Long Case

My Grandfather’s clock always intrigued me. It was immaculate in almost every way. Complex innards remained visible through the lead crystal cover, a perfect cylinder of glass with a hemispherical dome. Its intricate, pristine brass gears and springs showed a remarkable resistance to the passage of time — for a three hundred year old family heirloom. The only problem was I’d never seen the hands ever move. Grandfather said it stopped years ago.

“How long ago?” I'd once asked.

“Long before you were born,” he replied, “two hundred years at least.”

“Can it be repaired?”

Grandfather paused and shifted his weight to the opposite corner of his armchair. “Well,” he glanced at the clock, “it is not exactly broken. I find it works fine.”

“Then why doesn't it move? Can't you wind it up?”

“The creator left instructions the glass must never be removed, for then it would be broken.” he replied. “You are only young my little one. When you are older, and it is your turn, I shall tell you all about that wonderful timepiece.”

In the years that followed my Grandfather ignored any further questions. Eventually, I gave up wondering; why bother checking a clock that doesn't tell the time? In fact I stopped thinking of it as a clock all together.

In the summer of my fifteenth year, we were in the garden. I tended to the roses, while Grandfather relaxed in the shade.

“Bring me my pipe would you please?” he asked.

“You're not so old you can't get it yourself.” I retorted with a smile.

“Aye, but I know you like to dote upon me.”

He was right I'd do anything for him, he'd looked after me since I was weeks old. “Where did you leave it this time?” I asked.

“It's in the living room, on the mantel.” he said.

I opened the French windows and went in. The pipe was there where he’d said, next to the old clock. I picked it up and turned to leave. As I did I caught the pipe bowl against a brass foot. I looked back when I felt the sharp tug and saw the clock sliding across the polished wooden mantel. I watched paralysed as it teetered on the edge and fell.

The paralysis evaporated. Desperately, I stretched out, reaching, grasping, hoping…

Somehow, I caught it, cradling it against my chest. It was unbroken!

I set it back on the mantel carefully. Something was wrong, the glass had shifted, so I reset it precisely in place.

I picked up his pipe and returned to the garden. He was not there. I called out, but there was no answer, only a warm summer breeze blowing through the garden lifting clouds of fine dust from Grandfather’s chair.