By M.J. Rose
The alarm went off at 7 a.m.
Joe, or Joseph as he thought of himself, was already awake. He always woke long before the 19th century clock chimed to alert him to a new day dawning. But he continued to set the clock anyway. He appreciated ritual.
But not today.
The sound was truly alarming. He had been dreading this morning, he’d barely slept the night before. And now the day was upon him.
Reaching out, Joseph depressed the button and stopped the chiming. The Seth Thomas company had manufactured the clock in 1878 and it was one of the first alarm clocks made in America.
Joseph was a collector of clocks, 20th century American pottery and glass paperweights from Italy. He also collected miniature Eiffel Towers, carved wooden frames, signed baseballs and comic books. But clocks were his passion because they told time and time was the one thing that Joseph couldn’t collect.
He had always been obsessed with time’s passage and time’s ravages. But since turning 59 years old two months ago, he was especially aware of the seconds going too fast, the minutes racing by, the days speeding away – and the years – the years flying.
Normally Joseph got pleasure out of winding up the clock and setting the timer each evening and shutting it off each morning. But not today.
After his bathroom ablutions, Joseph padded to the kitchen in slippered feet. It was time for coffee. He put up the kettle and set to grinding fresh beans. The sound of the backhoe started up just as the kettle began boiling, and the roaring of one overwhelmed the whistle of the other and unsettled him. He’d lost count of how many scoops of coffee he’d put into the French press and looked down at the mound of grounds trying to guess.
Joseph had a routine and the tumult in the back yard was upsetting it. And this was just the first day of excavation! He couldn’t imagine what the next weeks were going to bring.
He shook his head and sighed. He hadn’t wanted to put in a swimming pool. It meant change and he despised change. But his wife, Elowen, had asked for that damn pool for years. If he put one in he’d prove he could change, about that and other things.
And that was why the pool company was there on this mild April morning, digging a hole for a lap pool that the architect has promised would not only blend into the landscape but enhance it.
The Bascomb land had been in the family for more than three hundred years, which was something of an amazing feat even in Greenwich, Connecticut’s bucolic backcountry. They had arrived in 1672, joining other founding families – with names such as Ferris, Mead, Finch and Lockwood – and never left. At one point their holdings totaled more than 200 acres, but over the centuries it had been whittled down to a mere four. Even so, in today’s real estate market, in this area, the acreage was worth a fortune.
This was the first time in his lifetime that the grounds had been vandalized.
As Joseph poured the coffee he chided himself. He needed to stop thinking of it that way. Putting in a pool was not raping the earth. It was going to be a thing of beauty, tucked way in the south corner of the lawn, edged in blue stone, with a small waterfall at one end. Seven-foot-tall boxwood would surround the pool, the hedges mirroring the maze on the north end of the lawn.
No one would even see the pool unless they made the effort to walk around the green wall.
Mug of black coffee in hand, Joseph sat down at the kitchen table. He’d no sooner taken a sip of the strong, steaming brew when there was an abrupt knocking on the door.
Hearing it, he realized that the backhoe had been silenced.
Joseph opened the door. “Good morning, Sam. Everything underway?”
Sam Keller, stood on the threshold. A fit man in his thirties, he had strong features and large hands. Joseph had chosen Keller’s company out of three construction firms he’d interviewed partly because his handshake had been the most sincere.
“Good morning, Mr. Bascomb. Everything was underway but we seem to have hit a snag.”
“What is it?”
“I think you’d better come outside.”
Joseph’s curiosity was engaged. What could be the problem with digging an eight-foot-deep trench? He tightened the belt on his silk smoking jacket and followed Sam out the door, onto the back porch, down the steps and across the stone patio.
The lawn was still dewy and soaked Joseph’s slippers. Up ahead the backhoe was halted mid-air, its mouth gaping. The pit was approximately four feet long and about as deep and the turned earth gave the air a loamy scent.
“You see that?” Sam asked.
Joseph looked down but all he saw was a large dark hole ripping apart the emerald grass.
“Where should I be looking?” Joseph asked.
Sam pointed to the end farthest away from where they were standing.
Joseph didn’t see anything worth noting. So, carefully avoiding the edge, he walked to the opposite side of the hole and peered in.
The splintered wood was stained dark from the earth, which was why he hadn’t seen it at first. But now that he knew where to look, it was evident. The backhoe must have hit the obstruction and smashed it open. Joseph blinked once and then again. He knew what he was looking at but he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
About the Author:
M.J. Rose is the international best selling author of 13 novels and three non-fiction books on marketing – all written while she has lived in Greenwich. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in many magazines and reviews including Oprah Magazine. She has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time, USA Today and on the Today Show, and NPR radio. The television series “Past Life” was based on Rose’s novels in the Reincarnationist series. M.J. is also the founder of the first marketing company for authors — Authorbuzz.com — and she is one of the founding board members of International Thriller Writers. Rose’s most recent publication, “Seduction,” a novel of suspense, focuses on a French perfumer and Victor Hugo, the author of “Les Miserables,” who engaged in more than 100 seances during the period he was writing one of the most beloved books of all time. (www.mjrose.com)
About the Artist:
Margaret Esme Simon, an architect by training, attended New York City’s High School of Music and Art (now La Guardia High School) as an Art Major. Graduating with a B.A. in English from Cornell University, she went on to study architecture and received an M.Arch from Columbia University. Six years ago, she decided to refocus on her art. She started with drawing, beginning with pencil, and today works primarily in pastel and oils. She has exhibited and won awards in numerous juried and judged shows in Connecticut and New York and her work is represented in various private collections in the U.S. Margaret’s drawing, illustrating a poem by Marybeth Little Weston, is included in the poetry collection “Women’s Voices of the 21st Century: Experiences that Shape Women.” She has studied at the Silvermine Guild with Mary Beth McKenzie, Kiril Doron, Tom Brenner, Jesus Emmanuel Villarreal, William Nathans and Dean Fisher, at the Art Students League with Ephraim Rubenstein, and at the Greenwich Art Society with Carol Dixon. Margaret is a member of the Art Society of Old Greenwich, the Greenwich Art Society, the New Canaan Society for the Arts, the Ridgefield Guild of Artists, the Rowayton Arts Center, the Greenwich Arts Council and the Greenwich Branch of The American League of Pen Women for which she is co-chair of the Art Committee. (www.EsmeSimon.com)