Asa Highsmith twitched in his overstuffed recliner. He had not meant to fall asleep like this--yet..
“Dong!... Dong!... Dong!”
Two fifty-three by his pocket-watch. In another five minutes, he could expect some of his other clocks to begin striking. That was normal. Certain ones anticipated the hour, others lagged after it a bit, depending on the condition of their works. He was accustomed to this clamor every sixty minutes or so, “achimatized,” as one of the clever novelists of his youth had put it.
But that calendar clock! It was a pestiferous thorn in his side. He had adjusted its striking train so many times over the past few years, he had given up detailing the work in his log-book. He had removed the entire brass works and soaked them in a bucket of kerosene. He had replaced parts…As a last resort, he had experimented with an electromagnet housed in the bottom of the case, in an attempt to justify the pendulum. The damned thing seemed determined to race, in spite of all his patient labor--and, what's more, when he heard its voice like this, in the wee hours of the morning, he could swear it was urging its fellows to fall into accelerated step with it!
“Better hold your horses, Tom!” he called over his shoulder, “or one of these days I shall silence you...” He called the clock 'Tom' because old Seth Thomas of Connecticut had manufactured it. Asa chuckled to himself. Good thing he lived alone. At eighty-five years of age, however, he was entitled to talk to his clocks if he felt like it.
The entire house was alive with the chatter of timepieces, but Asa could always distinguish Tom's brisk, impertinent click-a-clack. 'You don't DARE, you don't DARE!' it seemed to retort.
Why did he obsess over Tom's quirks, anyway? Seth Thomas' factory had mass-produced these things; they had been inexpensive in their heyday. Many other clocks graced his collection, made of finer materials by superior craftsmen and, consequently, better behaved. If his Regulators were to start acting as Tom did--now that would be something to worry about! Still, it was a puzzle. Why were the moon-phases on Tom's dial always in agreement with the nightly display in the sky, whereas the hands stubbornly marked time faster than his other clocks?