CLICKS AND WHIRS • by Kurt Kirchmeier

Lincoln Charles hobbled to the end of his driveway wearing only his old man slippers and silk pyjamas, the ones with Marvin the Martian on them. Twilight was fading; time to wind up the beast.

He paused next to a newly erected standard and reached for the hand crank mounted three-quarters of the way up from a solid iron base, just inches below the feet of a crouching demon. This new installation was sure to stir controversy amongst his neighbours, many of whom were probably looking out at him even now from between their custom drapes, pretty mouths tsk-tsk-tsking.

A gargoyle, of all things! How dreadfully tacky! Lincoln could picture them waving their arms dramatically, the highest-strung women fainting dead away.

Not all of his creations were gargoyles, of course, but he figured he’d start with this one.

His whole life he’d kept this part of him hidden, the quirky inventor with Victorian sensibilities, lover of all things clockwork, the more unconventional the better. The societal man in him, the gentleman raised on conservative values, had always felt that it should be so, never mind that his beautiful wife of forty-nine years (sadly, they would never reach fifty) had always felt otherwise.

You just be you! Grace used to tell him, her indomitable spirit alive in her every word and gesture, a ribbon of pure white light on the eve of shadows. Them who can’t abide it can take a long walk off a short pier!

And Lincoln would laugh, but then he’d straighten his everyman tie and polish his everyman shoes and dutifully carry his briefcase into the morning, another day spent at a desk instead of his private workshop. Tomorrow, he would tell himself, and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…

And then suddenly Grace was gone, her only spoken regret being that she hadn’t pushed Lincoln harder, that she hadn’t insisted the wider world meet the man she had loved and wed, eccentricities and all.

With a grunt and a series of crick-cracks from arthritic joints, Lincoln manned the crank, turning it ten times around before stepping back. Never had being out of breath felt so wonderfully freeing.

A chorus of clicks and whirs filled the darkening night, the sound of so many wheels and miniature pulleys, of pinions turning and tiny teeth catching as the wings of the gargoyle slowly winched opened. A modified bellows began to pump. The gargoyle began to breathe.

Two boys heading home on their bikes stopped abruptly next to the curb to stare, to watch as mirrored teeth reflected their own faces back at them, as shuttered eyelids of polished brass clicked suddenly open, igniting a gaslight glare.

“Cool!” said the boy on left, his eyes wide with wonder. The boy on the right sat in open-mouthed awe, an expression that remained firmly fixed until a shrill voice from down the street loudly beckoned him and his brother home, away from the crazy old man in his Martian pyjamas.

Lincoln offered a friendly wave to their waiting mother, who only scowled at him in return, the look in her eyes as she took in the beast promising future petitions. Lincoln couldn’t help but laugh. Just wait until she sees my nativity scene…

With the boys gone to placate their mother, the street fell silent save for a soft hiss as steam curled up from the gargoyle’s flared nostrils.

Lincoln stood for a moment and admired his handiwork before turning back up the drive to his empty house. On the way, he looked up at the night’s first stars and bid Grace goodnight.

Kurt Kirchmeier lives and writes in Saskatoon, SK. His fiction has appeared in Albedo One, Weird Tales, Shimmer, Tales of the Unanticipated, and elsewhere.

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Every Day Fiction

  • Sheila Cornelius

    A thoroughly engaging, bittersweet story of a man who has finally found himself.

  • A strangley compelling tale.

    I enjoyed it a lot.

  • ocean

    Very nice.

  • I believe there is a little of Lincoln Charles in each one of us.
    I am thankful that in his loss of Grace he was finally able to listen to her words of encouragement.
    I loved reading of the approval of the now generation!
    Although I’d normally skip things about gargoyles, I found this a delightful read; do we get to read about Lincoln’s nativity scene?
    Still smiling because we also live amongst people…Sue

  • ajcap

    Just when you think the stories can’t get any better…

    Enjoyed everything about this story. Loved Lincoln, Grace and the gargoyle. But especially liked the masterful use of words. Not once did I falter or skim.

    Looking forward to 2010 anthology. Will be a great tool for beginning writers.

  • What a spendid story: easy pacing and an attractive protagonist. Let’s hear it for gray power.

  • I loved this story, too. As M Sue Moore #4 says, I love the approval of the youngsters. Isn’t it so often the case that it’s the very young and the very old who understand one another? Kurt, you’ve captured a little magic here. That’s what we all hope to achieve with our writing, isn’t it? Respect.

    🙂 scar

  • kathy k

    Really well done, and I loved-“Just wait until she sees my nativity scene…” Five stars from me. Loved it.

  • vondrakker

    Interesting that some of the really great stories
    Come from people, either living or having lived for long periods on the prairies on any part of N america.
    A truly great piece.
    Suffice to say….I thoroughly enjoyed it !!!!!
    5 huge brilliant prairie stars !!

  • P.K.D. fan

    A really nice story – it reminded me a bit of Edward Scissorhands. I loved the last sentence, it tied up the ending very nicely.

  • Kurt

    Thanks so much for all the feedback, everyone. It means a lot to me. 🙂

  • Very nice, Kurt! 🙂

  • BUD

    Great job, Kurt!
    Your attention to detail was fantastic.
    Your ability to engage senses other than sight was also fantastic.
    I especially liked the “sounds” of this paragraph:
    “A chorus of clicks and whirs filled the darkening night, the sound of so many wheels and miniature pulleys, of pinions turning and tiny teeth catching as the wings of the gargoyle slowly winched open. A modified bellows began to pump. The gargoyle began to breathe.”

    The words “click” and “whir” got it going for me. The way this mechanical gargoyle was broken down into its’ component parts was incredible. It was almost as if you had researched how to put it together.

    great job.


  • BUD

    5 Stars!

  • Simone

    This is where I got hooked: …his old man slippers and silk pyjamas, the ones with Marvin the Martian on them.

    Thoroughly enjoyable read – witty, fun, and poignant all rolled into one short story! The last line caused a lump in my throat and a mad grab for the tissue box.

  • Kurt

    Thanks again, all. Your comments are much appreciated. 🙂

  • Jennifer

    Excellent story. I was hooked from the first line and loved everything that followed. Thanks

  • Anna

    Wonderfully written! Well done 🙂

  • Kurt

    Thanks Jennifer, Anna. 🙂

  • KC N

    Loved it. In fact, I loved it so much I want it to get expanded–longer story, novella, novel. Inspire those of us who don’t do things simply because we’ve never done such things before! Get off our keisters and do it! Especially in pajamas with Marvin the Martian on them!

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