It was either the clock or Alice

AN esteemed connoisseur by the name of M.Henri Delorme of North Hatley, Quebec, is the only Canadian to own a digital tall clock, except that I have his prized possession here in Maine. The foolish thing wouldn't fit in his automobile and he had to go home without it. The plan now is that I'll load it into my pickup truck later this summer and ride it up to North Hatley and thus happily get rid of it forever. Meantime, Henri will clear a corner in his Atelier of Awesome Oddities. We can blame this on Henri's uncomplaining wife, Alice, who did complain this time, because it was a matter of clock or Alice.

You see, I made the clock 10 years ago, or so, in a moment of idle mood, and at the time I thought the idea had a comical twist. The tall, or grandfather, clock needs the hickory-dickory height to accommodate the weights, which use gravity to power the works, but for a modern, computerized digital clock the ceiling-height is superfluous.

I made two of the things at the time and gave the first one to Joe Novick. Joe is of congenial nature and didn't ask any silly questions when he first saw it. He just said, ``Great!'' and accepted the digital tall clock without suggesting I might have something the matter with me.

Most people - indeed, almost all - have a way of viewing a digital tall clock askew and presenting a misguided suggestion that because it is unnecessary, it is unjustified. Nothing could be further from the truth and sanity, but those who know this come few and seldom. I was pleased at Joe's calm acceptance of my purpose and intent and forthwith gave him my masterpiece, which he treasures as much as I treasure Joe.

Much the same with Henri. Henri and Alice came down for the Dominion-Independence Days hiatus and were to return home after a surfeit of lobsters. Henri had looked at my second digital tall clock in its corner of our living room and had chuckled amiably, so I knew he was in sympathy. He ran his hand over the smooth pine case, still chuckling, and turned to resume conversation without intruding any silly questions. He had no why's or wherefore's, and didn't rebuke me with, ``Whyever would you do such a stupid thing?''

``Would you like it?''

``Of course.''

``Take it home; it's yours.''

``Thank you.''

Then I briefed Henri on the terrors of ownership. Everybody who sees it, I told him, will ask why, and you'll devote a good part of your time trying to explain that some few things in this world never need questions, and the necessity and sense of a digital tall clock ride on the important attributes of needlessness and absurdity. A digital tall clock, I said, is for people who sail pea-green boats - or jump over the moon or give mad tea parties - and you'll not meet many of them on your way to the post office and back. Henri nodded, and asked if I thought it would fit in his automobile.

This digital tall clock is the same size as those monarchs of time and antiquity that stand stately in the British Museum, never made for an Audi, and the answer was no. We tried every angle known to Euclid, and the only possible way was to recline the front passenger seat and cant the thing crosswise - this allowed a full centimeter to spare between windshield and rear window. But it meant Alice would have to sit in back, and after she was twisted just right and humped up enough, the clock case would nudge her right ear all the way to North Hatley. ``No way!'' said Alice. Nothing doing. She loves Henri, and me, and digital tall clocks - but not that much.

``Too bad, Alice,'' I said, ``because your refusal smothers a splendid witticism before its time.''

``How so?''

``Because if you ride with the clock, humped and crowded, the Canadian customs officer is bound to ask why in the world you don't just go and buy a wristwatch.''

Alice said ha, several times in succession, but her jollity failed to persuade her to risk that opportunity. We put the only digital tall clock owned by a Canadian back in its corner here in Friendship, Maine, and Alice rode up front with Henri as they drove away. Too bad, I was hoping to get rid of the thing. Right now it is 8:32 a.m. here, EDST.

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