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Tick-Tock Clocks

By Áine Greaney

PROMPT—During Covid-19 ...

The clock on my kitchen wall is starting to drive me mad. Oh, I’ve had tick-tock clocks before. In kitchens and bedrooms; in my native Ireland and here in America. Plus there were all those hotels where I got up in the middle of the night to unhook or unplug. When I was 10 years old, we moved into a new house where the previous occupant, a deceased widow, had left half of her furniture and knickknacks behind. She must have had memory problems, that widow. She left things switched on or off, which we knew from that smoke-blackened patch above the kitchen range. She left a bible in a drawer and, tucked under the stairs, we found one of those wall clocks with a dark-wood frame and a brass pendulum. My father cleaned that clock up, then hung it on the wall opposite the range. Tick Tock. That clock was always either ten minutes fast or ten minutes slow, so at age 10, I excelled at subtracting or adding in time increments of ten. Train stations. Hospital waiting rooms. The assembly room at my convent school. Huge examination rooms at college. Later, those places where I worked in America, like a restaurant kitchen and fluorescent-lit offices where a white, electric clock kept time. This clock now, the one on my kitchen wall, is ceramic. It was a gift from my late mother; it came in a cardboard box with airmail stamps. I must admit: A year ago I could sit here and barely hear it. Or there were pre-work mornings when that ceramic kitchen clock made me write faster, word by word by word before it was time to commute to work. Now there’s a pandemic lockdown. Now, in these slow, silent mornings, the clock is a jackhammer inside my head. Or a metronome? No. These days, it feels like there’s too little to count down to or for. Unless I count the sunshine through my window. Unless I count the fact that I am here, in this house, in this kitchen where the wall clock beats time with my beating, healthy heart.


Áine Greaney is an Irish-born writer living on the North Shore of Massachusetts. In addition to writing and publishing, she develops and leads creative and expressive writing workshops for various organizations. Learn more at:


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