Ticked Off by Bayveen O’Connell
Nathan was five when he got his bloody clock obsession. He was hovering in the bedroom doorway when Mum discovered Nana’d died in her sleep. Despite telling him it really was the best way to go, he needed multiple time-telling devices to wake him at regular intervals during the night, leaving the whole household with permanent bags under their eyes.
Before Nathan’s seventh birthday, Mum took us into town. As she was feeding the parking metre, the ticking, chiming, gonging noise-munchkin sneaked off. We found him in Cash Converters trying to haggle with a cashier who sported uneven side-burns and a mullet.
“I’m so sorry,” Mum rushed over to grab Nathan’s shoulders.
“No worries M’am, but even with the crack down the left side, I can’t let it go for less than $450. And the kid says he only has thirty-five in his piggy-bank,” the cashier shrugged.
“Can’t let what go, Steve?” I asked, squinting up at his name tag.
Side-burn Steve turned and pointed a stubby finger at the far corner of the shop, and our heads swivelled round to see a six foot grandfather clock with dark wood panels and a silver pendulum. I watched Mum tightening her grip on Nathan and letting a deep sigh escape, which meant she was about to launch into one of her Jesus Nathan do you think we’re the Rockefellers? lectures. Just then the hour and minute hands slotted into place for twelve noon and old grand-dad shuddered to life, groaning successive long, dull, discordant clangs that shook the breakfast digesting in my stomach. Everyone in the room put their hands over their ears while Nathan stood there with his mouth hanging open and his eyes bulging.
After the last hour struck, the suicide blonde at the jewellery counter grunted:
“Some days I think I’ll buy that Anti-Christ of a thing myself just to get it out of here. Chop it up, use it to fuel the Barbie.”
Mum was rubbing her temples, the sign of another migraine, as Nathan stared at the clock whispering: “It’s magnificent.”
“If Mr. Crosby doesn’t come back for it by next month, it could be discounted,” Side-burn Steve cleared his throat.
Nathan started to hop on his tippy toes: “Yeah Mum! It could be for my birthday and Christmas.”
Mum smiled at Steve through clenched teeth, “Very effing unlikely, given the cacophony we already have at home.”
Nathan looked at the ground and sealed up his piggybank, defeated.
“Thanks Steve,” I said, with Mum ushering us out of Cash Converters.
In the car, Mum flicked on Classical FM and yawned from her bones before setting off. I bent my head down to Nathan’s ear while he was quiet and sulking.
“Hey, you might still luck out. I mean, if one of us cracks and kills you from lack of sleep, we’d probably get that grandfather clock, hollow it out and bury you in it. Y’know, cheaper than a coffin.”
Strangely after that, night by night, there were fewer alarm shrieks and beeps and tolls from Nathan’s room until, finally, all we heard at night was the scrape of the cicadas.
BayveenO'Connell has words in Fractured Lit, Janus Literary, Bending Genres, The Forge Lit, Splonk, the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology, 2019 & 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Flood, and others. She came third in the Janus Literary Spring Story Prize 2021, and received a Best Microfiction nomination in 2019. She lives in Dublin and is inspired by myth, history and folklore. Twitter @bayveenwriter