The clockmaker came out only at night. He arrived at the young widow’s house shortly after half-past eight. Books and remnants of a simple dinner lay across the table in the sitting room where the grandfather clock had been standing silent for a year. The woman pointed at the ancient instrument in the corner and folded her hands in front of her as if in prayer.
‘Sorry for your loss,’ he said.
In the silence that followed, she could feel her heart galloping in her chest.
‘How long has it been now?’
‘A year, today.’
‘Ah. I’m sorry.’
They stood facing each other as time passed in slow motion.
‘So, what would you like me to do?’
She had summoned him earlier in the day, the explanation for the call vague. Something about an anniversary.
‘My husband had always taken care of it. It stopped when he died,’ she said.
‘So there’s nothing wrong with it? You just want me to get it going again?’
‘Yes.’ A prayer. ‘And please teach me how to keep it working.’
He nodded and opened his tool box, trying to concentrate on the task ahead instead of the woman beside him, tense like a coiled spring.
As the clockmaker set to work, she stepped back, watching from a distance. He asked about the key. She did not know what he meant, but eventually remembered the small black handle her husband had used to wind the clock. She was surprised how easy it was to keep the mechanism running.
‘It should be fine for a while,’ the man explained, turning the clock’s hands to the correct time, ‘but I’ll have to take it in for proper servicing soon.’
The clock chimed for the first time in a year. It took all her strength to keep her composure. Time stood still.
Before he left, she asked, ‘Tell me, do you think it’s true what they say, about your whole life flashing before you when you are about to die?’
‘I am not sure, dear,’ he said, reverting to the familiar address, not knowing how else to comfort the young woman.
He refused to take money from her. ‘Next time, when I service it properly,’ he said.
She thanked the clockmaker and gently closed the door after bidding him a good night. Alone, she leaned her head against the passage wall and cried.
The clock chimed nine. She counted the heartbeats and wiped the tears from her face with the back of her hand. She walked over to the grandfather clock. It towered above her in the silence of the night. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The stories of a long-lost friend returning home. She listened to the soothing whispers of its hands telling her about the future. They reminded her of violin music announcing a new dawn.