The Beamis Clock

The Beamis clock has been missing now for many years. Teddy, the family scion, ran into a bit of bad stock in the 20’s and had to sell off a few heirlooms. The New Hampshire house quartered the staff and Teddy himself sold off all but one of his automobiles. Ah, but it was the clock that stuck in his craw.

The clock had stood at the head of the upper hall for as long as I had been executor of the Beamis estate. I never thought to ask after its make and model, just as I had never inquired after the ostrich-plume fan in the sitting room or that hideous upright piano in the parlor. It did not strike me as especially rare or valuable, but Teddy reacted to its absence as if the reds had stormed Wall Street and strung up Charles Mitchell himself.

Teddy’s great-great had fancied himself a big game hunter. He was the one responsible for that garish tiger-throw in the parlor and, apparently, the clock as well. To hear Teddy tell it, Samuel Beamis had cut a respectable swath throughout the wilder parts of the world and retired with not a few enemies. The clock had come from parts unknown. The brass maker’s plate had been scratched out and a fourth hand added to the clock face for some esoteric form of timekeeping. Besides these features, the clock was supposed to resemble a run-of-the-mill bracket clock like you might have on your own mantelpiece. I suggested that, owing to its common appearance, the clock might have been unwittingly sold or given as a gift by an elder Beamis. Teddy suggested I was an imbecile fathered by the milkman, and there split our working relationship until Teddy’s end, leaving the rest of my account to pure hearsay and speculation.

Teddy began a turnover of staff after I left. Soon he was even unable to find servants outside of town because of the reputation the house had gained. The mahogany end table where the clock had sat was said to be perpetually free of dust, a nightmare for any maid, I suppose. Teddy himself was insufferable, prone to buggy-whipping house boys he deemed slow. If Teddy had died at this point, I would not have been surprised. Instead, Teddy disappeared, which was nearly as fitting.

They emptied the house of its three remaining servants and there was quite a spectacle of a trial. The maid wept on the stand of all the misdeeds Teddy would make her perform. I testified on another day and missed it, sadly. I simply distilled my employment by the Beamis family into a few sentences and left the stand unmarked. Quite unexciting, I know. The senior partner in my firm, Claude Stanley, had been the one to broker the Beamis family’s affairs before me. I can only speculate that he’d have much more exciting tales than myself.

As it happens, time passed. I made and lost several fortunes, fathered a family, and they promptly dropped me into a facility for the doddering and decrepit when it was my time. Of the Beamis family, I thought very little, though my mind was much sharper than my descendants would give credit for. The Beamis family manse had stood empty for lo these many years. Then, not too long ago, on a grainy television in the day room, I watched them take a wrecking ball to it.

There were protesters, of course. Nothing so old could go without gaining a few fans, even a rococo nightmare like the Beamis house. I watched them form a human chain as the great iron ball swung and knocked down the widow’s walk Elmyra Beamis had constructed, the grey slate roof, the white walls and decades of history. I imagined Teddy’s chubby face red with apoplexy and wondered if they would find his bones.

The house fell. But then, on the television, there was a speck caught in mid-air. Knowing my fellow inhabitants, it could have been anything spattered on the screen. But the speck persisted as the camera pulled away and showed the crowds gaping at the miracle. I could discern what it was well before the anchor with unfortunate hair identified the floating shape as that of a mahogany end table. He spoke of Samuel Beamis, Teddy’s forebear and the discoverer of the clock.

Yes, discoverer. Samuel had found the piece when breaking new ground on an extension of the house, next to three finger-bones and a gold ring bearing the initials TB. Teddy himself grew to inherit that ring, I had seen it on his finger the entirety of our acquaintance. I wheeled my chair closer as the newsman blathered about ghosts and the madness hung mid-air behind him. He tossed out rumors, a few I’d heard, a few I hadn’t. The tale of Teddy Beamis’s screams coming from an increasing distance seems pilfered from an Ambrose Bierce story. Likewise, the specter of a cheated maid pointing out the site of her remains is straight from M.R. James. Teddy’s disappearance became the tragic attempt of a scion to understand his family’s misfortune, though I doubt the real Teddy’s intentions were ever so altruistic.

In-between the time it took for the news crew to switch cameras, the table disappeared, leaving an entire crowd of people scratching their heads. The phenomena was put down to flying saucers, which were in vogue at the time, and I resumed my nap.

When my granddaughter Amelia arrived for her mandatory visit, I entreated her to take me out to the house. Somehow she bundled me and my chair into a taxi and took me to the site.

A chain fence separated our prying eyes from the ruins. A sign proclaimed it the future nest of a series of expensive condominiums. The carriage house still stood, and the cobblestone driveway was halfway ripped up. I could smell the history blowing over the wreckage. There I had taken toddy with Teddy. There I had been dismissed and had a few clods of dirt thrown after me.

I wondered after Teddy. If he had ever truly understood his need for the clock, or if he had only held a few threads of the tapestry as I have. Amelia draped a granny square knit from odds and ends about my shoulders, a gesture that made me feel older than anything ever had. If the air that had held the table had any leftover mystic qualities, I did not see them.

The evening wind rose up and amelia dutifully packed me away into the taxi. She told me she knew I was pining for my younger days (how she had extracted that from my ramblings, I’ll never know) and had a surprise for me. The face was scuffed and it failed to tick anymore, but she had found a lovely clock for my nightstand sitting just outside the fence of the construction site. As my lovingly larcenous grandchild put Samuel Beamis’s clock in my withered hands, I shook from what she deemed to be cold and exertion and bundled me into the taxi. I half-expected it to disappear in the night, but it still sits on the table where I set my false teeth, very real, very broken. The Beamis clock has come to roost with me, and though I had been there from beginning to end, I could not tell you how.

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