Friday, 17 April 2015

'Hands of a Charlatan' by Chris Milam

I ate clocks in the beginning. My therapist said it might help, she said I had nothing to lose.
They don’t taste all that bad, a hint of manufactured bitterness on the palate, but I have an iron stomach, so I chomped away. Digital, mechanical, quartz, atomic, water, cuckoo, and analog; a cornucopia of time that I placed between my desperate teeth. I even consumed sundials and hourglasses. They didn’t cure me. Nor did therapy.

I tried surgery next. After extracting my heart, which the surgeon said was fatigued and bathed in shadows, he placed an alarm clock in the gaping hole then stitched me up with his finest synthetic thread. My pulse was in tune with the tick tocking, creating a melody of synchronized clock-beats. A shrill bell would vibrate against my ribcage randomly, a plastic quake to snap me out of the doldrums. It was more annoying than anything else. It didn’t fix me, but I never overslept.

I tried living in a massive grandfather clock after that. It wasn’t cheap and it took months to arrive from Germany, but it was worth a shot. I had to curl up in the fetal position to fit inside, which seemed appropriate, I didn’t mind. Polished cherry wood is pretty to look at, and that brass pendulum was rather majestic, but it was too loud in there. To be honest, grandfather wasn’t the quietest of fellows. Every hour on the hour, a thunderous bong would roust me from my stupor. There were just too many creaks and monotonous chimes for it to be any sort of remedy. I only lasted two weeks inside that chamber of gears. If you look close, you can still see my claw marks.

My neighbor, Claudia, is an amateur magician. Nothing revolutionary or anything, she uses steel rings, playing cards, and black top hats. She does the occasional children’s birthday party and the kids seem to believe that she is the housewife version of Houdini.

I told her about my dilemma yesterday. She nodded excitedly and said she could help me. She told me she needed a keepsake to make the trick work properly; something cherished, something that was smeared with the residue of grief. I told her I would bring Hannah’s Movado bracelet watch that I had given her on our first anniversary. It was stainless steel with rose-gold plating. She used to wear it everyday, her delicate wrist burdened by the weight of caustic love. She eventually removed it and placed it in a jewelry box, an ornate coffin for lost things. Claudia said to bring it over along with her forty dollar fee.

I’m not hopeful that whatever illusion she has planned for will work. They say time heals all wounds, but maybe that’s a myth only fools believe. I’ve tried everything to diffuse the sorrow, a yearlong journey of failure. My belly is full of clocks, but the pain is still there. And Hannah is still gone.


Previously published at Luminous Creatures Press https://luminouscreaturespress.com/hands-of-a-charlatan-by-chris-milam/



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