Author: Afalstein PM
A young boy, still suffering from the death of his mother, contemplates the nature of time.Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 1,792 - Published: 12-26-08 - Status: Complete - id: 2613444
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream
I'm lying here in my bed, trying to get to sleep. It's such a waste of time. I wish I could just will myself to sleep in a second, then I wouldn't waste so much time just waiting around to sleep. I think time should be saved as much as possible
At least, that's what I tell myself. Maybe it's just 'cause my old man always tried to get things done on time, and I wanna be just like him. He doesn't tell me I should. It's not a household rule I have to follow. I just try to as much as possible because I like him.
Nate says I'm crazy. He pays no attention to what time it is, and neither do his parents. He comes home late and they don't even notice. I remember the one day that my watch battery died. By the time I got a new one from Dad, it was hopelessly off time so I tried to reset it. The first one I went to was Nate. He told me he didn't have a watch. He said it made him feel too stressed if he knew that the day could be divided up like that. Nate hates stress. He avoids it in any way he can, but for some reason he always seems angry. Maybe he's trying to get rid of it somehow, and that's why he avoids stress. He says that all my rushing around is probably unhealthy.
He has a point. I get nervous all the time when I'm rushing about to school, or to the park, or to play with Sandy. On the other hand, after I finish everything off, I usually feel pretty good about it, certainly better than I would if I was relaxing and trying not to think of everything I was missing. It makes me feel good to know I did so much, even if most of it is stuff that doesn't matter, like running to the park and finding out that the curator is late, so it isn't open yet.
A lot of what I try to get to on time is pointless. I really have no reason to go the park, I've been playing at the basketball court there for years and I'm still no better. Same thing for the daily runs I take through the forest. Maybe the only meaningful deadline I have is school, because I do learn things there, and I get to talk to Ralph.
Ralph understands time. He's not much older than me, maybe eleven at most, but he loves to think about time. I've been to his house, and his father keeps all sorts of clocks. He keeps Swedish clocks and Russian clocks and Chinese water clocks and something called a German glock-and-speel, whatever that is. But they all keep different times. I always wondered how Ralph could possibly tell what the real time was, with so many different clocks around him. One time I asked him, and he laughed and told me something about the circumference of the earth and the daylight meridian and other stuff, which I didn't really understand; and finally told me that there is no "real" time, which I understood but didn't agree with. If there's no "real" time, where do people get all the other different times from?
When he found me trying to time my watch, he agreed to help, and brought it into his house to consult his father's clocks. (His father's never home, so that made it easier) He told me he took several clocks timed to the eastern seaboard (I didn't know what that was but I said I did) and set my watch somewhere in between all of them. It was very impressive, but when Sandy checked the time later it was off by several minutes.
I guess a couple minutes don't really matter. After all, I've noticed that nothing takes place exactly on time. People say they plan to meet at 6:00, but they don't really start until 6:03. That's part of why people tolerate Nate so much. Nobody thinks much of people arriving late, because everyone does. Even Ralph comes late to gym class, though he tells me that by the Chicago timetable he is actually early. My father starts meetings on time, but he's the only person I know who really bothers.
So often it seems like I annoy people when I do get there early. Maybe they don't like someone to be on time because they are so often late. Most people, like Nate, don't understand why I pay such attention to the precise time. "For crying out loud, Phineas," He tells me. "We have all the time in the world!"
Do we? How much time does the world have? Probably not as much as people think. I think Mom would have liked a little more. For some funny reason, people never seem to use time until there's no more of it. Of course, using time doesn't mean you'll never run out of it, but you will get more of what you want done. Maybe that doesn't make sense. No one I've told it to seems to understand.
Well… I guess I shouldn't say no one understands that. Sandy does. She says she understands completely why I try to make so much of time. Life seems so short to her that she thinks we should try to make the most of each moment. Maybe it only seems that way to her because she's always seeing doctors or visiting hospitals. Her parents hover over her all the time, worrying she might hurt herself or catch some kind of disease. Father told me once that Sandy was not a strong girl. I wondered why he told me that. I knew Sandy wasn't strong. She couldn't even do pushups in gym class.
Sandy's watch makes a lovely little ticking noise when you hold it to your ear. She let me do that so I could look at the watch better while I was timing mine. I think she knew I was feeling bad that day. I think she also liked the idea that our watches would have the same time. Ralph wouldn't care about that. Ralph thinks that the more differences there are, the better. But Sandy knows why time is so important to me. We went all over the house and set all the clocks to our time, so that they would all agree.
I would've felt pretty happy about that, except when we went out in the garden, we saw a clock we couldn't reset. Sandy called it a "sundial." Ralph doesn't have one of those. I wonder why not. She said it always tells the right time, but sometimes it's hard to read. I would've set my watch by that, but it was a cloudy day, and the sundial doesn't work on cloudy days. I don't think the sundial is a real clock, because a clock should work all the time, and anyway it only gets the time from the sun. Maybe the sun is the only real clock, but it's too bright to check all the time.
I wonder about things too much. Father calls me "his little philosopher." That's what he called me the night my watch broke, when I ran to him crying. I had been thinking about the funeral and wondering how God could let Mom die like that. I wondered if God had even known. And then my watch broke. I ran to my dad and asked him if he thought my watch had died because Mom had died, and he just stroked my hair and called me "his little philosopher."
I don't know why I didn't ask Father to reset my watch for me. He's the one who made it, so he would probably know best. But for some reason, that night, in the darkness and the tears, wondering about God and Mom and everything, I didn't think about it. I didn't think about it until the end of that day, after I'd been to Nate and Ralph and Sandy and even Father Enrico, who set my watch by the church clock. It was pretty close, but when I came home, I knew I was late. Father didn't say anything, but I went up to him and asked him to time my watch.
He smiled at me, that kind, forgiving smile that my Father has, and took me by the hand and led me to his study. I'd never gone into his study before. He took me right inside, and I noticed there was only one clock. Funny, because, with my Father's job, you'd think he would have lots of different sorts, like Ralph's dad does; but he only has one. It sits right on his desk, next to the big family bible with Father's name and my name and Mom's name and a bunch of names I don't know written in it, and it's positioned so Father can see it just by looking up. He told me the clock was something called an atomic clock. I thought it might blow up, but he said it wouldn't do that. Father said the atomic clock isn't the real clock, but it gets messages from a greater clock far away. The greater clock is never off, and it always tells the right time, so the smaller clock that receives the signal is never off either.
We set my watch by the atomic clock, the clock that is never off. Father told me that since my watch isn't atomic, I'll have to constantly reset it to the atomic clock to make sure it has the right time. I told him I'd do it. I will. I'll tell Sandy about it tomorrow. I'll tell Ralph and Nate too, though I don't think they'll care. I think people ought to get as close to the real time as they can, because really we don't have so much time as we think.
A/N: I'm new here, just dropped in from , but I'm curious... how do you people determine what to read? Or how to attract readers?
I'm guessing most of you don't know either.