Harry Jameson sat in his chair, reading his favorite book, Tom Sawyer. It made him feel young again to read about Tom and Becky, but it also filled his mind with thoughts of his wife. He missed her sorely, and the quiet, empty house added to his loneliness. In an hour the nurse would arrive, just like clockwork; coming around at eight in the morning, one in the afternoon, and six o’clock in the evening. It gave him someone to talk to, although even talking these days took much of his effort and strength. He sat, idly staring at the large clock on the wall and watched the second-hand jump from number to number, slowly but steadily around its face. The consistent tick-tock emanating from the clock comforted him and reminded Harry of his own mortality and that he, unlike his wife, still lived. The big hand indicated five o’clock and he figured he had plenty of time for a nap before his visitor arrived. Switching off his reading lamp, he kicked out the foot rest on his lounge chair and drifted off to sleep.
A noise disturbed Harry and he awakened with a start. With eyes like silver dollars, he sat up straight and gripped both armrests tightly. What was that? He turned on the lamp but couldn’t pinpoint the sound. Alarmed, he felt his pulse quicken and breathing escalate, and he struggled to calm himself. After what seemed like an hour but was probably only thirty seconds, Harry finally relaxed. He glanced at the clock. Five o’clock? It was five o’clock when I turned off my lamp. That’s strange. Feeling the urge to urinate, he raised himself out of the chair and shuffled off to the bathroom, dragging his oxygen tank behind him.
Upon returning to his chair, he glanced at the clock again: three fifty-five. Bloody hell! What’s going on here? Harry pinched his readers onto his nose and leaned forward to gain a better view of the wall clock. What he saw not only dumbfounded him but panicked him, and he found breathing difficult. The second-hand on the clock spun like a pin wheel and the minute hand moved at a speed normally associated with the second-hand. But stranger still, both hands rotated counterclockwise. The more he stared, the faster the hands moved. He squinted his eyes tightly and then opened them, but the chilling anomaly remained. The hands continued spinning, counterclockwise, faster and faster. What the hell is going on? He glanced around the room and found the clocks on the stove and microwave acting in the same fashion.
Harry grasped his face in both hands, hoping to clear his head, but when he pulled them away, he noticed something odd about the back of his hands. He no longer had those ugly brown spots. And the wrinkles had also disappeared. On the floor to his left, where the oxygen tank used to sit, was now open space. He jumped out of his chair and ran to the bathroom mirror. While he stood in front of the mirror, slack-jawed, and studied his new body, he realized that a fantastic transformation had occurred—his hair was much darker and most of the gray was gone, his upper body was firm and muscular again, and he no longer had bags under his eyes—but someone entering the house through the garage interrupted his examination. The next thing he heard caused his knees to buckle.
“Honey, I’m home.” His wife’s voice. But she’s dead.
He stepped out of the bathroom and peered at his wife, who returned his hypnotic gaze. “What’s wrong. You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Harry ran across the room and grabbed his wife by the shoulders and then hugged her like he’d never let her go.
She gently pushed him away. “Honey, come on. I must put the groceries away. I was only gone a couple of hours. You act like you haven’t seen me in years. Not that I’m complaining. It’s nice to be loved on.”
Harry hardly believed what had happened, it was too far-fetched, but decided not to mention it to Sarah. She’ll think I’m nuts! After helping her put away the groceries, Harry returned to his lounge chair. While he opened Tom Sawyer, he cast furtive glances at the clock on the wall. The phenomenon he noticed earlier continued, with both hands spinning counterclockwise, around and around. He looked at Sarah to see if she had noticed anything, but she just smiled at him and so he tried to put it out of his mind. This is fantastic. I’m forty years younger. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Although Harry loved the new him, he was apprehensive about going to bed and sleeping through the night—what if I wake up as a baby? —so he stayed in the chair and read his book, keeping one eye on the pages and one on the spinning clock. But, unable to remain awake, he eventually dozed off.
The next morning, Harry awoke to the beautiful melody of song. It’s Sarah. When she entered the room, his eyes widened and his mouth fell open. She looks forty years younger. Then I must be forty years younger, too. After kissing him good morning, Sarah said, “It’s Saturday. Are you going golfing with your buddies?”
Her question surprised Harry. “No. I would rather be with you all day.”
“I don’t know what’s come over you, but I like it. Let’s go shopping and grab some lunch.”
It was as if the two had become newlyweds again. By the end of their outing, they returned home exhausted. They decided to take a little afternoon nap, which lasted more than two hours. Upon awakening they prepared a meal, for just the two of them. While they sat at the kitchen bar eating, a strange feeling overwhelmed Harry. It was an ominous feeling, but he couldn’t put his finger on what was wrong. After dinner and a couple of glasses of wine, Harry and Sarah retired to the family room and began reading unfinished books.
Sarah said, “Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall tonight?”
Harry was bewildered. “What are you talking about?”
“At the prom. Wouldn’t you love to see your son dancing with his girlfriend?”
Harry’s heart stopped beating for a split second and his face turned white. Forty years earlier, that same night, their son William was on the way to the prom with a carload of friends and the car ran off the road and down a steep culvert, killing all the boys upon impact. I can’t go through this again. This can’t be happening. The phone rang amid his daydreaming and Harry froze. Dreading what he knew he would hear, he let the phone ring. But not wanting Sarah to suffer, he crossed the room and picked up the phone. “Hello. Jameson residence.”
“Yes, Mr. Jameson. This is Officer Wilson with the highway patrol. There’s been an accident…”
The blood drained from Harry’s face and he dropped the phone. He heard someone talking but couldn’t comprehend their words. Gathering himself, he retrieved the phone and placed it against his ear. The officer said, “…and the boys are all okay. The car’s pretty beat up, but no one is seriously hurt.”
Harry thanked the officer, hung up the phone and then jumped and shouted for joy. “Our boy’s okay!” He then turned his face upward and said, “Thank you, God.”
After he explained everything to Sarah, they readied themselves to go pick up their son. Before leaving the house, Harry noticed the clock on the wall. The second-hand now turned clockwise, moving at the normal speed. He smiled a big smile and walked his wife out the door.
The nurse entered the front door and checked her watch; it read six o’clock on the dot. She detected a faint light coming from the family room and barely recognized her favorite patient sitting in his favorite chair. After turning on a few more lights, she called out, “Mr. Jameson, it’s me. Nurse Nancy.” She heard no response. After setting down her bag, she approached the chair. Normally she would hear his raspy breathing, but tonight only silence greeted her. Leaning forward, she gently placed her hand on his. His skin felt cold to the touch. She slid her index and middle finger to the inside of his wrist. No pulse. Stepping back, she observed an unusual peace and calm about Harry and detected a slight smile formed at the corners of his mouth. She muttered, “I haven’t seen the old man smile in years. Well, at least he died peacefully.” Looking up at the clock, she started to write down the time, but realized something wasn’t quite right. The clock seemed to have stopped. Five o’clock it read.
It’s been said that you can’t change time, but as is the case with Harry Jameson, time can change you.