Chronomentrophobia (William Ray Hillary)
They say I drove him mad. I reckon I just let him loose upon the sky.
Mommy dances in the smoke and smelliness and daddy cries. We have an apartment, but they take me to rock shows, and they stuff my ears with cotton and give me nips of gin to drink. “He's a real downer,” auntie Cait says. Daddy, that is. Daddy is afraid of tick-tock clocks, and ringing bells, even though he is a rock star. You know, old fashioned clocks that tick until they ring. But mommy sings. She likes to sing. The nights are often cold. I see shadows play on daddy's face. I have a plan to stop daddy's fingers moving in me like they move when he is playing his guitar. Because inside a person should remain a secret. Shouldn't it? I will never know. Tonight daddy is on the carpet. The carpet is red-gold. Red is the color of blood. I hate blood, so when it goes between my legs I say it whispers instead of bleeds. A whisper is also a secret. I am too young to whisper. But I'll tell you how daddy got onto the carpet and what happens after...
Dad is skin and bones like a giant spider who has had half its legs chewed off. He comes at night when mommy is sleeping in the position of a starfish. Sometimes there's another man with mommy. Sometimes they play leap frog. Sometimes a man puts white goo on mommy's chest and then the man turns to me and smiles, and his teeth are so shining and he sort of makes a noise like an animal and seems pleased I am there. I like it when people are pleased I am there. In my room, daddy sits on the big zebra chair, and tells me to climb on him. These are our 'in-between-times,' he says. I don't like it. He tells stories before the 'in-betweens.' He told a story about a pig that died and went to heaven. He told a story about a crow that couldn't fly and died but went to heaven like the pig. All his stories are the same. Afterwards, he lies looking at the ceiling like he's trying to see where the crow and pig went. I hate him then. But I don't cry, because mommy never cries, she just changes her clothes, again and again, and looks in the mirror muttering things like, “eh, it's just a little short” and “gah! These red leather pants are hideous.” And sometimes—the best times—we all dance, even auntie Cait. We dance together beneath waves of smoke. I never cry. It's only daddy that cries. We will be dancing and he will start crying. It spoils our fun. There is shouting. Daddy's father was a clock maker and my daddy grew up around hundreds of old fashioned clocks that went 'tick tock, tick tock.'
He says this, but I wonder if he is lying. I think he is scared of clocks because he is a freak.
I know it is a sin to hate daddy. Auntie Cait, who is a girl that looks like a boy pretending to be a girl, says sin is “hooey,” and that if my daddy is bad, it's because he was born that way. It's not his fault. It's not even his father's fault. Once we were at the doctor's waiting place, and the doctor had an old clock like the ones that tick at auntie Caitlin's. We sat, and it ticked, and daddy began to sweat, and his little neck grew red like it does during the in-between-times. Then he let go a sound like a lion, except it almost made you want to laugh instead of scream. It was funny and it was scary. He went over and pulled the tickers off the clock, and the doctor was very angry and called the police. But we ran away. I wish I could run away to live with auntie Cait, even though she sometimes takes off her face and the chest place that mommy rubs in the goo. I love daddy and feel sorry for him. I believe he is sick.
When he was little, dad had no mommy to wake him. He only had his daddy, who made tick tock clocks. So my daddy became scared of the alarm and scared of the ticking, because he didn't like his daddy. I wish none of them had been born, except then I wouldn't either. I wish I could have been borned by another daddy.
Because I whisper even though I'm only eight, the girls in the grades above me tell me I'm not supposed to bleed, and that is why they are real and I'm not, because everything I do is different. If I could make my family the same then I would become real. If mommy was awake more, she might come and dance with dad so he wouldn't tell me stories, and wouldn't do the afterwards to me. But mom is always away, or sleeping somewhere in her brain. The mean kids say she is retarded. Auntie Caitlin says she is punk.
Here's how my plan started. There is a shop near our house that sells junk and has a collection of dusty clocks. There are all kinds of clocks. Some are made from wood and are supposed to hang on the wall. Some are ugly plastic bricks. All of them are the old fashioned kind—not the new brand that make a variety of funny noises. Old fashioned clocks can only ring bells.
I asked the man in the shop and he said they all tick. I asked him if they will ring, and he looked at me with a smile, and the shop was dark—he said, 'yes missus, sure missus,' which is strange because I am only a little girl, and not a missus. He told me, 'they will all ring.' The smells in the shop were strange, like a wet dish rag that's been left on the floor of the laundry room too long, but I like it there. I went home excited because of my plan, and the sun was like a clock above me, and the sky was vast. It seemed like anything could happen in the sky, if only I could get there like the pig and the crow did.
I walked home along a busy street, past the playground where the real children play. That day I wasn't scared of them. So I didn't go home. I went around the playground fence and into the park. I was excited, and brave, and I played with them even after they yelled at me. We were running on the dirt and one boy got me like we was wrestling. Because of mommy I knew what to do when we was on the dirt, and I rubbed against him, arching my back and clawing at his private parts. Then suddenly he got scared and I felt this feeling in me that was better than any other feeling, because nobody could touch me. I just stood and laughed at the boy. I realized the louder I laughed the more it hurt him, and I was excited and didn't care. The boy looked like he wanted to punch me, but he was ashamed. And the other boys taunted “Randy's gonna hit a girl” as if it was the worst thing you could do. This was my day when I realized the bleeding wasn't a mistake, but something that boys smelled out, like the dog in our apartment building sniffs out trash to lie in. But I was not trash. I was sad that it was my bleeding that had made me popular, but I would use it if I had to, and I became strong and forever after they would know me and write my name in the bathroom stalls. I was strong. But then the night came. I didn't want to go home where my strength wouldn't mean nothing. I didn't want to go go home and see mommy and daddy fight and she whipping him so low even the fleas wouldn't have him until some other man came in and played leap frog with mommy. I ran and lay under a bush. The leaves prickled me. In later years I would have the same experience. I knowed where I was headed, and from where I came, the inevitability of my disgrace. Or was them just words I heard aunty Caitlin say? They says children don't know much, but we know more than it seems. On the dirt, I was frightened of the night colors in the sky, but soon it was gone and I was floating backwards into the grass. I lay beneath a bush in the park and fell asleep. I was safe there. Then there was a flashing light as if in a dream, and I was present, but not present. They drove me home. The policeman talked to my mom in the living room and it was a fun time because everybody was smiling in the living room. Then they shut the door while I sat on the steps with dad, and dad looked at the door and was angry. The police came and talked to me, and asked if there was anything I wanted to say. Yes. I wanted to say something, but didn't. Because at the same time as I wanted to, I didn't want to, because I was scared they'd take me away. It's funny how you can have two different thoughts in your brain at once, even when they don't agree. Mommy and daddy danced all over the place that night.
After that, I went to the clock store every day. I began to buy little clocks with bells at the top. The bells were very important for my plan. I was very nervous. The owner of the store became my friend and made me tea and asked me why I was so interested in clocks, but I couldn't say for real that it was because I had a plan to cure the secret sickness and make daddy go away. He gave me a couple of little clocks for free. And he sold me others for cheaper than the label said. I hid the clocks in my closet. I had about ten clocks then. I was a better person at school.
Then the weather changed. The rain came and mommy and daddy were gone lots to see rock shows, and I went to school less, and I played with aunt Caitlin and her friends. Even though he hurt me, I missed dad and I didn't like how quiet our house was. And I wanted to know mom better. I asked Aunty Cat about what mom and dad did when they went away. She said they were artists and musicians. I never want to be like them. They came back. Daddy is back and mommy is back and it hurts again.
I remember my plan.
I remember all the clocks I have gathered—twenty clocks that don't care about reasons for doing things because they just ring. I'm so excited. Now daddy lies on the floor. I put all the clocks in a circle around him. Clocks from China and India and all over the place, silly clocks. They were my friends, these clocks. I set the alarm buttons to the same space on each one. Then I go back to my bed and wait. I wait. Then they're ringing and ringing. The next time I see my daddy, who is scared of ticking clocks, he is at the bottom of the stairs, and I hope he is dead. I go down the stairs and he is not moving. 'We'll take a train to the sky, maybe' I told him, because that's where the dead pig and crow went. Then the ambulance comes, and mommy starts shrieking and dancing in the light of the ambulance, even though she is crying. So, now I know: you can dance even if you're crying.
William Ryan Hillary was born born in Ireland 29 years ago. He was raised in London and New York. He has a B.A. in English from Vassar College, and an M.A. in Systematic Theology from Union Theological Seminary in NYC. He has had poems and/or fiction published by Unrorean, Red Ochre Press (Black and White) Breath and Shadow, 40z Bachelors, Junk, The Wilderness Review, Vox Poetica, BlazeVOX, and Midway Journal. He currently lives in Los Angeles.