The Timewright

Arthur has always been able to see the clock that is sewn on everyone’s heart.

“It’s a gift”, his mother tells him when he is 5 years old, “You’re a timewright, just like your grandfather.”

Arthur does not understand but he nods anyway.

Years pass, and Arthur learns that everyone has a clock on their heart that only he can see.

But each person’s clock ticks at the pace of their heartbeat. Because of this, the time on one person’s heart never matches the time on another person’s. When a person dies, the clock stops ticking and gently floats away skyward.

He has never been able to predict someone’s death by looking at their clocks, but he knows a few things having seen them for more than 20 years.

The clocks are all the same size, but each person’s clock looks different — there are old fashioned pocketwatches, alarm clocks, clocks with ornamental hands and complex engravings, clocks with roman numbers and clocks with no numbers at all.

There isn’t a single person who does not have their clock ticking on them.

No amount of clothing can hide the clock from his view.

The clocks may each beat at a different pace, but they always move forward.

But for some people, the hours and the minutes hand keep moving forward but the seconds hand is stuck, moving one step forward and one step back instead of moving across the whole clock — the stuck clock he calls it.

Arthur has only ever seen a stuck clock on his grandfather’s heart.

Or so he thought until he met Katja.

Katja is a foreigner; her name is strange, her voice stranger. And she stands out because she has dark brown hair which matches her brown skin and eyes. He has never seen anyone like her in all his life in the small town that he lives in.

She serves him his coffee as he reads his newspaper at his favorite inn.

Arthur wonders what her life must be like, an immigrant working a blue collar job in a country whose culture she does not understand.

But more than anything, he is fascinated at the clock that adorns her heart.

It is a simple black clock with numbers written in a foreign language. The hours and minutes move normally but the seconds hand is forever stuck at the number 3.

Day after day, it is the same. Katja is learning to speak their language and she looks happier now.

Every day when Arthur comes in, he orders the exact same type of coffee, pays for it and thanks her.

She smiles and says, “Enjooy yer kawfee, Mistah Stown”.

Every day Arthur notices the stuck clock.

Arthur wants to know why — he goes to the library to find answers. He reads about the nature of time and of people who can see the clocks on other people’s hearts.

But none of the books talk about the stuck clock.

He returns home frustrated and tired.

That night he dreams.

He is sitting at his work desk, repairing a clock — it is Katja’s clock!

He tries to push the seconds-hand forward, to spring it into action.

It doesn’t work. He shakes it and puts it to his ear as though he can “hear” what is wrong with the clock. But there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with it.

Finally, he sets the clock down on the desk and walks away to stretch.

He comes back to his desk to work on the clock afresh — this time his eyes spot something.

The seconds hand is of a different color than the other hands.

The clock is black but the seconds hand is grey — it is coated with dirt.

A single drop of water has fallen from the roof above him onto the second hand and has dislodged some dirt that’s on it.

The drops seem to fall continuously now, washing away the dirt.

Arthur gently polishes the dirt away, but it settles on the numbers, still obstructing the hand. So, he slowly cleans the whole clock, mysteriously aided by the water drops falling from the roof.

Once all the dust is cleared, the water drops come to a halt.

And to his delight, the clock is unstuck!

Arthur cries out in triumph and instantly wakes up from his dream.

He rushes to the restaurant to get his morning coffee but also to see if Katja’s clock is finally moving forward.

Katja isn’t there; Arthur decides to drink his coffee as slowly as possible, to wait for Katja to come in. but she never turns up.

The next day, Katja isn’t there again. Three days pass and there’s no sign of her. Arthur is worried now.

He walks to work thinking of his dream and Katja’s disappearance. But quickly pushes these worries to the back of his mind. He’s almost a block away when he realizes he’s left his suitcase back at the inn!

He rushes back to the place and sees Katja handing over her apron to the owner of the inn and bowing. She smiles and turns around to face him. “Good dae, saar”, she says and walks past him, wiping away a tear.

He mumbles a terse “Good day!” his eyes widening as he notices her unstuck clock.

“Weeel, she was a hard worker, aye. But good fer her, decidin’ to go back ter school ter study”, the owner of the inn remarks offhand to a coworker.

He looks at Arthur and yells, “Misterr Stone! Ye left yer suit case. Jessie, fetch it for us lad… Mister Stone?”

Both Jessie and the owner look on perplexed as Arthur runs out the door after Katja.

Author of 'How to be a Lighthouse'. I write for those pursuing excellence and meaning.