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My Grandfather’s Clock

By @S F Brooke

The Story

Cyra turned the key into the new set of locks on the old house, the door creaking as she pushed it open. She coughed as the dust attacked her lungs. The house felt ancient — even though it was built in the early nineteen hundreds. The move here had been stressful, to say the least, but the adventure of it all made it worth it. She dropped her suitcase near the front of the staircase, setting her cat down in her carrier. “Well…let’s take a look around shall we?” 

Running a hand through her auburn pixie cut, she took a breath and started looking in the house. She liked the updated kitchen, the living room, and the guest bedroom on the first floor. She started up the wood stairs, the sixth and tenth stairs creaking under her weight. Cyra checked out the other two bedrooms, delighted at the spacious master bedroom, the bathroom, and the multitude of storage in the four closets. Pausing at another old door she pulled it open, the hinges that were rusted over screeching. A skeleton fell out and Cyra screamed. Only once she had a heart attack and kicked the thing across the hall did she realize it was just a Halloween decoration. 

“Haha, skeletons in the closet. Very funny,” she snarked, brushing off her tan leather jacket from the dust that had fallen out along with the decoration. She peered into the closet and saw another staircase climbing up towards what looked like an attic. Cyra flipped on the flashlight on her phone. Shining it up the stairs, she hummed, “It seems sturdy enough.” 

Cyra climbed up the stairs, holding the wooden railing tightly, its intricate whorls and edges giving her hand a massage as she slid it up the railing. These stairs groaned louder than the ones in the front, but she kept climbing up. Reaching the top she opened another door, having to push it roughly with her shoulder to get it to swing in. 

“Whoa,” she breathed out, eyes traveling everywhere. She could have sworn she was transported to a different world. The sun shined into the attic from the circular window at the top of the turret, illuminating the dust that was traveling through the air. Tons of boxes littered the attic, an old shattered mirror in one corner, and a trunk and dresser in another. Vintage lamps and vases were piled next to books that were falling apart at the seams. It looked like a still-life painting. Cyra took a step in, turning off her flashlight as the sun was adequate enough lighting. Taking her time she checked out the books first, her inner bookworm sparking to life at seeing first edition copies of Gulliver’s Travels, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Some books were so old that there was more dust than words left in them. She screeched in delight when she found a signed copy of The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien. Looking inside the trunk she found old clothes and letters that had yellowed over time. Opening one of them she saw they were love letters between a man and a woman. She placed them to the side to check out later.  

After several hours and many piles of treasure to go through later, she reached the dresser. Cyra cleared some of the years of dust away with her hand. It was a beautiful tiger oak, and while gazing into the mirror that was attached, she noticed that the top of it curved into a dip, clearly an antique. Cyra checked out the first five drawers, finding all of them empty. The sixth held several small objects: a compass, an ivory brush, and a pocket watch. Cyra pulled out the watch, twirling it between her fingers. She held it to her ear and made an interesting noise when she didn’t hear any ticking. 

“Ninety years without slumbering

tick, tock, tick, tock,

His life’s seconds numbering,

tick, tock, tick, tock,

It stopped short never to go again

When the old man died.”

 Flipping up the lid, her eyes widened when she saw the face was cracked and a small square portrait was pressed into the lid of the watch. A man in a military uniform, he couldn’t be older than his mid-twenties. Cyra stuck the watch in her pocket, grabbing the things that she wanted to look at later from the floor, and headed back downstairs. She let out her cat Clementine and, settling in for a night of long research, she placed everything on the kitchen table. The watch intrigued her the most — pulling it out again, she fiddled with it. She noted that the chain was gold and the watch itself was bronze. It reminded her of the nursery rhyme — the one about the clock — and she hummed it under her breath as she researched on her laptop, trying to find a match to the watch.

“My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf,

So it stood ninety years on the floor;

It was taller by half than the old man himself,

Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.

It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,

And was always his treasure and pride;

But it stopped short never to go again 

When the old man died.”

It took a week, several websites, and one scary pawnshop before she found the answer to her questions about the watch. Cyra had managed to connect the love letters to the man in the photo — several letters mentioned the watch. One finally confirmed the giver was the woman mentioned in the letters. Cyra still didn’t know who they belonged to — the letters from the woman were signed by a lipstick imprint and the man’s had no sign-off. They were letters full of love and promise, the watch part of the story waiting to unfold. Getting an idea, Cyra grabbed her iPhone and called her real estate agent. 

“Hello, Peggy. My name is Cyra Way and I have a couple of questions….” She listened as the pleasantries passed before getting to her point, “Do you happen to know who the previous owner of this house was?” She waited for an answer. “Gary Brooks…okay, and this is an odd question but do you happen to know where he moved? You don’t…hmm okay. Thank you very much.”  

Pulling her laptop close she opened Google and started searching for Gary Brooks. Turns out there were hundreds of them; she humphed in frustration before going to grab the phone book. The good old yellow pages were for once going to be useful. She thumped the book onto the table with a loud slap, flipping open the book to find who she was looking for. The twenty Gary Brooks listed posed a challenge. Grabbing her phone, she started calling the first number listed. Once the man picked up she asked him if he’d lived at the house’s address. It wasn’t until the sixteenth call that she finally got a yes. 

“You did!?” she asked excitedly, immediately questioning him about the watch. When he replied that it was his, she suggested that they meet.

 With a tinge of sadness in his voice the older gentleman explained, “Well, you see I was holding it for a friend. I’m afraid I don’t live in the state any longer. I’ve moved in with family in Idaho.” 

Cyra’s hope plummeted, “Oh, well, do you know who the watch belongs to?” 

“In watching its pendulum swing to and fro,

Many hours had he spent while a boy;

And in childhood and manhood the clock seemed to know

And to share both his grief and his joy.

For it struck twenty-four when he entered at the door,

With a blooming and beautiful bride;

But it stopped short never to go again 

When the old man died.” 

Gary told her the name, Walter Grace, and explained, “I served with the man in WWII. After he died, I somehow got the watch and I placed it there in the attic for safekeeping.” The man chuckled, “I guess it worked a little too well, seeing as I forgot it was up there.”

Cyra smiled, “Thank you so much, Mr. Brooks. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get the watch back to his family.” Saying goodbye, she picked up the watch and tapped it gently with her finger. She burned the midnight oil as she went back to researching. Sometime around four in the morning and her fifth cup of coffee her searching brought her to an article. It was fairly recent and held the name Walter Grace so she clicked on it. She was way past the second page of Google so why not? 

“Ninety years without slumbering

tick, tock, tick, tock,

His life’s seconds numbering,

tick, tock, tick, tock,

It stopped short never to go again

When the old man died.” 

Pulling the article close to her face, she read it out loud — 

“‘Walter Grace served in WWII and was recently posthumously given the Medal of Honor, the highest US military decoration awarded by Congress to a member of the armed forces, for gallantry and bravery in combat at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.’” 

Cyra’s eyes widened, “No way! He was a Medal of Honor recipient?” She read on — 

“‘Walter Grace single-handedly saved the lives of three of his fellow soldiers, his commanding officer, Gary Brooks, among them. While under heavy fire, Grace managed to get his men to safety all while being injured with a bullet wound to the side. He was later shot in the chest but survived because his bronze watch was inside his pocket.’” 

Cyra clapped her hands together happily at her find. “That’s why you’re cracked!” she told the watch. Reading further, she saw that Walter later left the service for a time and had a family; he died of a gunshot wound on his second tour of service at the age of thirty-six. Following the end of the page, the article listed the number of the company that published the information. Seeing that it was now past five in the morning, she called the site’s number. Explaining her situation to the woman who answered, she got a hold of a phone number. Cyra called it, quickly getting voicemail. She left a long explanation for her call and hung up. The next day she had a missed call, a woman’s voice telling her an address where she hoped she could meet Cyra and see the watch with her own eyes. Grabbing her keys Cyra drove to the address, pulling up to a small townhouse, and knocked on the door. A woman in her thirties answered the door, her smile carefree. 

“Hello, I’m Cyra Way. I called you about the watch,” she explained. 

“Oh, of course, hello! I’m Senna Grace-Holt.” The woman shook Cyra’s hand and invited her inside. 

“I recently moved here and I found the watch in my attic, along with these letters,” Cyra said as pulled them out of her jacket once they were settled on the living room table with glasses of ice tea in front of them. “I’m pretty sure they belong to your family.” She carefully put the watch on the table with the small pile of letters. 

“Oh my goodness…” Senna breathed out, gingerly taking the watch. “This is my grandfather’s watch. I thought this was gone for good. I never met him, but I’ve seen pictures. This was one of them,” she said, pointing to the picture in the lid. “My grandfather was a war hero. When he died my grandmother had the watch in her hands looking at the picture. She said that when he died it stopped ticking and that’s how she knew,” Senna explained, giving Cyra a small smile. “Thank you so much for bringing it back.” 

“Tick, tock, tick, tock,

It stopped short never to go again

When the old man died.”

Cyra’s smile grew, incredibly happy she was able to bring Senna a memory of her late family member. “I guess I was just there at the right time.” 

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