Mercy had enough. In fact, in her heart she knew she was done with Clay.
It was her name, she realized. Her parents gave her this name and it informed her personality. Knowing this, she would give Clay one more chance, in her merciful consideration that, dealing with a “grounded” name like Clay, may also inform his behavior.
When the weekend came and they were dressed to go out, Mercy approached her lover while holding within her arms a huge battery powered novelty clock. It was no less accurate for the novelty.
Clay slipped on his Saturday mask. A stylized version of a 17th Century Italian plague mask, the long beak kind favored by doctors of the era. Clay’s mask was a cheap piece of plastic imitation. It was face mask only, held on by a rubber band.
Mercy expected it to be one of those days, which is why she held the clock.
Mercy: “See this clock, Clay?”
Clay: “See these eye holes in my mask, Mercy? Of course I see the big fucking clock! Duh!”
Mercy: “I’m dead serious, Clay. I will give this relationship 12 hours. When I set foot out that door you will have only 12 hours to grow up. Only 12 hours to stop your childish crap in public.”
Clay lifted his mask. His brows and eye lids screwed up as if he was preparing a riposte, an attempt to smarmily justify himself.
Mercy was having none of it.
Mercy: “I’m going for a walk now and I want you to come with me.”
Clay: “Seriously? You want to walk together this time?”
Mercy: “Yes. Clay. I want to walk together. Walk. I want you to Walk with me, not carry on like a jackass. Can I trust you to Walk with me? No antics?”
Clay didn’t answer, only pulled his mask back down so that his eyes were hidden within the dark of it. His top hat topped off his ensemble.
With Clay’s unsatisfactory behavior, Mercy was on the edge of ending it now, yet she heard herself repeat.
Mercy: “Will you walk with me, Clay?”
Clay: “I’ve got 12 hours?”
Not a caveat Mercy wanted to hear.
Mercy: “I’m taking the clock with us.”
Clay: “Oh come on!”
Mercy: “I’m taking the clock.”
It was bitter cold outside, which to Mercy felt emotionally apropos. As she walked, Clay walked beside her, still wearing that idiot mask.
‘Why didn’t I include the mask in the bargain?’ She chided herself ‘Why?’
Maybe she no longer cared. Mercy wasn’t sure if she loved Clay anymore or ever could. She’d reached the point where she wondered why she ever did. The fun of dating Clay was exciting. The fun of being in a relationship with Clay quickly lost its flavor. They didn’t hold hands, as instead she held the grim reminder of the giant clock. It either ticked up toward a new life together or down to the death of their relationship. Mercy felt indifferent to either.
A cold wind swirled the park’s late Autumn leaves around them and she side-eye spied Clay shiver. She knew his vibrato was not from the cold. Mercy looked at the clock. They’d only been walking for twenty minutes.
An unexpected flurry of dry snow whipped around them, shooing the leaves down the path. Birds blew in out of nowhere, fluttering madly to avoid crashing into the humans.
Suddenly Clay’s barely controlled vibrato turned fortissimo as he threw out his arms and flapped them.
“I’m A Bird!” he crescendo’d, leaping into the air.
Tiny chips of teeth ground out of Mercy’s grimace. ‘Fuck! The god damn mask! That’s the key this whole time. It feeds his stupid alter-ego.’ Why did she never notice before?
The earth didn’t want to be the ground, forever looking up at a wondrous sky. It wanted to fly and Clay jumped around her, flapping his arms with all the agile aerial grace of a pig.
“Imma Bird! I can fly! Imma Bird!” he yelled in sing song.
Passerby furtively stared or awkwardly looked away. Clay with his ridiculous antics, Mercy with her ridiculous clock, she suddenly realized what a quixotic set they appeared to be.
Only now regretting having struck the bargain and made the rules, Mercy gazed down at her clownishly huge novelty clock.
Eleven and a half more hours of this bullshit.
Story, MERCY CLOCK, Copyright 2016 by E.C. McMullen Jr.
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