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He shuffled slowly through the workshop, took his apron from a peg, and settled down at his workbench.

A hundred clocks ticked around him as he laid out his tools. Each was taken carefully from the toolbox and set down with millimetre precision. This way, once he began work, he would never have to look away to find a tool; each one would be right beneath his fingertips when he reached out.

Once his workbench was prepared, he closed his eyes for a few moments, listening to the symphony of the clocks around him, all in perfect time. The bass of the grandfather clocks underpinned the choir of ticks and tocks from bracket clocks, cuckoo clocks and carriage clocks. Once an hour, a riotous outbreak of melodies would fill the air.

All in perfect time.

“Now,” he muttered to himself, “What have we here?”

He adjusted his eyepiece and bent over his work. Repairs to such complex mechanisms were painstaking, precise work, requiring absolute concentration. Sometimes vital parts were broken, and had to be replaced. Sometimes it was more a matter of realignment; of getting the tick and the tock back in time.

There were, of course, always more repairs to be done, but he always worked carefully, never rushing. A rushed job would be a shoddy job, and each one deserved his full attention. The repair work would always take as long as it needed to, and each job would be completed in turn.

He made a final adjustment and sat up, stretching his back, as somewhere far away a sad young girl remembered how to smile. The clocks around him burst into life, cuckoos calling the hour across a dozen melodies that clashed yet harmonised, and Grandfather Time reached for the next broken heart that needed repair.

© Kari Fay