speaking of clocks …


I often walked home from elementary school with a clutch of companions. Close to the block before mine lived a full-lipped girl with steel blue eyes. Eyes like her mother’s. She had a hidden beauty even as a child, coupled with a bold personality which could be a bit off-putting. Occasionally I would be invited into her house, and I remember being awestruck by her mom’s collection of cuckoo clocks cluttering the mustard colored walls of the kitchen. Formica table with tiny pink and green boomerang-shaped imprints. Vinyl-upholstered metal chairs.

Her mother would have been striking, even compelling, except that she was one of these people who seldom smiled, and when she did it looked painful. A grey complexion was masked with pancake makeup and the smell of stale cigarettes emanated from her hairsprayed coif and clothing. I had the impression that she drank a bit as well, and remember a small, well-stocked bar in the dark, perpetually dusky and seldom used living room. Too much furniture. Heavy mahogany dining table and chairs. Crystal decanter, amber liquid. Mirrored serving tray. Her tall father a pale, drawn complement to his wife.

Then my friend’s beloved brother shot himself. He was sixteen. It now seems a blur – the blue-grey smoky living room with curtains never drawn, the sad-eyed mom, the stoic dad, the clocks. The clocks. Cuckoo, cuckoo … the little figures popping out of the tiny doors … cuckoo, cuckoo. Memory is like this – were they always morose, did the brother die before or after this pall cast itself over them, this sad little family …

She marries young to a born-again, her pale blue eyes and rich mouth maturing into a sultry dynamic now in full bloom. I have not seen her in years – surprised at the transformation.

Thirty years later, I speak with a mutual friend who tells me their marriage ended up on the rocks with the ex producing pornographic videos here in Hawaii.


image: gillianivy.deviantart.com

8 thoughts on “speaking of clocks …

  1. Wow, what an extraordinary collection of characters.. we would like to think that the pall fell after the brother, because if it was before then there must have been something else going on.. mm.. fantastic recollection.. very nice piece of writing bela.. c

  2. Strange the memories of childhood, I myself would have never remembered the pink and green boomarang imprints that were actually on moms countertops growing up. You have have brought them back to my minds eye with whole new meaning, thanks Bela.

    1. Welcome, Wendy. Yes, memory is unreliable to the extent that we remember certain things, omitting others. Then someone else comes along who was ‘there,’ and tells a different story. Fascinating, that 😉
      Thanks for visiting!

  3. The way you write this tragic story is so enamoring. This story is really interesting and I love how you related everything to those cuckoo birds, they’re such common things that you would probably disregard their existence and yet you give them significance. I also love that picture you used, it really captures how you feel and I love how you gave me another artist to follow.

    1. Thanks so much for your comments! I truly appreciate them. And you bring up the common becoming the significant – in my mind, memory is like that – it seems the image is really what brings many of us back to the feeling – in this case for me, it was the clocks.
      Also glad you liked the artist! I love her painting.

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