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       Timepiece, p.1

           Richard Paul Evans
 
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Timepiece


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  CONTENTS

  Prologue

  Chapter I: The Grandfather’s Clock

  Chapter II: MaryAnne

  Chapter III: David

  Chapter IV: Lawrence

  Chapter V: The Presumption

  Chapter VI: The Engagement

  Chapter VII: Andrea

  Chapter VIII: The Widow’s Gift

  Chapter IX: The Release

  Chapter X: The Winter Mourning

  Chapter XI: The Seraph and the Timepiece

  Chapter XII: The Endowment

  About the Author

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  It is a pleasure to express my appreciation and love to the following.

  My wife, Keri. Jenna, Allyson-Danica, and Abigail, for sharing their Dad with the world.

  My two Lauries: Laurie Liss, I could not have asked for a better agent or friend; and my editor, Laurie Chittenden, thank you for coming, thank you for making Timepiece better. Carolyn Reidy, Mary-Ann Naples, and all my friends at S&S who believed we could make history with The Christmas Box and then did. Isolde Sauer and Beth Greenfeld for additional editing assistance. Mary Schuck. William Barfus, Janet Bernice, and the gracious assistance of the Utah Historical Society. Ann Deneris. Chris Harding and Beth Polson, for believing in signs. My brother Mark for everything. Evan Twede for friendship, perspective, and TGI Friday’s. Mary Kay Lazarus and Elaine Pine-Peterson. The Beutlers: Bill, Cora, and Scott. Mike Hurst. John Stringham, who, in many ways, made this book possible. Senator Robert F. Bennett and Michael Tullis. Mayor Deedee Coradini and Governor Mike Leavitt for inviting the world to Salt Lake City. SLC Cemetery Sexton Paul Byron. My parents, David and June Evans, for their work with The Christmas Box Foundation, and, of course, everything else. Ortho and Jared Fairbanks who sculpted the angel. Cathi Lammert of SHARE Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support, Inc.

  And to the dreamers who are bound with golden bracelets—my brother, Barry J. Evans, Celeste Edmunds, Shelli Holmes, and Michele Feldt. Thank you for believing.

  SHARE: Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support, Inc., offers support to parents who have lost a baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death. For more information please call: 1-800-821-6819.

  To my wife, Keri,

  and to my mother,

  June.

  Both of whom have given me life.

  The only promise of childhood is that it will end.

  PROLOGUE

  I find myself astonished at mankind’s persistent yet vain attempts to escape the certainty of oblivion; expressed in nothing less than the ancient pyramids and by nothing more than a stick in a child’s hand, etching a name into a freshly poured sidewalk. To leave our mark in the unset concrete of time—something to say we existed.

  Perhaps this is what drives our species to diaries, that some unborn generation may know we once loved, hated, worried, and laughed. And what is there to this? Maybe nothing more than poetic gesture, for diaries die with their authors—or so I once believed. I have learned there is more to the exercise. For as we chronicle our lives and the circumstances that surround them, our perspectives and stretching rationales, what lies before us is our own reflection. It is the glance in the mirror that is of value. These are my words on the matter and I leave it at this—if we write but one book in life, let it be our autobiography.

  The most valuable of the keepsakes left in the attic of the Parkin mansion were thought worthless by the auctioneers of the estate. They were the leather-bound diaries of David Parkin. A lifetime of hopes and dreams, thought of no significance by those who value only what could bring cash at an auction block. The diaries came into my possession shortly after we took leave of the mansion, and it was within the pages of David’s diary that I found the meaning of MaryAnne Parkin’s last request. For this reason, I have shared his words throughout my narrative—for without them, the story would be incomplete.

  And if it is nothing more than poetic gesture, then still I am justified.

  For poetry, like life, is its own justification.

  CHAPTER ONE

  The Grandfather’s Clock

  “Of all, clockmakers and morticians should bear the keenest sense of priority—their lives daily spent in observance of the unflagging procession of time . . . and the end thereof.”

  David Parkin’s Diary. January 3, 1901

  When I was a boy, I lived in horror of a clock—a dark and foreboding specter that towered twice my height in the hardwood hallway of my childhood home and even larger in my imagination.

  It was a mahogany clock, its hood rising in two wooden cues that curled like horns on a devil’s head. It had a brass-embossed face, black, serpentine hands, and a flat, saucer-sized pendulum.

  To this day, I can recall the simple and proud incantations of its metallic chime. At my youthful insistence, and to my father’s dismay, the strike silent was never employed, which meant the clock chimed every fifteen minutes, night and day.

  I believed then that this clock had a soul—a belief not much diminished through age or accumulated experience. This species of clock was properly called a longcase clock, until a popular music hall song of the nineteenth century immortalized one of its ilk and forever changed the name. The song was titled “My Grandfather’s Clock,” and during my childhood, more than a half century after the song was written, it was still a popular children’s tune. By the age of five, I had memorized the song’s lyrics.

  My grandfather’s clock was too large for the shelf,

  so it stood ninety years on the floor,

  It was taller by half than the old man himself,

  tho’ it weighed not a penny-weight more.

  It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,

  and was always his treasure and pride,

  But it stopp’d short never to go again

  when the old man died.

  My fear of the hallway clock had its roots in the song’s final refrain.

  But it stopp’d short never to go again

  when the old man died.

  When I was young, my mother was sickly and often bedridden with ailments I could neither pronounce nor comprehend. With the reasoning and imagination of childhood, I came to believe that if the clock stopped, my mother would die.

  Often, as I played alone in our quiet house after my brothers had left for school, I would suddenly feel my heart grasped by the hand of panic and I would run to my mother’s darkened bedroom. Peering through the doorway, I would wait for the rise and fall of her chest, or the first audible gasp of her breath. Sometimes, if she had had an especially bad day, I would lie awake at night listening for the clock’s quarter-hour chime. Twice I ventured downstairs to the feared oracle to see if its pendulum was still alive.

  To my young mind, the clock’s most demonic feature was the hand-painted moon wheel set above its face in the clock’s arch. Mystically, the wheel turned with the waning moon, giving the clock a wizardry that, as a child, transfixed and mystified me as if it somehow knew the mysterious workings of the universe. And the mind of God.

  It is my experience that all childhoods have ghosts.

  Tonight, just outside my den stands a similar grandfather’s clock—one of the few antiques my wife and I received from MaryAnne Parkin, a kind widow we shared a home with for a short while before her death nearly nineteen years ago. The clock had been a gift to her on her wedding day from her husband, David, and during our stay in the m
ansion it occupied the west wall of the marble-floored foyer.

  David Parkin had been a wealthy Salt Lake City businessman and a collector of rare antiquities. Before his death, in 1934, he had accumulated an immense collection of rare furniture, Bibles, and, most of all, clocks. Time-marking devices of all kinds—from porcelain-encased pocket watches to hewn-stone sundials filled the Parkin home. Of his vast collection of timekeepers, the grandfather’s clock, which now stands outside my doorway, was the most valuable—a marvel of nineteenth-century art and engineering and the trophy of David’s collection. Even still, there was one timepiece that he held in greater esteem. One that he, and Mary-Anne, cherished above all: a beautiful rose-gold wristwatch.

  Only eleven days before her death, MaryAnne Parkin had bequeathed the timepiece to my keeping.

  “The day before you give Jenna away,” she had said, her hands and voice trembling as she handed me the heirloom, “give this to her for the gift.”

  I was puzzled by her choice of words.

  “Her wedding gift?” I asked.

  She shook her head and I recognized her characteristic vagueness. She looked at me sadly, then forced a fragile smile. “You will know what I mean.”

  I wondered if she really believed that I would or had merely given the assurance for her own consolation.

  It had been nineteen winters since Keri, Jenna, and I had shared the mansion with the kindly widow, and though I had often considered her words, their meaning eluded me still. It haunted me that I had missed something that she, who understood life so well, regarded with such gravity.

  Tonight, upstairs in her bedroom, my daughter Jenna, now a young woman of twenty-two, is engaged in the last-minute chores of a bride-to-be. In the morning, I will give her hand to another man. A wave of melancholy washed over me as I thought of the place she would leave vacant in our home and in my heart.

  The gift? What in the curriculum of fatherhood had I failed to learn?

  I leaned back in my chair and admired the exquisite heirloom. MaryAnne had received the watch in 1918 and, even then, it was already old: crafted in a time when craftsmanship was akin to religion—before the soulless reproductions of today’s mass-market assembly.

  The timepiece was set in a finely polished rose-gold encasement. It had a perfectly round face with tiny numerals etched beneath a delicate, raised crystal. On each side of the face, intricately carved in gold, were scallopshell-shaped clasps connecting the casing to a matching rose-gold scissor watchband. I have never before, or since, seen a timepiece so beautiful.

  From the dark hallway outside my den, the quarter-hour chime of the grandfather’s clock disrupted my thoughts—as if beckoning for equal attention.

  The massive clock had always been a curiosity to me. When we had first moved into the Parkin mansion, it sat idle in the upstairs parlor. On one occasion, I asked MaryAnne why she didn’t have the clock repaired.

  “Because,” she replied, “it isn’t broken.”

  Treasured as it is, the clock has always seemed out of place in our home, like a relic of another age—a prop left behind after the players had finished their lines and taken their exits. In one of those exits is the tale of David and MaryAnne Parkin. And so, too, the riddle of the timepiece.

  CHAPTER TWO

  MaryAnne

  Salt Lake City, 1908

  “A young woman came to my office today to apply for employment. She is a rather handsome woman, and, though simply dressed, exuded both warmth and grace, a pleasant diversion from the society women I too frequently encounter who exhibit the cold refinement of a sterling tea service. I proceeded to acquaint myself with her, offend her, and hire her all in the course of one half hour. Her name is MaryAnne Chandler and she is an Englishwoman.

  “There is a curious chemistry between us.”

  David Parkin’s Diary. April 16, 1908

  Electric sparks fell like fireworks from the suspended cables of a trolley car, as the brash clangor of its bell pierced the bustle of the wintry Salt Lake City streets. At its passing, MaryAnne glanced across the snow and the mud-churned road, lifted her skirt above her ankles, and crossed the street, stepping between the surreys and traps that lined the opposite stretch of the cement walk. Near the center of the block, she entered a doorway marked in arched, gold-leafed letters: PARKIN MACHINERY CO. OFFICE.

  As she pulled the door shut behind herself, the chill sounds of winter dissolved into the cacophony of human industry. Brushing the snow from her shoulders, she glanced around the enormous room.

  Its high ceiling was upheld by dark wooden Corinthian columns from which projected the brass fittings of gaslights. Maplewood desks lined the hardwood floor, each with a small rug delineating the employee’s work space.

  An oak railing separated the work floor from the entryway, and the man who occupied the desk nearest the entrance acknowledged MaryAnne with clerklike nonchalance. He was a balding man, attired in a wool suit and vest with a gold chain spanning his ample girth.

  “I am here to see Mr. Parkin about a secretarial situation,” MaryAnne announced. She pulled the kerchief back from her hair, revealing a gentle complexion and high, shapely cheekbones. Her beauty piqued the clerk’s interest.

  “Have you an appointment with Mr. Parkin?”

  “Yes. He is expecting me at nine. I am a few minutes early.”

  Without explanation, the clerk stepped away from his desk and disappeared through an oak doorway near the back of the spacious room. A few minutes later he returned, followed by another individual, a well-groomed young man in his early thirties.

  The man had a pleasant face with strong but not overbearing features. He was of medium height and well proportioned, with dark, coffee-colored hair, which had been parted and brushed back in the latest continental style. His eyes were azure blue and alive with interest in all that moved about him. He wore no jacket, revealing the pleated front of his wing-collared shirt and the garters that held his sleeves. He carried himself casually, yet with a confidence that bespoke his importance with the firm.

  “Miss Chandler?”

  “Yes.”

  He extended his hand. “Thank you for coming. If you will please follow me,” he said, motioning to the door he had just emerged from. MaryAnne followed him through the doorway, then down an oak-paneled corridor to a staircase. She stopped her escort at the foot of the stairs.

  “Sir, if I may inquire . . . ?”

  He turned and faced her. “Yes. Of course.”

  “When I address Mr. Parkin, shall I call him ‘Mr. Parkin’ or ‘sir’?”

  The young man considered the question. “He likes to be called ‘Your Majesty.’ ”

  MaryAnne was dumbstruck.

  “I am joking, Miss Chandler. I don’t suppose it matters at all what you call him.”

  “I am not seeking to flatter him. I am just grateful to be able to meet with someone as prominent as Mr. Parkin. I hope to make a favorable impression.”

  “I am certain that you will do just that.”

  “Why so?”

  “Because I am David Parkin.”

  MaryAnne flushed. She covered her mouth with her hand. “You are so young to . . .”

  “ . . . Be a millionaire?”

  MaryAnne turned a brighter shade of crimson, at which David chuckled. “I am sorry, Miss Chandler, I should have introduced myself properly. Please come up to my office.”

  They climbed the stairway to the second level and entered a corner office overlooking Second South and Main Street. The office was large and the cherrywood cabinets and shelves that lined the walls were cluttered with books and a score of mantel clocks, which were used as bookends and adornment. No fewer than a dozen other clocks—free standing cabinet or wag-on-the-wall clocks—garnished the room as well. Outside of a clock shop, MaryAnne had never seen such a congregation. They ticked loudly and she wondered how anyone could think in such a place.

  In the center of the room was a beautiful hand-carved mahogany desk
with a gold-embossed leather writing surface dyed in rich green and umber hues. To its side was a Dictaphone table with a large battery box underneath.

  “May I assist you with your coat?” David offered, helping to slip the wet garment from her shoulders.

  “Thank you.”

  MaryAnne settled into a wooden chair, straightened her dress and lay her hands in her lap, while David returned to his desk.

  “You have many clocks.”

  He smiled pleasantly. “I collect them. At the top of the hour, there is quite a racket.”

  MaryAnne smiled. “I would think so.”

  David sat down at his desk. “Your accent betrays you. You are from England, are you not?”

  She nodded.

  “What part of England?”

  “A borough of London. Camden Town.”

  “I was through there a few summers back. Just outside of Regent’s Park. I occasionally spend time in England at the auctions.”

  She smiled. “I have fond memories of Regent’s Park.”

  David leaned forward in his chair. “Your letter said that you are skilled in secretarial work.”

  “Yes. I have three years’ experience on the typewriter, both a Hammond and a Remington. I know Pitman’s shorthand and am a member of the Phonetic Society. I have used a Dictaphone,” she replied, pointing to the heavy table a few feet from his desk. “An Edison model like this one. I have also kept a register for six months.” Then, looking up at a row of clocks, she added, “And I am very punctual.”

  David smiled at her reference to the clocks.

  MaryAnne reached into her purse and brought out a bundle of papers. “I brought letters.”

  David accepted the papers. “Where did you acquire your skills, Miss Chandler?”

 
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