Carl walked into the office at Offgoods’ Trading Co. and seated himself uncomfortably in a throwback wooden armchair, clearing his throat to further announce his arrival. The company’s eponymous owner, William, scribbled diligently away at his desk, seemingly oblivious to the intrusion. The office was an archive of stubborn refusal to join the 21st century; an old steel file cabinet and a bookshelf full of hardback books, a turn-leaf wall calendar two months behind, a tin of pencils with an old-fashioned sharpener that was screwed to the desk next to a Newton’s Cradle.
Carl set his briefcase down and watched the scribbling. He shook his head. Even the dusty archaic typewriter sat by itself in the corner would be more efficient. And good God, man, hire a secretary, he thought. After a few moments, he pulled his sleeve back in annoyance to check his watch and then compared it to the clock on the wall. The clock hung there with motionless hands, prepared to mark three thirty-seven and forty-two seconds for all of eternity if called upon to do so.
“Your clock’s broken, Bill,” Carl observed.
Bill halted his scribbling and looked up intently at the clock, scrutinizing it as if it held countless details he’d never noticed before. The fact of the matter was that it wasn’t broken, but it seemed pointless to say so – argument for the sake of argument. “It used to…” he finally replied, holding his finger up at a matching 252° angle and twitching it with tiny ticks at one second intervals.
“You’ve heard of batteries, right?” queried Carl.
“For like three years,” Bill continued. His finger ticked away gradually more slightly until it stopped.
“It’s not hard to change them,” said Carl. “You just pop the old one out, pop the new one in. Like that.”
“You know it was the damnedest thing,” Bill mused, staring at his finger for a moment longer before returning his gaze to the clock. “When it first stopped, that battery was struggling so hard to push that second hand, if you concentrated hard enough, the power of your concentration was just enough to help it out and you could coax one more occasional tick out of it here or there.”
“You know why I’m here, Bill,” Carl grunted. He produced a hand-scribbled invoice from his briefcase, and tossed it in front of Bill on the desk.
© 2015 Anne Schilde