The Four Clocks

 By ChicagoTunnelKid


One eye struggled to open until just a small beam of candlelight could make it through. A small form stood in front of Vincent’s face. His eyelid gave up the fight and went back down. 

“You up, Vincent?” Geoffrey asked because although he could have sworn he saw an eye open, Vincent looked like he was sleeping still. 

A rumble came from the reclining form. “Yes.” Calculations whirred in his head as Vincent weighed really awakening versus continuing his slumber. Propriety won out in the end. “You have a message for me?” Vincent guessed. 

“Yeah. Father said to get yourself to the literature class because he can’t cover that one for you.” 

“Literature? Cover for me? What are you talking about Geoffrey?” Vincent’s eyes were wide open finally.  

Geoffrey leaned in close to Vincent’s face and whispered, “You overslept Vincent.” 

“What?” Vincent’s voice was the opposite of a whisper as evidenced by Geoffrey’s wince. Vincent took a deep calming breath. “I’m sorry, Geoffrey. Tell Father I’ll be there. And thank you for coming to wake me up. You must have … drawn the short straw.”  

Geoffrey had the grace to blush. “No problem, Vincent.  See ya!” He sped out of Vincent’s chamber leaving Vincent to either get ready or fall back to sleep. 

Vincent sat on the edge of the bed. What is happening to me? he wondered. The third time he’d overslept in as many weeks. Nothing unusual had happened recently. There was the usual routine maintenance, his classes, and fewer visits to see Catherine since she was tied up with a big case. So why was he so tired? 

He did short work of his morning ablutions, pulled on clean clothes, and ran to the classroom just in time. Some of the students were munching a snack, which Vincent eyed hungrily. Sigh. If I had gotten up on time, I could have had William’s hearty breakfast, he thought. He vowed to be first in line for lunch! 

The students teased him about missing the earlier class. Kipper commented on Vincent’s sense of timing being off. “Anything wrong Vincent? You feel okay?” 

“I feel fine. Thank you all for your concern, but I just overslept. It happens. Although, rarely to me. I will make sure it doesn’t happen again.” 

“How?” little Mary asked. “Watcha gonna do, Vincent?” Her comment opened the floodgate of ideas from the children. 

“You could go to bed earlier. Father tells us we do most of our growing at night so we need to sleep a lot.” Jason, who was especially small for his age, offered this tidbit. “Are you still growing, Vincent?” 

Vincent smiled. “I don’t think so, Jason.” 

“You could burn extra candles so it wouldn’t be so dark, and maybe you could wake up like it was morning,” offered Penny. 

“Whatever the cause, I’m sure it will pass. Now let’s get to today’s lesson. Who can tell me what the reading for today was about?” Vincent eased them into the reading and kept them too interested in the story for further speculation into his late sleeping habits. Although they no longer said anything didn’t mean the children weren’t thinking about it.  

After class, the kids discussed it again. “We need to help Vincent,” Geoffrey said. “We don’t want him in trouble with Father.”  

“How?” little Mary asked. 

“I remember when I lived Above, my Mom used an alarm clock. I bet we could find one around here that isn’t being used, and we could set it and sneak it into Vincent’s chamber. Then tomorrow, the alarm would ring, and Vincent will wake up!” 

The others thought that sounded good, so they scattered to look among the chambers for a clock they could set for Vincent. Each approached the task with the utmost ambition, for helping Vincent was a rarity. Usually, it worked the other way. 


Vincent wearily reached his chamber, shed his clothes and donned his night sweats in a minimum of effort. He slid between his sheets and quilt, not even bothering to extinguish the lone candle left burning. He smiled to himself remembering Penny’s comment. He didn’t think it would matter … Vincent was already asleep. 

Catherine never looked more beautiful. Her hair, so soft, fell in a halo around her head as she lay back on Vincent’s bed. She was smiling warmly at him, pleased by something he said. Vincent was about to sit next to her when… 

Vincent sat bolt upright in his bed. A clanging like he had never heard was echoing throughout his chamber! There were different tones, ringing at different frequencies, all creating a cacophony of sound that drilled into his delicate ears. Above the din, he heard Father’s shuffling steps approaching his chamber at a rather fast pace. 

“Vincent! For heaven’s sake! Do something about all that clatter, or you’ll wake the dead!”  

Vincent sat in bed, perplexed and speechless. Feeling like a child in trouble, he exclaimed to Father, “I have no idea what this is! I didn’t do anything!” 

Father looked past Vincent to the armoire against the back wall. There sat four different alarm clocks clanging their way about the top, perilously close to falling off from the vibrations. 

“Four alarm clocks?” Father asked. “Isn’t that a bit superfluous, Vincent?” 

“Alarm clocks?” Vincent looked in the direction of Father’s gaze. His head dropped a moment. He hurried over to shut off the offending clocks. 

At last. Blessed silence! “I fear the children have been ‘helping’ me, Father. They were concerned yesterday in class about my oversleeping. I believe an alarm clock might have been mentioned.” 

At that, Father began laughing. He laughed so hard, he at last found Vincent’s chair and sat. His laughter finally subsided. “Well, Vincent, we are doing something right by these children that they care so much to help you wake up for class. Not just one alarm clock, mind you, but four!” he chuckled again. “I haven’t seen you look so … so … confused and grumpy at the same time since you were their age!” 

Vincent had to smile, remembering those mornings Father was thinking about. “I think some of the tunnel residents are missing their clocks. I’ll have to quietly check and return them.” 

“I think you shall do no such thing, Vincent.” Father sternly viewed his son as he stood. “Those children went to a lot of trouble to help you. You will keep those clocks where they are. Now, only set one to go off, mind you. But leave these here to remember what happened today, and the lesson you learned from the children.” 

“What lesson might that be, Father?” 

“Why, the love of children is timeless, Vincent! What else?” His laughter faded as he walked the tunnel toward his own chamber. Vincent smiled looking at the clocks. “Indeed, Father.”