What Has Hands But Cannot Clap?


IMG_1048George has always made it a priority to save time. A few seconds here, a minute or two there.

They add up to hours, days and weeks in next to no time.

He locks them away in a large safe at the back of the cupboard in the upstairs room on the right.

His rainy day savings, he calls them.

He’s found he can save a good six minutes by cutting through the alleyway instead of going the long way round from the train station to the office, even though that means stepping over unidentifiable black messes seeping from the overflowing garbage bins and having rats run squealing from under his brisk tread.

And he can shave at least fifty minutes off his one-hour lunch. A sandwich: gone in a couple of bites. Cup of coffee: down in a gulp. Done. Back at his desk.

His commute though, has always been a problem. He catches the 7:32 from the West Island (having sliced another 42:63 minutes off his most recent sleeping time and 6:35 seconds off his breakfast time which is already pared down to an absolute minimum – he despairs of ever saving more time there).IMG_2582_2

The train takes 35:08 minutes (good day) to 42.43 minutes (bad day) to three and a half hours (extremely bad day). Sure, he’s cut the time it takes to pull on his overcoat, galoshes (rainy days – bad) and hat, and from the walk to the station. But there is nothing he can do about the train.

He sits in his seat, fretting at the sheer waste of it all. Surely it isn’t necessary to stop at every single station? Don’t they see how easy it would be to lop off a stop here, a stop there?

He glances at his watch (a very superior and reliable model), then at his fellow commuters. Look at them! Reading newspapers or novels or gazing out of the window as though they have all the time in the world.

The train rackets on and on.IMG_0421

The train slows, gives a jolt, stops. People off. People on.

Another jolt. Thank goodness! The train is moving again. About time too! He sits there, heart trembling at the thought of the time rushing past.

The train picks up its rhythm: what has hands, but cannot clap? What has hands, but cannot clap? A clock, a clock, a clock.

I hope you’re not judging George. You are, aren’t you? You think he’s a pathetic loser, don’t you? You’re laughing at him. Just like his work colleagues snicker as he rushes into his office cubicle and, with one swift movement, sits down, opens his computer and reaches for the telephone for his first call of the day. (Time saved: 3:333 minutes.)

Well, if you are laughing at him, I know he’d laugh right back at you, just like he laughs at them, a sly prideful laugh.

He knows that, when the time comes, as it must for us all, he’ll have the last laugh.

Because when the time comes, he’ll go upstairs to the room on the right (if necessary, he will send the doctor or a nurse), open the cupboard, dial the safe combination – 20-85-01 – and there they will be, his rainy day savings, those days, weeks, months, years, all ready and waiting for him.

Prague Astronomical Clock


2016 is my Year of the Blurt: quick-writes (mostly fiction) starting with something tangible, something I can see, smell, taste or hear or touch in that moment. I’ve challenged myself to post one every Thursday through the year!

Please note: all material on this website, except for comments by others, are © Susi Lovell.


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