11:11 a.m. Corridor
A girl with bluish hair, her name is Auburn, whirls around and
locks the parlor door with a key that she found on the mantle beside
her grandfather's clock, a grandfather clock, that arrived no less
than twenty-four hours ago shipboard from the continent. Her
grandfather accompanied his clock. Both are quite grand, her
grandfather and his grandfather clock. Both are ornate and full of
crannies, one chiseled by tool, the other by time, talking and ticking
with metronomic precision during a tea-time rant over the state of
Grandfather's affairs on the continent and why his stocks have fallen
and his blood pressure risen, and why he has come alone and not in the
company of Grandmother who would have insisted Grandfather still loved
his clock more than his wife.
Auburn spins toward the corridor that leads to the locked parlor door.
She twirls back toward the kitchen door, also locked. Her
grandfather's clock chimes eleven. She checks her watch and laughs.
Eleven minutes after eleven. Auburn cherishes the time she spends with
her grandfather, a third-generation temporal palindromist whose
grandfather said of their practice "a craft more aptly described as an
art that should be preformed with care as if traversing the down-going
stairs that lead up to the top."
The keys in her pocket jingle as she massages them between her
fingers. Auburn cannot resist a key. Unlocked doors compel her to
secure them and locked ones insult her, teasing her with the mystery
on the other side. She peers through the kitchen keyhole and twists
the knob, but the door is locked. From a jumble of keys spread out on
her hand, Auburn grabs the brass one with a lion's head and slips it
into the lock. The doorknob turns. As soon as the door closes behind
her, she locks it back again; then drops the key into the silverware
10:01 p.m. Lighthouse
Auburn pressed her face to the glass. Yellow stars twinkled at the end
of the choppy sea, the lanterns on her grandfather's ship. He had
finally arrived, but the lamp in the lighthouse had gone dark. She
would have to go down for
supplies; there was no light in the lens. On her way around the dome,
Auburn jumped as the watch room trap door fell shut.
The clank of metal on metal and the mechanism in the lock froze an
expression of amazement on her face. She grabbed the handle and
pulled. The door was indeed locked, trapping her in the darkened
The ship's stars drew closer turning into twinkling squares, off and
on, signaling for the beacon to guide them around the black rocks. She
heard the sails on her grandfather's ship flap about in gusty puffs.
Auburn leaned out the window of the lighthouse dome to warn him, but
the ocean wind swallowed her voice. She watched with big eyes as a
shadowy boat stocked with parcels, a grandfather, and a grandfather
clock broke upon the rocks into shards of wood and gears and bones.
10:01 a.m. Lighthouse
The steps to the lighthouse watch room spiraled around a column of
stone covered with dewy patches of moss. Auburn whistled her favorite
song, "Steam Shovel Cincinnati Blues," sliding her hand along the
stone as she wound up to the dome, up the throat to the ocean's eye
that peered out over the salty splashes eating the rocks below. "Oh,"
she smiled and reached for the handle on the trap door, heaving the
wooden door closed. She inserted a green copper key into the keyhole,
and after a twist, Auburn pushed up on the watch room door to make
certain it was locked and skipped back down around the stairs.
11:11 p.m. Parlor
Grandfather, with a grayish mustache that curls up at the tips,
caresses the crescent moon, a mahogany moon that waxes up one side and
wanes down the other of Auburn's grandfather's grandfather clock."What time is it dear?" he asks, pulling the pendulum chain on his
Auburn checks her watch. "Eleven, Eleven."
"Eleven, Eleven." Grandfather positions the hands at straight up
eleven o'clock. "How about a cup of tea dear? I've had a long trip."
"What else have you brought for me besides tea?"
He rummages through his bags. "I've got some lime and corn cakes from
the continent and syrup tapped right from a maple trunk." He smacks
the side of his head. "Oh, and I've brought you a book about young
girls and lighthouse solitude. We all have our burdens, don't we dear?"
Auburn stands up with excitement and grabs a key from the mantle,
instinctively unlocking the parlor door. When she turns back around,
her grandfather is gone.