Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Tell-Tale Timex® -- A "Theme Thursday" Tale (with apologies to Edgar Allan Poe)


I'm assuming you're familiar with Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart. If not, I highly recommend that you read it, perhaps even before you read my own little parody. However, my story can still be appreciated on its own, if you insist.

* * * * *

Insane? Me? Is that what they're saying? That I'm crazy, mad, wacky, zany, pixilated, Looney Tunes, unhinged, demented, full-goose-bozo, cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, and otherwise missing a few flights of stairs to the attic?

No. Certainly not. Not me.

I mean, I loved that old man! He was like a father, or perhaps a grandfather, or maybe a step-uncle... to me. I stayed with him at his boarding house even as all the other lodgers had left, one by one. He was so sweet and considerate. There wasn't a single thing about him that was unlikable.

Well... Perhaps there was one thing: His watch. His old Timex® digital wristwatch, twenty years old or more. In fact, it wasn't even the watch itself, admittedly... That was harmless enough, I suppose...

It was that annoying beep the watch made, every morning at seven o'clock! It was so much louder than it had to be. Than it had any right to be! That sound drove me... ummm... never mind.

Sweet old man. Lovable old man. He was a lover of gardening, and of all things related to the past. He eschewed the most modern technological conveniences.

He didn't own a CD player, or even a cassette player. No, he owned an old-fashioned turntable, a "record player," he called it. And he owned strange vinyl objects he called "LPs" and "45s."

His television was old, too. It was a color TV, true, but it probably dated from the 1960s, well before I was even born! It stood on short legs, like a bureau, and had a wooden cabinet. And he had a huge TV antenna on the roof. No cable or satellite for him, no sir! And no DVD player, of course. No VCR, even!

He read books, and magazines, and glorified in the writing of letters which he posted by snail mail. He owned no computer, nor even a primitive word processor. He had a contraption called a typewriter! A wondrous, noisy machine that wasn't even electrically-powered. Fascinating.

And his telephone -- a land-line, of course, no cell phone for him! -- sported something he called a "rotary dial." I never did understand how that worked.

Most impressively, in the building's foyer, at the foot of the stairway to the second floor -- the floor where the boarders lived and slept, as did the old man himself -- was a real antique. A lovely old grandfather clock, with a proud and loud chime that would sound every hour, on the hour! I wasn't much for the old-style ambiance of the dwelling itself, but even I loved that majestic clock.

And... I did love the old man.

But... but... that watch, that Timex® watch...! It was so relatively modern, why did he love it so?

It was not one of those that sounded every hour, on the hour, as did the grandfather clock. No. It only sounded once per day. At seven a.m.

Seven was when the old man woke and hurriedly got dressed, in order to have breakfast ready for all of his tenants by 7:30. He'd walk downstairs, take the morning newspaper from outside the front door, and proceed to the kitchen, which was adjacent to the dining room.

Well. I say "all of his tenants," but by the end, there was only myself renting a room. The others had moved out, one by one. Why? I'm not sure, but I have my suspicions...

I would go to each of them, every single day, and discuss the maddening sound -- and I mean "maddening" in a strictly figurative sense, of course -- of the seven o'clock morning "beep" emitted by that infernal Timex®, and though they all said it didn't bother them... that they didn't even notice it... I knew that that sound was the reason they all moved out! They had to have heard it every morning, as I did. It was so incredibly intrusive.

It's just not fair that, as I age, my eyes grow weaker and my hearing remains strong! There are so many people I'm tired of listening to, but so much I still yearn to see!

So. As much as I loved the old man, I knew there was but one solution to the seven o'clock intrusion upon my senses.

I had to murder him. I simply had to! I had no choice in the matter.

For a full week, I would rise at night -- I slept all-too-uneasily, in anticipation of that morning beep! -- and tiptoe into his room. There he slept soundly, and innocently, and I could not bring myself to do the dirty deed which I'd planned. But of course I couldn't! I didn't hate him, I hated that damnable beep!

On the eighth night, I slept more soundly than usual, and rose only slightly before six. As I had the previous seven nights, I stealthily made my way to his room. I entered it. And waited.

And waited.

By 6:59, I had advanced to the very edge of the old man's bed. And one minute later, when that cursed beep sounded... I smothered the old man with his own pillow.

I thought it only fitting that I should inter the old man's remains in the garden he loved so well. The garden was in the backyard, isolated from the prying eyes of any neighbors. During the remaining morning hours, and part of the afternoon, I was able to leisurely dig his grave and replace all the flowers atop his resting place after having tenderly deposited his corpse in the hole I'd dug.

The rest of my day was uneventful. I went to sleep relatively early, and slept until approximately six-thirty on the following morning.

It was at "approximately six-thirty on the following morning," you see, that a knock came at the front door.

I was surprised and somewhat taken aback by the thought of visitors at such an early hour. I was further disconcerted when the two men turned out to be uniformed policemen. By way of introduction, they explained that a concerned neighbor had called them after having noticed that the old man's daily newspaper still rested on the welcome mat from the day before. (Although, at this stage of the game, today's paper rested beside it.)

"Oh," I explained, bending to take both papers off of the mat, "the old man left for a short vacation, only two days ago. I would have noticed the newspaper myself, had I left the house for any reason yesterday."

The officers asked if I minded if they were to look around the house, pointing out their lack of a warrant or indeed, any "just cause." I was perfectly within my rights to refuse, they told me.

Did I refuse, you wonder? Naturally not. Perhaps I would have, had I truly been insane, and uncertain, and paranoid, and nervous, and antipasto and paraffin and ammonia and Kim Novak...

But I was none of those. A little bit country and a little bit rock'n'roll, perhaps, but fully sane otherwise.

I even offered to make coffee for all of us -- on the stove-top, in a device the old man called a percolator -- while they searched the house for signs of foul play.

After their search (which proved fruitless, of course!), we sat at the large table in the dining room having our coffee. The dining room was situated in the rear of the first floor... and it was with a perverse satisfaction that I realized that right outside the room's one open window was the old man's garden, his final resting place!

I smiled serenely, thinking of the old man as he slept his final sleep, appropriately dressed for same in the pajamas he'd worn as I smothered him. Would that I could have smothered his watch's beep as well, the way I had...

It suddenly occurred to me that I had been careless in one terrible respect.

The old man was still wearing his watch.

The old man was still wearing his watch.

And seven o'clock was approaching!

In a scant amount of minutes, the alarm would sound, and my hideous deed would be revealed to the policemen, who sat there sipping their coffee and chatting with me.

But surely, you say, the fact that the body lay beneath several feet of dirt would prevent the policemen from hearing that insidious beep? (You did just say that, or at least, think that, didn't you? Don't deny it! I know your mind as well as I know my own, and the old man's, and the policemen's, and George Clooney's...!)

Silly reader! Have I not told you how loud that beep was? They would hear it!

I stood and closed the window, as if that would help. Foolish me! That would scarcely be enough to muffle the bleating sound that threatened to rob me of my freedom.

I began pacing. And sweating. One of the officers politely asked if I was well. I blamed the perspiration on the hot coffee, and the fact that I had closed the window, which effectively cut off the cool morning breeze that we'd been enjoying.

The officer suggested I open the window, but my quick mind replied, "I have a better idea! Let us have our coffee on the front lawn, as it is such a beautiful day!"

Suiting the action to the word, I took my cup of coffee from the table, and marched out of the dining room, fully expecting them to follow... which they did.

My aim, naturally, was to get them as far away from the buried corpse and its accursed adornment... because seven o'clock was rapidly drawing nearer.

The three of us had reached the foyer. I was about to fling the front door open, and then realized with a powerful feeling of frustration that if we did indeed step into the front yard, there wouldn't even be closed windows or a building's walls to shield us from the deafening trumpeting of the relentless beep.

I stared at the grandfather clock. It was 6:59... twenty-three hours and fifty-nine minutes since my woeful act of murder.

I was defeated. I accepted it, and standing in the middle of the foyer, my arms splayed Christ-like, I screamed "It is finished! I am undone! Tear up the back yard! Beneath the garden lies my victim, wearing his god-forsaken Timex®!"

I had scarcely spoken before the dreaded hour of seven arrived, and the nearby grandfather clock pealed so loudly as to hurt our ears.

It was so loud, in fact, that I didn't even hear the beep of the old man's Timex®.

And neither would the policeman have heard it, had I only remained silent for a few seconds more...!

Wow. That's crazy, man, crazy!

* * * * *

Ha! See? You thought I was fudging today's theme by writing about a Timex® watch, instead of a clock. But the story was actually about the clock in the foyer!

Heh.

Thanks for your... time. (Pardon the expression.)

37 comments:

  1. Great post SF! When I was younger, I read Poe all the TIME. I was intrigued with him for a number of years. When I was about 7th or 8th grade, my friend, her sister and I found Poe on LP's at the library. We would make up little plays and use the albums for the narrator. The Tell Tale Heart was one of our favorites. This brings back many memories.

    Okay, off to finish Baby-Bobbie which I started last night. Happy TT.

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  2. very clever.

    you did poe proud.

    for others wanting to reread the inspiration for fox's wonderful tale, go:

    http://www.pambytes.com/poe/stories/heart.html

    thanks!

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  3. This was a fantastic take on the Poe! Well done, Mr. Fox. I enjoyed this.

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  4. My TT award for today's most creative post!! I loved it! My time was well spent lol

    Thanks so much and happy TT :)
    xoxo

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  5. ahhh, fun play today. loved every minute of it! bravo! well played! happy TT!

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  6. Oh, very good! Rather like a Hitchcock short, or a Woolrich.

    Kat

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  7. The Talented Mr Poe! A Worthy Topic for TT.
    'Sorry I havnt visited lately.Your Blog (like mine)Seems to have been struck by the 'I.E.Bug' Seems to be on the Mend now?
    Regards
    Tony.

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  8. Poe is one of the first authors I read in school. Interesting rendition.

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  9. Nice twist on that story. My husband referenced that particular tale when I was wondering what to choose for TT. I looked at hiim and said, "But that's the beating of a heart!" and we moved on. You, however, saw past that little detail and made it work.

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  10. Ha! That was great. Nice Poe-like story...

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  11. Great Poe pastiche. The voice was perfect despite the update in circumstances. And what a clever take on the theme. Good work, GF!

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  12. Very Poeish. That is a super interpretation of the original.

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  13. Loved it! Definitely a modern take on a great classic. Wonderful. :)

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  14. ah...the guilt.
    I have a Poe inspired story myself, somewhere in limbo...you may have inspired me to resurrect it...

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  15. Oh for heaven's sake, I came here for a quiet read! Didn't expect to be rushing about closing windows or pacing the floor in a sweaty state. Could you write a lullaby specially for me!!

    Nice one ... erm speaking as one who knows!

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  16. What a read. I'm sure I've seen a mini play in a similar vein so much fun . . The Poe story is great too. Love that man's work. And nice one winding the CLOCK in there sneaky old fox!

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  17. Excellent! I have read the Poe story, this was a great take.

    'antipasto and paraffin and ammonia and Kim Novak' = hilarious!

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  18. Everyone: So glad I pleased so many of you. I've read your blogs, so I respect your opinions. I tried to evoke the feel of the original model, without exactly aping Poe's writing style.

    And a few specific notes to:

    Tony: Hope all glitches are behind us.

    Tom: Yes! Resurrect it!

    Megan: Oh, good, I was hoping someone would mention that kooky run-on sentence! I was trying to keep it light.

    Valerie: A lullaby? Would you really want to see that, coming from me? I can see it now... The child from the "Rock-a-Bye Baby" rhyme, coming back as an adult, to punish his parents for having left him in a tree-top, subject to the cruel whims of the wind and the spindly branches of the tree! (Oh, wait, I kinda did that already, in "For Baby (For Bobbie.")

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  19. Very good! I do have a movie reference for this, sans the watch( if only I could remember the title ). Brilliant update!

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  20. very well done
    I love the matter of factness about the decision to murder him.

    and this made me smile, reminding me that when i met my husband - and digital watches were new and trendy - he had his watch set to beep every hour. Used to drive me mad! and he thought it was so cool

    murder never occurred to me as a solution though...

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  21. Lettuce: Ummm... Oh, good. Or something. (Had me worried, there.)

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  22. Hi! The Silver Fox
    This is my first time visiting your blog. And I'am so glad that I stopped by!...Oh! yes, I just recently read Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart...This is why the story that you have related here
    is warrant of a LOL!!!!...very nice, funny, and done with a "poe"ish twist!
    Thanks, for sharing!
    DeeDee ;-D

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  23. Deedee,you should check out SF's post for TT on "Suitcase"! Aw, g'wan....

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  24. Hi! Subtorp77,
    Right you are!...just a little
    coaxing there!...hmmm

    Tks,
    DeeDee ;-D

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  25. Subby: The check's in the mail...

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  26. SF, a coffee will do, just fine! Hope the grille is up, to-morrow! But just in case....I'll bring back-up :)

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  27. I was entralled with the story and you came up with a surprise twist to the clock connection. It was great. I was listening to Koko singing while reading this story. Thank you for posting the video. I gotta work on what Wang Dang Doodle means. But I like those words.

    Thank you for writing this story. I loved all the crazy ways things from the past were applied.

    God bless.

    PS...I have to go back to the beginning of Eli's story, not sure if reading the ending first ruins it. But I will be back to read soon. I have to try and get to all the TT's. I am going so slow cause I am catching up on all the posts.

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  28. Mrsupole:

    "I have to go back to the beginning of Eli's story, not sure if reading the ending first ruins it."

    Ummm... probably.

    "I loved all the crazy ways things from the past were applied."

    Crazy? Crazy? What do you mean, CRAZY?!?!?!

    (Sorry.)

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  29. No apologies needed from what I see. I really injoyed thi bizzare twist on an old story

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  30. ok, I should have previewed that before I hit publish. My keyboard has a mind of it's own somedays.

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  31. Wow, Foxy, leave you alone for a few months, and this is the kind of thing you come up with?wow.Oh.I said wow alreaqdy.I was one of the wierd chicks in high school who loved The Raven and other Poe stories and poems.Enjoyed this alot.

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  32. LOL! Loved this, Fox. I've always loved Poe, and, at one time, could recite all of "The Raven" by heart. These days I have trouble remembering my own name. That's why I use "AngelMay". Heh. This was a wonderful story. Damned Timex watches. They take a diggin' and keep on tickin'.

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  33. @AngelMay: High praise, coming from a wordsmith such as yourself. "They take a diggin' and keep on tickin'." Great line, for those of us old enough to remember the old ads. Gracias, bonita!

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  34. You would have made Poe proud! :)

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  35. You are a gifted writer...hope you know that. While you may have mimicked you certainly did not imitate. Your voice is strong, and true, and I LOVE the little bit country little bit rock and roll reference. And ultimately, the grandfather clock brings it home. Love them, have a walmart knock off in my foyer that couldn't keep the write (hee) time if the motion of the earth depended on it. I humbly bow to the sly...er, silver fox! :)

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  36. Not only does the comic adaptation of my story (drawn by Skip Simpson) follow this one, it also includes a little "silent surprise" at the end that gives the story an even bigger punch!

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