LISP 2nd Half 2021 Flash Fiction Finalist 'Under the Clock' by Mary Francis
Under the Clock
They lived under the clock. It gave them a fanatical energy.
“It’s about that time!” they called to each other. And, in reply, “Time flies!”
The clock ticked, day and night. It was audible everywhere. The thickest doors didn’t shut it out; the spongiest ear plugs couldn’t block the sound.
Their hearts began to beat in time to the tick. Mothers tapped their feet to it as they filled up their cars and their kids. The children skipped to its rhythm.
Nobody slept much. “No time to lose,” they’d say in the small hours when they were found fixing the plumbing or jogging or painting the moonlit lilies in the pond. Fat goldfish blipped against the surface of the water, forming ripples in perfect time. “Time and tide,” they said.
They held a spring dance in the square beneath the clock’s grey face, the band playing in and around its beat. There was salsa, rumba, waltz. “Having the time of my life,” said the people.
The innkeeper rolled out beer barrels and casks of wine and a second band began a new set, and the sun had gone down but the dance went on. The ticking rolled out from under the noise of feet on flagstones and they said, “Keep in time,” to the band, “Our finest hour,” to each other and, “Give me a minute,” and, “Time’s running out.”
Grandmas tried to rest on folding chairs, their legs still jigging. Babies on parents’ hips wailed on the offbeat. The guitarist’s fingers bled and so did everyone's feet, soaking their shoes and slickening the ground as the music died away. The sun rose and set, flowers opened and closed their faces to the sky, and the clock ticked over the last dancer spasming with perfect regularity as time marched on.