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.