29 January 2020


"I, Matthias Brecht, being of competent and sound mind, do hereby declare this to be my last will and testament."

I looked around the lawyer's office, crowded by my many relatives that had gathered here today. It was a long time since I last saw some of them. Most of them, really. They didn't even come to uncle Matt's funeral, yet everyone was present for the reading of his will.

Aunt Crystal was lounging on a squeaky armchair, staring at the sheaf of papers the lawyer was reading from as if she could browbeat it into having exactly the words she wanted to hear. Her husband, uncle Otto, was standing just behind her chair, clenching the backrest. Their three daughters were expertly feigning bored disinterest, their nervous hopes showing only in the occasional sidelong glance at the lawyer. I caught myself starting to smirk and quickly hid it.

"To my nephew, Otto Brecht, and his lovely wife, I give and devise my car and my yacht, provided they do not sell or otherwise divest of them."

Crystal and Otto blinked.

"His car?" Crystal asked, incredulous. "Why would we want another car? What about the house? And all the money?"

"And why the boat?" Otto nearly whimpered.

Crystal reached up and squeezed his hand in a white-knuckled grip without taking her eyes from the lawyer. "He knew you're afraid of water."

It was strangely fascinating, watching aunt Crystal seethe in silence as the lawyer continued to read through the inheritances of other family members. A vein on her forehead started to bulge and tiny beads of sweat formed on her slowly reddening face. Uncle Otto was trying to pry his hand free, while the cousins did their best to prevent their haughty masks from cracking. They almost succeeded.

I was so engrossed in the scene that it caught me off guard when the lawyer suddenly mentioned my name.

"To my great-nephew, Robert Brecht, I leave and bequeath all of my remaining possessions, including my house and my assets. In addition, I grant him a small gift and the following words-"

I didn't really have time to think and let it sink in, when aunt Crystal screeched at the top of her lungs: "What?! He gets everything?!"

The rest of the lawyer's sentence was nearly drowned in the sudden familial racket:

"Thank you, and I'm sorry."


It was already well into the evening when I finally arrived home, exhausted. Most of the family was now upset with me, suspecting or outright accusing me of brown-nosing my way to the fortune. The lawyer had to literally push them all out of his office, or they would still be arguing and screaming at me or each other.

I brewed myself a nice cup of tea and considered going directly to the bed, leaving everything else be a tomorrow's problem, but then curiosity prevailed. Along with the inheritance - and I still didn't really believe it, nor did I know why - I was given a small box, the "gift".

I went to the living room slash workshop, a hundred clocks ticking on the walls and cabinets, and opened the carefully wrapped package. It was a miniature, beautiful and definitely very expensive clock in silver casing adorned with delicate filigree. As far as gifts went, this one was perfect, thoughtful. Whatever your reasons, uncle Matt, thank you so much.

I carefully winded the clock up, but nothing happened. Well...

I took them to my workshop, carefully put aside various clients' clocks I had lying there unfinished, and prepared my screwdrivers and pliers. I knew I could and probably even should leave it to the morning, but I knew as well how much it would bug me to have a beautiful, fine clockwork lying there silently.

It took me hours. When I finished, I noticed that I'm now sitting in a forlorn pool on light, the rest of the house immersed in midnight darkness. Nearly midnight, it was five to twelve.

The clockwork in the uncle's gift was intricate, delicate and wonderful. I don't know where he obtained it, but the tiny clock was a piece of art. I was not even tired any more, the excitement of a job well done filling me with strange pent up energy, with expectation.

I winded the silver clock once again and set the hands to midnight, then kept an eye on my wristwatch to get it activated on time. A few more seconds now, three-two-one and...

Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. The miniature clock joined their hundred peers exactly as they all chimed a midnight.

I raised my eyes to the mirror on the wall and looked at the reflection. Tick. I didn't know what to feel. Relief? Shame? Smug satisfaction? Tock.

Tick. "Thank you," I said to- Tock. -my new face in the mirror. Tick. "And I'm really sorry." Tock.


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