The Old Clock Maker
Once on a night not long after the old couple moved across the wide sea to take care of their grandson the old man set down his tools. He sighed a great sigh and wiped his round, rimless glasses.
"Maybe in the morning I will see better."
A little boy of about seven or so with brown curly hair and a mischievous face poked his head around the corner of the workshop.
"Can I fix the clock with you?"
"Not tonight, Handel. Maybe in the morning. It's time for all good grandsons to be in bed."
And so the boy hurried off to bed while his granddad regarded the cuckoo on his bench with a critical eye.
"Why don't you sing anymore? Hmm? Will you tell me in the morning?"
He went upstairs to the small, cozy kitchen where a kettle boiled and Ella, his wife of too many years and yet nowhere near enough sat tatting a doily.
"Can an old man have a cup of tea?"
"Here. I am done with this tea bag. It still has life in it."
The old man sighed again and plunged the bag a few times into his cup of hot water.
"Wife, we can afford a tea bag each. We are not so destitute yet."
"Our grandson needs his good food. The money we save can go to his care. A growing boy needs a good lunch at school."
She put down her tatting and looked steadily at her husband over the top of the half-glasses she used for the close work.
"This country has not much work for a clock maker, Frank. Who has the big clocks here? Everyone has digital everything. They keep their clock on a telephone in their pocket."
"We get by, wife. I have a few clocks in the workshop now."
"They are mostly for cleaning. Where is the money in cleaning?"
"I have a cuckoo clock to fix. The cuckoo comes out, but he is silent."
"There is money in fixing this?"
"If it tells me what is wrong with it I can fix it. It's a good client. A regular client. He is always good to pay."
When their own cuckoo clock on the wall of the cozy kitchen announced it was the late hour of ten the couple tucked themselves in their bed.
The old man said his prayers for himself and for his family as he always did when he closed his eyes for sleep. On this night he added a little extra.
"If the Lord doesn't mind too much maybe he could help me to see what is wrong with the clock? And if is not too much trouble from an old man, He could maybe help me to fix it?"
In the morning after they had a simple breakfast and sent their grandson off to school with a good lunch, the old man when to his workshop to begin his day.
"What is this?" The old man exclaimed when he saw the clock on his bench had reassembled during the night.
"It can't be." And he picked it up and turned it over and examined it from all the angles.
"Do you work? Was an old man's prayers answered beyond his expectations?"
He tinkered a bit and pulled the chain and in a few minutes that seemed longer the cuckoo came out to announce the time. The happy tune of a wanderer rang clearly along with the cuckoos.
He called out from his shop. "Ella. It's fixed."
"Then you should call the owner and get your payment."
"But I found it this morning all done."
"Did you fix it in your sleep?"
"No. Of course not."
"Then someone is playing a trick. Are you sure it didn't work when he brought it in? He's a good client. Maybe he has taken pity on us." And she pounded the bread dough she was kneading extra hard at the thought of it.
"Hmm, a trick? Could it be the dinglemen are here?"
The client was so thrilled to have his cuckoo back so quickly he gave the man an extra few dollars as a tip.
Later on in the day another fellow came by with a grandfather clock that had stopped years earlier.
"I understand you do good work, Mr. Fraz. This clock hasn't moved in 15 years. It's a decoration now. I hear you work fast and do it good. Think you can help me?"
Frank ran his hands down its sides and narrowed his eyes at the hands stuck at 5:30.
"I will take a look."
He took it apart and blew out the years of dust and shined a light up into the works.
"It will take effort," he announced to himself. "I'll get a good start in the morning."
And that night during his prayers he asked again of the Lord to help an old man fix a clock. He remembered to say thank you and said it was all right if the Lord was too busy this time.
The next morning he found the grandfather clock ticking and tocking as though it was new from the shop.
Just as he was closing his eyes to say thank you he noticed something was missing. The $20 bill tip he'd left on the bench for luck was gone. He was sure he'd set it under the old clock gear he used for a weight.
"Maybe I knocked it on the floor by accident." He looked. It was nowhere to be seen.
"Perhaps I absently put it in my bag for the bank deposit," he suggested, but inside he knew better.
He waited a few hours to make sure the clock kept working and then called the man who brought it in.
He was paid promptly and well and with a bit extra for fixing it so quickly.
Later on he went to the bank and put the money in his account. The teller stuck up a conversation with him about his work and asked him if he could fix a plain old watch winder that was stuck.
She came by after the bank closed and handed it to him.
"It doesn't matter if it never works again. My dad gave it to me when I graduated high school. It's a keepsake, nothing more. But if it could run again, I'd like it. Analogs, especially the ones that wind up...you just don't see them much any more. I think only people our age would have one. We're the only ones who know how to use them."
He smiled and escorted her to the door and told her he'd let her know.
"Did you get a new bed, Brogryme? Is it the right size?"
"I did. I waited until near the end of the rumblings from the big warming machine. Our daughter's new bed is soft as kittens."
He settled back into his fat, cozy chair.
"The old fellow needs an assistant. He's slowed a bit it seems. He left out one of these last night."
He pulled a rumpled green banknote from his pipe pocket and smoothed it on the oakchip table.
"It'll look nice on the wall across from the big window. Very cheery especially on winter days."
"It's torn on a corner. Why would you put it on a wall? Maybe it could paper the floor by the doorway. We could stack boots on it when we come in from a storm."
"Bosh, Mogryme. It's fine for the wall. The green's just like our shadyglen."
"It's not," she said shaking her head. "If you want it on the wall, then what will I say? You're the only one collecting these days."
"You miss it, do you?"
"I miss the fun of it, the discovering what the Big Ones leave out. And to hear them go on about it when they realize it's gone."
"I'm happy to stay with Grandygirl while you're adventuring."
"Not yet. I don't care to leave the little one. Not even for a minute."
He put up his feet over the side of the fat chair.
"Those Big Ones. They set such a store about knowing the hour of the day. What's to know? We eat at the hungry time, we sleep at the tired time, and the rest is for living."
"You pay attention to when the clock knocks."
"Aye. We need to know the best times to go out. But that's all we need to know."
"If you're so against them why do you fuss with the Big One's work?"
"The others give him the pretty papers. The more he gets the quicker our walls are done."
In the morning after his breakfast the old man went to his workshop. There on the bench was the wind up watch with its sweep second hand coursing merrily around the hours.
And the old man went to the kitchen for a few scraps of food to set out for his night time visitors.