On my bookshelf, I’ve got a keepsake from my daddy. An eight-day clock that he stole from a World War Two aircraft after he’d survived Germany. I guess he thought he was entitled. He didn’t go into much detail about removing the clock from the cockpit of the plane. But I can see him hunched down at the control panel with a screwdriver. He’s not even looking over his shoulder. Not sweating the small stuff.
Not First Sergeant Casey Brewer who was taken prisoner by the Germans, but escaped by using a folding shovel to bash in the head of one of his captors, and running and running, without looking back, until out there between the trees someplace he dug a hole with the shovel he’d just used on the guard, and crawled in it and called it home for two days. He’d learned a thing or two back there in Fernbank, Alabama.
Like how to be quiet in the woods.
Then he heard English speaking soldiers. Sure, he got a decoration to add to the rows of ribbons above his pocket. But he wanted that eight-day clock. And he would take it because he had earned it. He was, by God, alive.
Now I’ve got the clock. And I had it repaired and cleaned so it keeps time. Stays right on the dot with the digital clock in my smart phone. Mostly. When it gets on toward that eighth day on one winding, it’ll drop back a minute or two. I don’t blame it. It’s earned the right. Plus, in its cushy retirement in front of those books, there’s not a pilot relying on its precision.
Only me to glance at it now and then, just some guy who likes to write words and lines to make pages and chapters. Tell some story. A writer distracted will feather-dust glass figurines to keep from the empty page. Or stare at the sweep of a second hand on an old military clock and get an idea for something short. Something that won’t take much time…
It’s a magician’s illusion,
some kind of trick
that loosens that spring,
turns those gears,
balances those wheels
and forward-marches the hands of time.
Oh, and mighty clever,
that convincing tick and tock.
But I’m watching closely.
It doesn’t slide the hands
around the numbered dial
from back then to someday when.
It only goes now to now.
And that’s it, that’s how it works!
A man only gets right-this-instant.
No point staring, scared, down the barrel of some tomorrow.
No sense pining for faraway home.
Just pick it up and put it down, soldier.
You’ll get your Alabama, maybe,
but in its own sweet time.