The Clock in "Joe Peas"

The Heritage Clock in Joe Peas

Not to be a spoiler, but by request, I want to take the opportunity to explain the heritage clock.

Clocks have played a key role in the culture and growth of western civilization. I was fortunate enough to take a short European tour a few years ago and noticed that every town square had a large, visible clock. The guide gave the inevitable and simple explanation. The common man in the sixteenth, seventeenth century and later did not own a watch or clock. The only clock was sunrise and sunset and perhaps the crow of a rooster. So the clock in the town square was essential in advancing civilization.

The journey to the western world was only possible by correct calculations of time paired with the astrolabe for accurate navigation across the Atlantic.

In the new world, a clock was essential to the prosperity of a family. Every family of means would have a clock as a central figure in its parlor. In the nineteenth century, as pocket watches became more available, the owners could still be seen adjusting the time of their watches to the home clock before leaving the house on a journey.

My aunt died at the age of ninety-four. In her estate was a wall clock that had been in the family beyond anyone’s memory. I was lucky enough to obtain that clock and learned it dates back to the eighteen-thirties. After a cleaning and minor repair it is once again marking time.

In our current society, clocks no longer record the pace of our lives, but they still perform a function. My mother presented my wife and I with a stately grandfather clock when we moved into our home in the mid-eighties. It sets the tone for our living room. We, in turn, gave her a wall clock in two thousand. The clock was one of her most prized furnishings before she died of pancreatic cancer a year later.

In Joe Peas, I’ve made the clock an important character. Howard Merton knows he is ill and likely terminal. As a farmer he knows the cycle of life and is prepared for his demise, but he still longs for a sense of permanence. He devises a plan to build a clock. The clock he envisions measures more than time. It measures lives. It tells a story of his forbears and offers the promise to record his progeny. He may not be permanent, but perhaps his clock, his heritage clock will be.

Howard plans his clock down to the last screw while he is desperately ill, and then enlists the aid of his lifelong friend, Doc, in its construction. True to his character, Joe Peas, becomes involved in the clock’s construction.

The clock, Howard and Doc present Joe with a friendship and family experience he’s never had. The experience changes Joe and those he encounters experience a transformation as well.


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