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“A Hitch in Time (Is Not Fine)” – Maddie Bowen-Smyth

His watch is two minutes slow. This malfunction probably isn’t responsible for all the ills in the universe, but it’s undoubtedly responsible for all of his. 

His morning meeting runs five minutes and twenty-three seconds behind. Seven minutes and twenty-three seconds of lost time. This is bad; this is terrible; this is very not good

“Sir,” his secretary knocks. “That man is on the line again.” She enunciates that man like she’s laying siege to a fortress. 

“Volier,” says Louis, frosty as ever. “I’m told that Good Times was raided last night.” 

“Well.” His watch is now two minutes and seventeen seconds slow. If it weren’t, he’s sure he wouldn’t be having this conversation. “That’s because they were flagrant.” 

“We do have an agreement,” Louis observes.

“Yes,” Volier agrees. “But agreements must be upheld from both sides, or so I’ve always thought.” 

“It won’t happen again.” It’s hard to tell whether that’s an apology or a threat. It doesn’t really matter. “By the way—somebody went over the falls last night. A scuffle.” 

Seven minutes and forty seconds behind, and now it’s killing people. He knew it. “Of their own volition, I’m sure.” 

“An accident,” Louis says. This is certainly not an apology. “Anyway, I assume you’ll handle it.” 

“As soon as you’re able to handle your own employees.” Volier hangs up. 

He supposes it’s not very politic of him. But, because of his watch, somebody’s death is on his conscience, so he’ll excuse himself from being politic.

“Sir?” His secretary returns. Calls from that man, she’s discerned, usually involve further instruction.

“Perhaps if you’d send a message to the station,” he hedges. “To search the river.”

She complies, with distaste. Volier leans back and counts the stripes along the ceiling. It heartens him to know that there are exactly fifty, as usual. His secretary elects not to take pity on him and brings him another round of paperwork. 

He completes it six minutes faster than expected. There’s still one minute and forty seconds, but that’s a little less apocalyptic. 

The mail comes. There’s a letter he’d sent to his brother, returned unopened. The usual bad news, of course, is because of the watch. There’s some sort of difficulty at the lumber mill; a strike is impending; at least that’s somebody else’s headache, so good for them. His mother sends an article clipping: Youngest Councillor set to Steal Mayorship this Winter! It seems a waste of a postage stamp.

God, that’s just another thing, isn’t it? A mayor can’t have a broken watch.

“Your three o’clock meeting is canceled.” His secretary brings this news without the fanfare it deserves. 

Miraculously, this brings him five minutes and fifteen seconds ahead of schedule. Fives are good. He’s never met a five he can’t appreciate, except when it’s right before a twenty-three.

The body’s identified. It turns out they’re an out-of-towner, maybe a mafia. He’s not catching the heat for that one, so that’s—it’s ghoulish to say good, but fine. 

He calls Louis. “No turf wars, I recall you saying.” 

Louis sighs. “One body isn’t a war.” 

“Your problem,” Volier says. This is certainly a threat. “Good Times stays closed.”

It’s a small victory, but small victories are his entire platform, after all. The road to a tidy town is paved with small problems and small solutions. 

He gains another thirty-five seconds while finishing paperwork. Five minutes and fifty seconds ahead. The additional funding for the hospital is approved. His father is too busy to have dinner with him. Louis doesn’t call back. This is great; this is terrific; this is very, very good. 

This boon is probably not responsible for all the fortuity in the universe, but it’s undoubtedly responsible for all of his. 

About the Author:

Maddie Bowen-Smyth is perpetually, endlessly tired. Her work explores mental health, the relationships we have with our bodies, and the lasting echoes of trauma. After working in Japan for several years she now lives in Australia with her wife and their growing menagerie. Her work can be found at .

This piece is a part of Issue Two: CHRONOS. Read more like this here!

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