For starters, the clock needed to be cleaned. It had to be done at the same time every day, and then the carpet needed to be vacuumed to suck up the footprints that would otherwise reveal that someone had entered the room.
He approached the clock on tiptoe, as if not to wake it, a spray bottle of glass cleaner in one hand and a microfiber cloth in the other. Once his chore was complete, he would need to add the cloth to a pile that he would later take down to the basement to wash. He misted the face of the clock with cleaner and wiped it in smooth, concentric circles, working his way in before turning the cloth over and working his way out.
He had to complete the chore between 3 on the nose and 3:15, or else the clock would chime. It was loud. The clock maker told him long ago that he could turn it down, but the clock had a voice, and one wasn’t meant to dim that. He compensated for the noise of the clock by using a non-electric vacuum—a carpet sweeper is what they called it, back in his movie theater days.
Those carpet sweepers, at the movie theater, were clogged with kernels and slick with butter, leaving impenetrable slug trails in their wake. His carpet sweeper was clean. He made sure by washing it in the bathtub and comparing it to the whistle that dangled from the towel rack.
He was just finishing the vacuuming when, somehow, he kicked the foot of a polished maple side table. He froze, his entire body extended into one long exclamation point, the head of the carpet sweeper punctuating his panic. The porcelain figure of a ballerina pirouetted toward the edge of the tabletop. She spun and spun, her pointed knee the sail of a nearly-turn-turtle boat. Minutes passed. She stopped, one-third of her porcelain base sticking perilously out into the bottomless air. The clock chimed.
Three long, one short. Three long, one short. Three long, one short.
With each long chime, he righted himself a little more, using the short ones to pull the carpet sweeper a few inches closer to his body. When the clock stopped, he turned around and left the room, first to drop the microfiber cloth in its pile, then to bathe the carpet sweeper. The incident with the ballerina would not be forgotten. He would make sure. He would add it to the newsletter. There was always something to report. For starters, the clock needed to be cleaned.
Molly Andrea-Ryan is a poet and prose writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Her work can be found in Idle Ink, trampset, Barren Magazine, and elsewhere. You can also find her on Twitter @mollyandrearyan.