m a r t h a    c l a r k s o n

 

Cuckoo Clock

The Day X Got Promoted
















Cuckoo Clock

It came packed in a small brown crate with the shiny gold label of the jeweler where my mother had her wedding rings cleaned. It arrived under the arm of a man my mother had known in college. He wore white shoes and drove a blue Thunderbird. When he handed her the box, packing straw curled out of the cracks and my mother blushed. While my father worked stringing telephone wires, the man gulped iced tea on our patio.

A little house framed in carved leaves, made in The Black Forest—a Hansel and Gretel sounding place. Mounted on the kitchen wall, the heavy pinecones spent their days invisibly descending. The front of the clock had to be held when pulling down the chains every night, keeping the bird wound. At first the cat batted the chains around, then lost interest. Guests commented on their restless nights, the crazy little bird loud enough to reach other rooms.

My father and I stopped noticing the bird after a week. But my mother looked up every half hour, from sink or stove, like she was late for an appointment. Now she is deaf and lives alone. Still, she looks up when he cries out.

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The Day X Got Promoted

 

It was a big promotion, too. Not just up by M or the front hook of the J. This promotion put him right after D. A-B-C-D-X-E. Sounds pretty good, The Council agreed after lengthy deliberation. There hadn’t been a letter promotion in hundreds of years, since E moved up five spaces, to spread the vowels.

“X deserves this honor,” The Council read in unison from their official scroll at the Centennial Alphabet Banquet. X stood up and bowed from his intersected waist. V glared with widespread eyes from a back table. D smiled from the seat next to him, tired of having E’s back to him all the time.

“X has long lived a word-limited existence,” the eldest council member orated from the podium. “‘X-ray’ and ‘xylophone’ do not a letter make.” And so to X, as part of his promotion, The Council added the words xelargen (a person who uses a magnifying glass), Xgiving (granting Thanksgiving a shortened holiday name, like Xmas), and xestify (to impart vigorous testimony). X was proud of his new words, which The Council had shown him before the banquet, as someone powdered his points.

V and X had battled bitterly for this promotion. In the end it was decided that V really belonged next to U, with their similar shapes. But X had always held the advantage. He was a box-filler, a train’s crossing, he marked the spot.

 

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MARTHA CLARKSON is a corporate designer writing poetry and fiction in Kirkland, Washington. She is a bowler, avid reader, and on occasion can be known to concoct fab cocktails. Her work can be found in Seattle Review, Crab Creek Review, and forthcoming in Nimrod. You can read her work at: Monkeybicycle and Pindeldyboz.