Carol Guess | Aimee Parkison

Girl in the Clock


            The girl in the clock learned how to tell time before we did. It felt like cheating to spin her around.

            “Six,” I said, and gave her a twirl. She moaned, arms stretched as far as they’d go.

            “Twelve,” Leah said.

            “That’s nothing. That’s just her standing still with her arms in the air.”

            “But she’ll get tired and her arms will hurt.”

            “Twelve’s not even a stretch. At least try three.”

            The clock was on Mr. Baxter’s desk. We could hear her trapped inside.

            “She’s grunting.”

            “Is she, though?” I shuffled through the stack of papers on his desk. “I can’t hear anything. Let’s try four.”

            “AM or PM?”

            “We’ve been through this, Leah. There’s no way to tell. The clock is just round and the numbers don’t change.”

            “Then how did people know what time it was? In the old days. With clocks. Before cell phones and drones.”

            “Maybe they didn’t. Maybe some people hung out during the day and slept at night, and some people hung out at night and slept during the day, and they never realized it.”

            “Like, two separate worlds. Until one day this woman couldn’t sleep and saw people surfing in the middle of the night.”

            “To her.”


            “The middle of the night to her. But it was daytime to them.”

            “But it was dark.”

            “But if it was their daytime, they wouldn’t care.” I rummaged through Mr. Baxter’s coat pockets. “Want some gum?”

            “Daisy, you can’t play with the teacher’s stuff. That’s why we’re always in trouble.”

            “We’re always in trouble because you always get caught.”

            “What are you going to tell him when he looks for his gum?”

            “People who chew gum always have a secret pack.”

            “A secret pact with who?”

            “Not pact. Pack. Like, pack of gum.”

            “But he’s still going to …”

            “Listen.” The girl in the clock was at it again. Groaning, moaning, arms stretched wide. “She’s inside with all the spinning numbers.” I pressed the clock to my ear. “She’s screaming, Leah. If we don’t set her free she’ll die, and blood will drip from the clock, and we’ll feel terrible and go to hell and we won’t be able to text anymore.”

            “Blood. Gross.”

            “You eat meat, don’t you?”

            “Meat doesn’t have blood.”

            “Meat is blood, Leah.”

            “I hate when you make me feel stupid.”

            “Should we let Mr. Baxter out of the closet?”

            Leah shrugged. “I guess. But will he do it again?”

            “If he does it again, I’ll put him back. I just think maybe he needs some air.”

            “I don’t think he does.” Leah scratched an itch on her ankle. “My socks are prickly. I hate wool socks.”

            “What if he can’t breathe? I mean, we tied his mouth up pretty tight.”

            “His hands, too.”

            “Should we check?”

            “No.” Leah took off her shoes and socks and scratched her ankles feverishly. “I’m sure he’s fine. He can breathe through his nose.”

            We started to listen to the sound behind the closet door. We didn’t mean to hurt him, but he had been playing with the girl in the clock. That was his mistake.

            “Hey,” Leah whispered, chewing gum like cud. “What’s that?”

            “More blood! Where’s it coming from?”

            I wondered, should we free the girl in the clock or Mr. Baxter?  

            Being trapped in the clock, she was free from time and could make herself into a baby, a young woman, a girl, a crone, or even an embryo.

            As an embryo, she entered men’s heads and had already gone inside Mr. Baxter once, but rocketed out when he sneezed while chewing gum. A learned man rescued by mucus, saved by snot, boogers were his salvation. She usually chose the nose, traveling straight to the brain, but Mr. Baxter’s habit of sneezing excessively near the clock saved his life.

            I pointed at snot splattered beside the ashtray of chewed gum shaped like a python.

            “Gag,” Leah said.

            Since the girl in the clock was often trapped and as cute as a button, men thought it was safe to steal her. Being an embryo, she could wiggle into noses and blow heads apart as she grew inside a skull, often emerging fully formed like Athena from Zeus. An infant, a child, an old woman retreating into embryo: if only men could be like Zeus, their heads could handle giving birth to her.

            I have been overjoyed near exploding heads as she grows inside bloody brains like a migraine when men have no idea what’s happening. Right before our eyes! In a matter of minutes, we can watch her mature.

            We’ve seen so many exploding heads and love watching her burst a baby through a man’s brain.

            I like to catch her sliding through an exploding head, hands slick with blood as she giggles, gulping air.

            God, I love her!

            I’ve never loved anyone the way I love her.

            Even if she’s evil, she’s my baby.

            Even if she’s a serial killer, she’s my sister.

            Even if she lusts for blood, she’s my mother.

            Even if she rapes men’s noses, she’s my mentor, my timeless grandmother baptizing me in gore.

            Though I fear she might go inside me, I need to hold her close, to watch as she goes from being my baby to my sister to my mother to my grandmother and back into the clock to sleep.

            The clock is dripping blood. We must free her, or she will die. I can’t wait to see her again, but poor Mr. Baxter!


Carol Guess is the author of numerous books of poetry and prose, including Doll Studies: Forensics and Tinderbox Lawn. In 2014 she was awarded the Philolexian Award for Distinguished Literary Achievement by Columbia University. She teaches in the MFA program at Western Washington University.
Aimee Parkison is the author of Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman, which won the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. Parkison is the director of the Creative Writing Program at Oklahoma State University and has published four books of fiction, including The Petals of Your Eyes, The Innocent Party, and Woman with Dark Horses.