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The Miner's Clock
“Sh*t” Marsa says as she stares at the clock. Its face is nearly opaque with the texture of her filthy cleaning rag. Marsa liked it when gazing at it in a teeny-weeny shop somewhere near the Caymans, she doesn’t remember where. She is forgetting things more and more these days. It wasn’t like she has Alzheimers; Marsa is in her late 40s. She doesn’t even know what the heck Alzheimers is anymore, with all this media confusing her. When she was a kid, it was a big deal in her neighborhood if someone had a broken Spirograph.
Marsa sighs. She has been trying to get some of that grime off the front. She does live behind a coal mine, but anything white getting coated in soot 48 hours after cleaning is just unfair. Least that’s what Lady’s Day Magazine told her. Then again, it also told her to shave her legs. Marsa was never going near one of the razors on her bathroom shelf again. It was too painful.
Marsa shut her eyes. She couldn’t think about that now.
The clock ticked on, precisely 9 minutes and 13 seconds behind schedule. Marsa isn’t quite sure how it has come to be different from the beaten watch on her wrist; maybe it has a little deformity which no one has noticed before.
Marsa had made good progress with cleaning the contraption before coming to the scene where she slowly pores a little dab of orange oil on her filthy cleaning rag, and as she wipes back and forth the oil goes rogue. The front is now rough; and Marsa swears.
But she has no time for cussing. She has to get lunch ready for the miners.
Marsa carefully trods outside and puts the clock on the edge of the road. It might be picked up by someone-or something-or run over by a truck. Marsa doesn’t care either way. It’s going to the dump some way or another.
She limps back inside, nursing a blister on her heel. Marsa tries to glance at the clock, and then remembers it is outside now. Absolutely wrecked. Her watch is getting harder to read every day; Marsa thinks the battery is fading. It’s an hour before lunchtime. Get to work, her mind says to itself his son is there.
At least Marsa guesses he is his son. Those blue eyes, the dark hair, his nose, it’s all a younger carbon copy of someone else. Marsa thinks she used to know him, but she doesn’t know if the way she knows him counts.
She washes a pot noisily, then puts it on the stove. Marsa tosses in various canned vegetables and bits of meat here and there. Chicken broth too. Just as the mess is ready to stick in a bowl, Marsa hears the first clank of boots coming up the stone pathway.
It’s not him, or his son. Marsa wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it was him, but that’s fairly unlikely. He was losing an awful lot of blood the last time she saw him.
Instead, it’s Tiny Tim. He is not the least bit tiny, and his name isn’t even Tim. No one remembers his real one, including Timmy himself.
“Sister.” Tiny comes over, and clumsily bumps his gargantuan lips against Marsa’s hard cheekbone. Marsa isn’t related to the giant. The miners just call her Sister, or sometimes Big Sister out of respect. Also, as kids she knew when they misbehaved. Last time they tried calling her ‘Big Brother’, a couple of people had broken limbs. Not too bad, no big deal. It pays to be 1 of 5 women in a mining town.
“Tim.” Marsa acknowledges him, then goes inside as some of Tiny Tim’s co-workers appear. She ladles out the soup into bowls. The men are seated on her front porch, looking even more awkward than usual in little wicker chairs. They eat fast after the customary kiss on the cheek, then get out, maybe to catch a glimpse of whatever sports game is on ABSC. There’s a lot of them, but Marsa manages to feed them all as usual. One of the last bunches has his son in them, and Marsa has a flashback in a split second.
Marsa is going to a dance tonight, with her husband of 4 months. She is 18; he is sleeping on the couch. They’ve already gotten into a fight. The shower is downstairs, but Marsa needs to get her razor. She wants to look good tonight, to feel like someone who is not Marsa. She turns left into the ½ bath. Marsa opens the cupboard and retrieves her blade, and some shaving cream. That’s when she notices the blood trickling towards her, slower than water. Marsa doesn’t comprehend for a second, then follows the trail with her eyes. It leads to the head of a man with sad, azure eyes which are not blinking right now. He has some kind of wound on the side of his head. Marsa, in her state of shock, goes outside to scream for help. She doesn’t have a phone. As the miners come for lunch a few minutes later, they find Marsa inside, staring at the dead body’s hiking boots. Tiny Tim carries the woman outside by himself; she isn’t heavy. By the time the miners come around to calling the next town’s police, the body has disappeared, along with most of the blood. There’s still some stains.
Marsa’s eyes are somewhere else as the dead body’s son carefully presses his lips to her cheek.