“In the morning there would be no Monday”

Though I didn’t have the heat set high, when I came home the house felt warm. It felt warm with the aroma of life, lived in, of home cooking and freshly washed towels, kids coming of age, house plants, pets…an over-riding sense that the house felt happy and alive. Warm like a body, with life. And if you follow that line of thinking, the den (where I spend most of my time) is the heart, and the hanging wall clock its beating.

So when it died and I could not revive the clock, I became desperate. I ordered a new one on Amazon (hurry, only one left!) but when I hung it it wasn’t the same—and when the chime came on, it sounded like a video game from the ’80s. Battery powered, made in China.

After a few days of this Dawn and I agreed we’d send it back, and I returned to the internet looking for more clocks, and found Aubrey’s clock shop down in Issaquah. Aubrey looked about the same in person as he did on the internet, and so did his cat, “Tuxedo.” A low res thumbnail of Aubrey, a small Asian man holding Tuxedo to his chest, rubbing his knuckles on the cat’s head. Surrounded by all those old clocks in Aubrey’s small shop I immediately felt at ease, at home: from the corner, from an unseen place I heard him call out hello, and out he came to talk.

Aubrey does repairs and sells both new and antique clocks of all kinds. You can’t really tell by looking at them on the wall if they work or not, but when it came to the hour and they all began chiming I moved from clock to clock listening. Some overlapped with others, some sang out alone at a slightly different time.

We walked out to my car so I could show Aubrey the clock I’d brought in. My step-dad gave it to me as a present for our first house, so it was important to us. But Aubrey said it was made in Korea, and wasn’t worth anything. He could take it in on a trade and they’d use some of the parts but it wasn’t worth fixing. I had another clock, an older one but it wasn’t running: I showed him a picture on my phone and he said that one, if it was an original, could be worth a lot.

I drove home with the broken clock clacking in the back seat in its box, bent on resolving the clock problem, to return to Aubrey’s again with the old clock that might be worth something.

And as I drove up from Issaquah to Sammamish it sounded like the broken clock was chiming in its box, but I figured that had to be a mistake. And then I started thinking, with its rattling and clanking it was like taking a pet to be put down, a live thing flapping in a box like a baby bird fallen from its nest, air holes punched in the lid.

Sure enough, when I returned to Aubrey’s the clock was an antique. It would take a couple months for him to fix it and $600. Maybe we were getting ripped off, but the only other clock guy I knew was in north Seattle, and we didn’t have much time to fuck around haggling with old clock repair guys.

And there was the old grandfather clock from France in the corner of the den: if I brought in the movement and the pendulum for that, the guts, Aubrey could get that running too, and set it up for us in our house. That would also take two months (and considerably more money), but I trusted Aubrey, he liked cats, and we were friends now.

I hung the broken clock back up in hopes it might now work. Like, maybe the very real fear of being removed and replaced would be enough to kick-start it back up again.

It happened before, where I’d wind it up and gently start the pendulum, and it would run for a couple hours and then just stop again. I went about other chores and came back periodically to listen if it was still going. The chime had gone bad for a good long time now—if a chime could sound sour, it did. It’s like I’d overwound it at one point and caused strain on the striking arm, or something. The sound made you wince when it chimed, so I’d stopped winding the chime part and just let it tic.

But now not only was the clock running for a good, couple hours: when it chimed, the chime was like it used to be, a clean, bell-like sound that resonated at the end. Maybe it was the pot-holes on our road and the jouncing in the back seat, but our Korean clock worked again; it ran all through the night, still runs.

I went back to Aubrey’s with the missing weights from the old clock I’d asked him to repair. I had to dig through our garage for them, but they were there with other clock parts and objects I couldn’t identify, but looked clock-related.

Aubrey was with another customer listening to a clock apparently Aubrey had repaired, and they were testing to make sure it chimed right. It said Tempus Fugit on it, the same as a grandfather clock we had growing up. I always thought that meant Time Flies, I guess it escapes.

I told Aubrey I found the brass weights and just like last time, we walked out to my car and I showed him another old clock I’d found, but this one was a replica. You could tell by opening the back. And I had a couple other weights but I didn’t know what they were for: he said, those are for scales, but he could tell from my expression I didn’t understand what he meant so he said never mind, those were before your time.

Categories: Memoir

Tags: , , , , , ,

27 replies

  1. Great story! If I ever think I need a clock repaired, first I’ll take it on some rough roads for good vibrations.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really enjoyed this post, it has a nice warm feel to it, and winding it up with “those were before your time” was a great touch.
    Personally, I cannot sleep with anything in the room ticking, I guess from all those times watching Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote setting timers on bombs, but when there’s a clock where I’m awake, it’s restful. Sounds a bit contradictory, now that I’ve written that out.
    I think taking the clock for a little roadtrip was a great idea, shake things up. By next week, Uber and Lyfft will be offering this service, driving/faith-healing appliance repair, although the magic doesn’t seem to work for hard-drives. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried aquavit — the most expensive kind, they put in barrels, ship it from Oslo to Australia, and then ship it back again. Seriously. They send the booze on an ocean cruise, to improve the flavor. So next time you’re driving your clock around town, maybe put a case of aquavit in the trunk, too.

    Liked by 3 people

    • That’s an amazing leap/analogy to the aquavit, wow. I understand your contradiction with the ticking, can relate. I didn’t realize how dependent I’d become on the ticking to calm me in our den. Without it, I really felt uneasy…perhaps the absence of a lost pet? Or a stretch, why not. Downward dog, yo’.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, when the power goes out, you realize how totally accustomed you’ve become to all the muted humming, buzzing, vibration sounds of a house full of appliances, and the quiet seems creepy. Glad the familiar clock is going again, still has some time left to it.
        The aquavit thing somehow didn’t seem that much of a stretch, when I thought of it, houseplants also respond to vibration/shaking, and grow faster with a radio on, although I rarely take my aspidistra out for a spin in the car anymore.


  3. Good one! Before your time indeed.

    Maybe the solution to your problem is a sun dial. No moving parts.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A fine “whole” of a piece, like creative non-fiction you’d find in a magazine about a clockmaker.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is just lovely. I like Aubrey too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And Hess’s right? I thought you might remember that store. In the days we’ll before Amazon. Or when amazon was a jungle.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I grew up in MD and remember a Hess shoe store (related?) with a wooden bridge you’d walk over while trying on shoes. I don’t know why that was so great, but the memory almost makes me want to weep.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Here’s to memories that make us weep, the good ones. Yes, maybe related? Hess’s was that department chain based out of Allentown with maybe a handful of locations in the Lehigh Valley, one in Quakertown I think, and south Allentown. I remember a post of yours when you visited there a couple years ago, I think. The owner of the chain was wealthy; he had a house in the Lehigh Parkway I’d take people to see because he collected sculptures and it looked like a Pink Floyd album. Very cool looking at night. But then he started placing those modern art sculptures around downtown Allentown and off-putting / polarizing to some. His name was Phillip Berman I believe.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a cool story and memory re: Mr. Bergman’s Pink Floyd statues. I wonder what became of them. Allentown is a special city. Would like to get back there soon.


      • I think we’re going for spring break!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Springtime in Allentown!


      • Likely more like “winter in Seattle” by the looks of Allentown-spring.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. i love this clock caper and know that there will be more to come down the road –

    Liked by 1 person

  7. There’s something wonderful about little shops like that and the shop keepers who run them. I went into one down this way once for some advice but the shock jock radio playing in he background ruined any good vibes for me. I’m glad your experience was a more positive and productive one! This post felt like a good bit of Americana prose and I enjoyed it very much.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Loved this piece. Loved the comments. Nicely done!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I like it! Warm, nice pacing, ticks along nicely. I bet you had a good time writing this time piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day…
    Very much enjoyed this, Bill. Both the house and the writing warm and somehow comforting, yet infused with transience (which is what timepieces do, isn’t it? Mark our mortality in ticks and tocks).
    The clock pet in the box really touched me too.
    Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way…

    I’m off to the dentist now. There used to be a clock repairer a few doors down from the dentist. Once I took in my grandparents ‘Napoleon’s Hat’ clock that I remember from my childhood but was silent when my father died. The repairer said it wasn’t worth fixing. Not everything old is valuable, he said. And anyway, someone’s disconnected the chime.


    • Well, to riff off your little Pink Floyd ditty, we bought a new/used car today and as I pulled it into the garage for the first time, the sat radio was playing “Us & Them,” which takes on a different ardor/glow in a new/used car, with moonroof, at night, after sushi + beer, and a long day. So all of this is good. I loved your note, the piece about the clock going silent when your father died, all the poignancy wrapped up in that. Which you don’t have to make up after all, it’s all around us! That’s what blows my little mind. Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed it, buddy. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

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