HomeSouthern VoiceLiving Dangerously

Living Dangerously

by William Ogden Haynes

Each Sunday afternoon at four PM
Henry makes his way to the
living room fireplace carrying
a precisely mixed Manhattan.
He places his cocktail on a side
table and stands before the hearth
gazing at the Waterbury model
901 mantle clock made in 1910
that he inherited from his mother.
The clock has the shape of
a Gaussian curve, a normal distribution,
humped in the middle, its edges
flowing gradually down to the mantle.
And centered below its highest point
is a circular silver face with two black
arrowed hands beneath a dome of glass.
There are keyholes by the eight and four
to wind the Westminster chimes and a
third hole by the six to drive the mainspring.
Henry always winds the mainspring
to keep correct time, but never the chimes.
They keep him awake at night and
the doctor says he needs his sleep.
He believes it’s better to keep the time
even if he cannot enjoy the passing of it.
The clock, after one hundred years,
loses about two minutes each week,
so after he winds it, he gently moves
the minute hand ahead to make up the loss.
But sometimes, Henry longs to hear
the Westminster chimes that rang in his
mother’s house all through his childhood.
In this old Waterbury, he remembers them
as especially resonant, almost cathedral-like.
The evening chimes meant it was time to put down
his toys so he could be at the dinner table, hands
washed, before the last bong of six o’clock.
And as he reminisces, he thinks this may be the
day when he mixes a second Manhattan, winds
the chimes and throws caution to the wind.


William Ogden Haynes is a poet and author of short fiction from Alabama who was born in Michigan and grew up a military brat. He has published three collections of poetry, Points of Interest, Uncommon Pursuits and Carvings, and one book of short stories, Youthful Indiscretions, all available on Amazon. More than 120 of his poems and short stories have appeared in literary journals, and his work is frequently anthologized.

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  • gary greene / April 27, 2016

    I enjoyed it. Just like all your writings. Thanks for sharing.

  • Charlot / April 27, 2016

    You are a talented story teller. Great bedtime reading. Thanks Bill