused by mean fisted religious folk who decide to perform exorcisms and religious’ ceremonies all while dressed up to the hilt like a black suited priest.
This present night has passed quickly for me. My thoughts have helped in this process. Because when I think, I drift off back to my previous lives, or should I say—my former owners' lives.
Now I can hear the birds cheeping and chirping into song outside, as the first moments of daylight sprays orange and yellow light into the garden and the bending tress. The sweet sounds the birds make brings me company and it’s also the ‘signal’ for me to prepare my chimes—they’re ready to release their notes again. This process has always been the same. Day after day—year after year—and century after century. Through the aeons of time my chimes resonate. Leaving an imprint of sound that travels upwards into the skies and space. Who knows, maybe one day a creature from the outer planets will pick them up amongst the star littered galaxies and decide to spirit me away on their spaceship. That would be a fascinating prospect: especially for an old Grandfather Clock like me.
A cough explodes, a snort follows, and heavy breathing and wheezing leaps into the air. I hear footsteps creaking the floorboards. Damn! The owner has arisen from his slumber and has decided to come downstairs in order to prepare himself a cup of tea. He doesn't know I can ‘see him. I watch him. Examine him. Make assessments about his whole persona. Sometimes he exposes his false teeth at me in the morning, they are stained with coffee and other acids—and sometimes the previous night’s alcohol fumes puff out of his mouth like a lousy tramp’s—this at times has nearly made me stop ticking. You see, alcohol is bad for me! Even the smell of the stuff can cause me to lose time and clockwork respect.
I chuckle to myself, when I watch the shape of my owner pass me by; he resembles a skeletal type being. And I think, well perhaps he is. Perhaps he’s a human experiment gone wrong?
‘Bomb ber bomb,’ he mumbles as he waddles into the living room, holding his mug of fetid black tea and a couple of chocolate digestive biscuits. He walks briskly to where I am situated. I notice he is wearing a torn up purple dressing gown, a pair of ridiculous teddy bear slippers, and a red sweatband around his head, no wonder his wife ran off with the plumber who was supposed to fix the washing machine. All in all the plumber fixed something more than the washing machine with her.
Now my owner is gazing around, agitated and forlorn, and the slurping sounds he is making while he drinks his tea is quite repulsive.
The ticking from me is building and I feel my clockwork innards stir. I begin smiling with my long clock hands. Waiting. Watching. Abruptly I burst into chimes. The owner jumps out of the chair, his chattering false teeth expelled from his mouth. I giggle inside, as the owner turns his nervous gaze to me while he grumbles and mumbles under his breath. He then begins swearing like a trooper and his eyes are full of disdain. I feel guilty, but then I couldn't help myself. It’s still nice to know that even an old Grandfather Clock like me, can still give a shocking surprise, when the time warrants it.
(c) Nathan Toulane 2016