Microfiction: Tick Tock

For Ronovan’s Friday Fiction prompt.

PENTAX Digital Camera

Ticks and tocks of essential time, sink the spirits lower than wine.

 She tore the newspaper page across, crumpled it angrily and threw it in the grate.

Smart arse editorialist.

It was her own fault; she should know by now not to read the obits. As if people needed reminding about the fleeting nature of human existence. Her eyes flicked automatically to the clock on the mantelpiece, an heirloom inherited from parents-in-law, a cheap, mass-produced monstrosity, a wedding present, no doubt, from the sepia days before the first world war. She hated that clock, the infernal, lugubrious tick tock and the chime every quarter. Every quarter! How had they stood it all these years?

She dumped the newspaper and its tidings of doom and gloom and took her coffee into the garden. Maybe she was just tired. She grimaced. Coffee was hitting the stomach rather hard this morning. She poured it over the roses and sat on the bench, watching the clouds race and a robin taking a bath in a rain puddle.

Nothing changed except the pattern of the clouds. He was still gone. Still left, leaving her with the house, the bills and the burden of… everything.

She closed her eyes but the earth carried on turning. Her stomach carried on turning. Tears squeezed out from behind closed lids. It took so little to knock the whole world out of kilter. Everything was wrong. Each second that flicked past was wrong. There were not enough of them left to waste them like this on pain and morbid thoughts, bills and emptiness. She winced. The spasm passed. But it would be back, like clockwork.

Tick tock said the clock. Cloud thickened and covered the morning sun. Coffee dripped from the roses, and the robin finished his bath.

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

20 thoughts on “Microfiction: Tick Tock”

  1. I have a clock such as this one where I live, I actually quite enjoy the chiming of it going off. It reminds me of when I stayed over at my Grandmothers as a kid. I loved the story though, it’s the sadness and grief that gets us hardest when we are alone.

    1. The clock we have is very like my grandmother’s clock too, with the same kind of memories attached. But I can see how the incessant tick tick can become oppressive when you feel time running out. I’m glad you liked the story 🙂

      1. No not at all. I can remember when a year seemed unbearably long, now it flashes by. I could never understand why adults took so long to act and react to things. I felt it should be instantaneous.

      2. I bet you can also remember looking at the clock and just seeing the distance the hands had to go round before it got to Dr Who, or when something happened. The long minutes in between seemed like an eternity of boredom!

  2. When I was in labour, I asked the midwives to take the clock off the wall- it was driving me bonkers as i kept trying to calculate the dilation per hour and extrapolate how much longer ot would take haha. They said that was the first time they’d had such a request but they left it there ticking! Fortunately, I was done after just under 4 hours. I could relate to your characters dislike of the clock and the passage of time it reminded her of, though in my case, it marked how slowly time seemed to pass.

      1. Maybe they did. Hospitals don’t necessarily listen to patient requests. When our youngest was born, or rather between me going into the hospital with my waters leaking, and the time it took (almost two days) the chief obstetrician to accept that she wasn’t going to leave without a fuss, I was hooked up to a monitor. Husband found it so unnerving having it beeping away registering contractions and baby’s heartbeat he asked them to take it away. Of course they wouldn’t.

      2. They told me they’d never been asked that before. 2 days? woah! Those sounds are no doubt reassuring to the medical professionals but for a patient, it can terrifying since we associate those jarring sort of sounds with alarms or warnings of some kind of danger.Biggest thing that annoyed me was I spelt out that I did not want the cord clamped immediately and they didn’t do as I’d asked. If it wasn’t for the joy of my baby’s presence, I think I would have kicked up a bigger stink over that.

      3. I always found that the midwives were more accommodating than the doctors. The higher up the pecking order, the more infallible they assume themselves to be. I got so angry with one self-important doctor who told me the sex of my baby as I was walking into the delivery room! It said in several places in my file that I DID NOT WANT TO KNOW THE SEX OF MY BABY. I gave her such a mouthful she left and didn’t come back.

        >

      4. Oh no! that is awful! You’d kept it a surprise for that long ugh, just as well she didn’t come back- must have been an OH&S decision 😉

        I mainly had midwives and it was midwives who ignored the request for delayed cord clamping. Dr only made a brief appearance when I went against my resolve and asked for epidural, but Dr’s assessment was that it was too late at that point, and baby came about 20 min later. It NEVER gets old to relive and talk about labour/birth. Well, maybe it gets old for people listening, but I don’t talk about it all that much (really).

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