01 January 2013


Not sure if this is a ‘caveat emptor’ story or what. Give a listen. Many months ago – let’s say six – Orvy and I were browsing antique stores in a little town an hour from here, which shall remain nameless, but starts with the letter Belton. We were actually picking up some furniture we’d bought for the new house, and I found an old English-made mantel clock with face and wood in good condition, a key, and the tag said “works”. Price was a bit steep, but I wound it, it chimed (Westminster chimes) – it seemed – appropriately. So I bought it and brought it home. Seems it wouldn't run for long unless tilted at about a 15 degree angle. We had reason to return to Belton the following week, and I complained to the proprietor. I really loved the clock and didn't really want to return it, but I also expected it to work, as advertised. She said there was a clock repairman a couple blocks away, and if I would take the clock there and have him phone her with the repairs, she’d consider covering the cost. So I did. I carried it there because the car was attached to a trailer being loaded with all our purchases.
Said clock shop is like something out of collaboration between China Mielville and Charles Dickens. One little old man runs the shop, and it’s a wonder he can find his way home, much less what he’s supposed to be working on. However, he seemed confident that the problem described was easily fixed. So I left it with his guarantee that he would call the antique store owner with the estimated cost of repairs. I reported this to the antique store owner, too, and left my name and number with her.
Weeks went by and frankly, I forgot about it. When I remembered and phoned, the antique store owner said she’d been in hospital but maybe her husband knew something. She’d phone back. Nothing. So I called the little old clock repairman. He said he’d call me back. Nothing. Then I phoned him. Yes, he’d found my clock (it had a sticky note on it) but it hadn't been fixed. He’d get back to me. He didn’t. I phoned again. He was sorry but his wife had been in hospital. Meanwhile, the antique store owner seemed to wash her hands of the whole mess, and I resolved never to shop in her store again. Perhaps she won’t miss the considerable business we threw her way buying furnishings for our new house.
School started; house construction started, I may have made a couple more useless calls and received many apologies, but no repairs. I announced to Orvy that if I were in Belton any time soon, I was just liberating the clock, fixed or not, because we’d paid a good deal for it. He agreed. But we never really go to Belton, except for antiquing and gun shows.
So, Orvy found himself at a gun show a few weeks back, and on the way home, stopped by ye little old clock shop to find that the clock repairman was just as kindly and disorganized as ever, but the clock wasn't fixed. He worked on the clock as Orvy waited for some time, but Orvy was supposed to meet me at an auction in Waco, and he finally had to leave. After another phone call or two (I completely abandoning talking to anyone about this clock and leaving it up to Orvy), Orvy found himself in Belton this past week (29 December, to be exact) and he picked up our clock. The little old man had managed to scrounge a key that fit well enough to wind it and said some things about ‘sorting themselves out’ and ‘if the hour chime’s wrong, that’s really difficult to fix’. He wouldn’t take any money for his work, but Orvy being who he is, left some anyway.
He brought the clock home, carefully wound it, and I’ll tell you what we have: a lovely oak English-made mantel clock with Westminster chimes with a German key. At 1 PM, it rang 13 times (which would be great if it were keeping nautical time, but it’s not). At 3 PM, it rang once. The Westminster chimes seem to be operating perfectly, even if the clock is running very slowly (now about 20 minutes behind). Of course, fixing the speed is easy enough with a pendulum adjustment. Perhaps the hour chimes will sort themselves out, too. I hope it’s worth the time and money; at the very least we have a conversation piece. Perhaps I’ll go to Antiques Road Show some day and find out it’s worth a fortune?