Monday, September 17, 2012

Even more Belly (part four)

[Click here to start at the beginning with part one]

Jonas’ life involves quite a few circles. First, there is this “circle” he travels around each morning inside the Loop. The elevated track the train rides atop runs due north and south until it reaches the edge of downtown, and then it turns abruptly to skirt the city center’s perimeter with a clockwise path. From the air, the route might seem to sketch out an exclamation point, or a thermometer, or a clock’s pendulum arm held still.

Yes, make it the arm of a clock. Time pieces and their round faces are the other circles to figure prominently in Jonas’ life. He makes his living as a salesman in a small clock shop. Every inch of its walls, from floor to ceiling, is taken up with a variety of second tickers, some standing, some sitting on metal shelves.

It’s crammed full of stately grandfathers, would-be mantelpiece squatters, less serious cuckoos, and assorted novelties. Their exteriors are made of glass and precious metals, mahogany, and less sturdy but more colorful plastics. Their precisely geared innards push pendulums, cause small brass hounds to chase a rabbit, and tickle a black cat’s tail to twitch back and forth.

While working there, Jonas sits behind a glass jewelry case filled with smaller items: wrist and pocket watches, alarm clocks, timers and stop watches. When no one’s in the shop, he’ll let his gaze fall on their small faces for one second each. He counts aloud with their little and bigger hands, as they glide and tick around and round to lap up numbers and notches, tracking our oval about the Sun.

His fancy for time-tellers didn’t come solely in trade for a middling pay check. He’d had a fascination with them since he was very young. When and how did this start? He can’t say really. Maybe he was born to it. He does have a vague memory of a waltzing animated, grandfather clock that might have cast the first spell, but he’s not sure if he’s made it up to justify a neat trajectory from his past to present.

He knows quite well the first time, at Christmas, he strapped the black leather of his Micky Mouse watch around his too-thin wrist, and waited for those two very unrodent-like arms, fit with their precious white mitts, to converge up at twelve o’clock. He’d never not wear a watch after that. There was magic and dependability in the constant but invisible circles they traced.

Now, with his current watch strangely refusing to give up its fixation on a seven and two zeroes, and with an impenetrable black pushing in against the window beside him, time’s once comforting grip on him slackens. His memories begin to feel borrowed. To Jonas, they begin to feel less real than a mouse with white gloves, red pants, yellow shoes, and a cartoon smirk.
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