The wrinkled gent woke up suddenly in the middle of the night. Staring into the
darkness he saw nothing. Gloom and fear ganged up against his mind. Had he
heard something? What was it? Something falling with a bang? What?
He had heard things fall in the night such as glass picture frames—old strings giving
way. The picture would crash to the floor, shattering the glass. He would recognize
this. But he did not hear shattering glass.
Was it a thief in the night? He lay listening, not daring to move. The night was dark,
cloudy, gloomy—and scary! Desperately replaying the sound, he heard a bong in his
A bong! That would have come from the old grandfather’s clock. Yes, it had to be his
grandfather’s clock. He knew it. His stomach released its tension.
His eyes popped open again. How could it be the clock? The clock stopped running
when his grandfather died – forty years ago, this very night!
Suddenly the clock started striking. Twelve strokes at midnight. With bolt-upright
attention, he sat in self-detention, and pondered.
His grandfather was a strong man who lived to be ninety years old. Then the clock
stopped to run no more. One of his kin wrote a song about it, and it was sung for
“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 penny weight more . . .”
He would find out why the clock was striking. Slipped quietly to the room near the
clock’s encasement, he saw the clock standing with its door open.
His eyes adjusted a little, and there in the floor he saw a dark object. What was it?
He had left nothing there on which to stumble in the night. You learn a few things,
he thought, in a long life like his. And you keep things picked up so you won’t fall
Moving with stealth, he saw something hunched and furry, standing vigil with eyes
reflecting light. His cat! Apparently, the cat had chased a mouse up the clock
seeking safety. Its weight tripped the spring wound tightly, causing it to strike.
In his delusion the old gentleman grabbed his shotgun from the mantle. With the
menace looming bigger, he quickly pulled the trigger. Now the old grandfather’s
clock is no more. And the cat and mouse are a taxidermy chore.
Written for John Heck's "Choose your forte!" contest