Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Father Time: The Story of a Magical Clock Shop

In an abandoned lighthouse on the coast of Great Point in Nantucket, Massachusetts, an elderly bearded man in overalls opened the windows to a bright July morning. 

Over time, he had converted the tower and its nearby buildings into The O’Clock Shop, where he made and repaired clocks. 

“I can fix anything that ticks,” the man who many people called Father Time quipped. “Bring me your clocks and your watches, even if they run on batteries. Time flies! I’ll help you catch it.”

His shop was filled with little clocks, big clocks, grandfather clocks, wrist watches, and pocket watches. Each of them tick-tocked at once, causing most customers to feel dizzy with the noise, especially when he turned up an unknown radio station that only played songs about time. 

“The channel comes in since I’m near the coast,” he explained to visitors, glancing at his painting “A Dance to the Music of Time” by Nicolas Poussin. “Once in a while, the station plays songs in cut time with two half-note beats per measure,” he continued. “As if anyone was counting, cut time is not at all common time, but you knew that already. It’s all about time!”

On his wall hung a huge scythe, a large hand tool, in case he needed to cut back the beach grass, and a bronze and silver hourglass sat next to the cash register that he flipped each New Year.  Customers often swore that they saw wings on his back, such as John Gray, the neighboring fisherman, who looked at Father Time, convinced he saw large, daunting wings on his shoulders. When Mr. Gray looked again, the wings were gone, as if they were never there in the first place. 

“Did you see the wings this time?” Mr. Gray would ask his wife Joan when they visited the shop.

“No, honey, I didn’t see the wings,” Joan chuckled, admiring the clocks. “Maybe next time.”

As the beach waves crashed against the shore, they created an ebb and flow rhythm almost like a clock. With each splash of water, a new timepiece came alive as the clocksmith tinkered away.

“What a brilliant moon hangs over the ocean tonight,” Father Time pronounced in awe, standing atop his lighthouse after a full day’s work. He lit the tower for sailors that journeyed across the ocean in sea time. “I’m a timekeeper for the ages. The pendulum swings wide! I wonder who will come into the shop tomorrow, and how I’ll be able to help with the evil Hours.”

“Eliad, maybe I’ll stop by with some friends,” called Mother Nature from the moonlit beach to Father Time. She lived up the coast in a small cottage overgrown with flowers, fruit trees, and stalk vegetables. Flowers intertwined with the golden locks of her hair, as if the daises and roses grew from her own scalp. The starlight shone on her countenance that radiated like a vibrant angel in a silk dress. 

“See you in the morning, Autumn!” Father Time exclaimed, clearly in love with his elegant neighbor. “I’d really enjoy some more of your blueberries from the bushes in your back garden.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Mother Nature replied, leaving a trail of flower petals in the shadowy sand. “I long for the fullness of time!” she called. 

Bright and early, Mother Nature knocked on Father Time’s shop door with a large bowl of blueberries and a group of tourists who she’d met on her morning walk, interested in his magical clocks. 

“What a time and season!” Miss Nature chuckled. “Do you have advice for such a time as this?” she asked. 

Depending on which clocks the customers bought, Father Time showed his patrons how to turn back the Hours, turn forward the Hours, make the Hours stand still, and even extend the Hours.  

“Let me tell you a little secret,” Father Time whispered, when he was sure he could trust the customer. “If you turn the hands seven times backward and then seven times forward, you will get seven more hours in your day. I thought I’d let you know in case you need some more time.”

“What are you talking about?” most customers questioned, confused at Father Time’s advice. The idea of what he was saying could happen was beyond their ability to believe. 

“The real question though is if you’re in need of Chronos or Kairos,” Father Time clarified. “Do you know the difference? Chronological or sequential time is different than a time for action. If an alarm goes off on one of my clocks, it’s time to hit the target like an archer. Kairos is pivotal.”

In most of his clocks, Father Time hid instructions in a back secret door, where customers could find the information when they were ready to confront the fleeting time in their lives.

“Did you know that you have a ticker, just like a clock?” Father Time joked to Mother Nature, scooping handfuls of the blueberries into his mouth. “A patient heart beats a lot stronger. A day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”

“It just takes a little time,” Mother Nature explained, fixated on a swinging pendulum. 

“Is there any place in your lives that you need to sow seeds?” Autumn asked the strangers that she invited into the shop that morning. 

            Unsure of what to say, the visitors shrugged their shoulders in silence. 

One dainty customer quietly pressed the keys on an upright piano in the corner, keeping in step with its metronome that would not deviate a beat. 

“If I plant seeds today, sometimes I don’t reap a harvest for years,” Autumn announced. “This is a trustworthy saying: ‘God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

“I want to be beautiful!” the little girl in the tourist group cheered, running to the largest grandfather clock at the front of the shop, opening its main door, and trying to squeeze herself into the clock body. The clock was decorated with gold trim and carvings. It had a special glow about it as though it was other-worldly. 

“This clock is centuries old! It’s priceless and not for sale. The ancient Greeks built it,” Father Time scolded, grabbing her and plopping her on the ground. “You can’t live in a clock anyhow! Make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. Number your days!”

“Have you heard from that unscrupulous beast called the Hours?” Mother Nature inquired, shinning up the glass door where the little girl smudged it. 

“He leaves me threatening notes time after time,” Father Time answered. “I throw them out and keep selling my clocks. No one deserves to have even a minute stolen from them. The Hours is ruthless and steals so much from so many people, but not if I have anything to say about it.”

“The Hours is completely cuckoo,” Mother Nature sighed, listening to the cuckoo clock sound at thirty minutes past ten. 

“My vegetable garden was torn to shreds, and I spent so much time tending to it. I know it was the Hours, but the only thing I can do is try to redeem the time and turn the hands back on one of your clocks. Other people have many worse things that need redemption, but it’s still upsetting. I was looking forward to hearty vegetable soups.”

A large gust of wind rushed through The O’Clock Shop, shaking the machines on the walls. Several alarms went off at once, including the enchanted grandfather clock.

As Father Time looked out the window, he saw the Hours standing in the high grass, swinging his scythe. 

“How did you steal my sickle again?” Father Time yelled at him out the window. He looked at his wall to see the empty space where it had been hanging. “Give it back now!”

“The Hours must have slipped through the shop when we weren’t looking,” Mother Nature cried, looking at the trembling customers. “Do his tricks ever end?”

The skeleton body of the Hours was robed in a black-hooded cape. A pale horse stood beside him, neighing and screeching. A crow hovered over his shoulder. A snake with a tail in its mouth creeped at his feet. 

“A crazy man is outside your shop, swinging a large knife!” yelled neighbor John Gray, running up Father Time’s front walkway, out of breath, and into The O’Clock Shop. “What is going on around here?”

“Maybe we should just call the police, honey!” his wife, Joan, cried, standing in shock in the shop, finally seeing the wings on the back of the clockmaker. “He does have wings!” she gasped. 

“Nothing lasts forever! I have come for your souls!” The Hours screamed, and his voice echoed up and down the coast. “You cannot escape me! Time devours all things!”

“Speak of the Hours,” Father Time warned, walking over to his priceless grandfather clock, and stopping the mortal hands of time. “Now be gone!” he called to the Hours. 

With that, the Hours disappeared, nowhere to be found, and Father Time’s scythe reappeared on his wall. Then, the clockmaker allowed the hands of time on his ancient grandfather clock to begin once more.

“Guard yourself everyone from the Hours! Don’t let him steal from you,” Father Time instructed. “He’s gone for now, but he comes back when you least expect it. You never know what he might do! You don’t owe him anything. There is a time for everything! I’ll put my time signature on that for life. Life and life to the full!” 


Copyright 2023 Jennifer Waters

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