He once ran a watch that had been cast away. The man who owned it arose in the middle of the night to use the washroom and noticed the hour hand was stuck on ten when in reality he arose at two thirty in the morning. The hour hand workers on the night shift had been drinking spirits and singing raucously into the night. They had assumed that the man with the watch was very deeply asleep. The man loosened the chain and dropped it into the bottom drawer of his nightstand where useless things like tacks and elastics were kept. It was the worst day of Tractus’ life.

            He stretched his arms out wide, balancing now on one unsteady foot. Slowly, he brought his hands together to form a sort of arch. There was nobody on the face of the clock to see him- he closed his eyes and practiced the deep breathing again. In… and out. In… and out…

            Until squeaky footsteps and ragged breathing came into earshot. He opened his eyes. Spud, one of the forecasters, hobbled across the face of the clock with a piece of paper scrunched in his fist. Tractus could tell he was elated because his starchy comb-over was swaying from side to side.

            “Trac- Your Majesty!” He wheezed, still crossing the floor. “I’ve got very good news for you!”

            Tractus lowered his leg and crossed his arms, but remained on the knob, staring grimly down at the clowny man. Spud looked at him momentarily, wondering how and when to start his speech. He unfolded the paper and shyly handed it to Tractus, looking at his shoes, until Tractus barked:

            “Who the hell is this?”

            “Max has got a new girlfriend- I’m sure of it, he twirls her hair in his finger and takes her out to dinner…he even told her the password to his email-”

            A look silenced him. Tractus was silent momentarily. He surveyed the image on the sheet.

            “So what are you saying?”

            Spud adjusted his glasses and cleared his throat. “Your Majesty, studies show that teen males in the company of new significant others are 42% less likely to pay attention to the time. Why, you ask? They are too distracted by the subject to think of other things, like time. And why does this help the Time Team, you ask? More downtime for you and I.” He smiled bravely at a job well done. 

            “I know the stats, thank you, but the fact is, our subject is a total whale.” He turned the sheet to display the image of the girl. It was true- her teeth were crowded and she wore a pilly cardigan. He let it drop to the floor.

            “What does it matter what she looks like, Your Majesty? She’s keeping him busy.”

            “A girl like that? For all we know, he could be using her to make his ex-girlfriend jealous,” he said, dismounting the golden knob. “In which case he’ll be glancing at his watch an awful lot.” Tractus rested his hand on Spud’s shoulder. “Go find me some real evidence.” He turned on his heel and strode away.

            Spud sighed. He picked up the sheet and glanced at the image once more. No, she was not pretty. But Tractus was indeed paranoid. He folded the sheet anew, pocketed it, and made for the laboratory.

The End

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