Vigil

Tractus allowed his entire team a fifteen-minute break. They would not get a single break for the next twenty-four hours at least. He barged out of the laboratory two minutes early and walked onto the middle of the floor, howling:

            “Get off your duff, you’ll bend the hand and weaken the hinge!” One of his men had been sitting on the minute hand. He didn’t look very light.

            “Boss, we got two minutes until show time! And I haven’t even got a second smoke in me yet.”

            “That’s ‘Your Majesty’, thank you.” The men gave a groan in unison and stood up lethargically, their sinewy arms flexing like an afterthought. The hour hand workers were standing at the ready, their hands resting politely on the metal. “And now, we roll.” Tractus slid on a sleek pair of sunglasses and skirted his laboring workers, his hands behind his back.

            Spud burst out of the laboratory. “He’s leaving his house soon!” The little hand shifted to five and the big hand to twenty-eight, where it was supposed to be.

            “Good thing we got no second hand, hey boys?” said the bulky man who had been sitting on the minute hand. “This place would be like a McDick’s drive thru.”

            “Save your breath,” croaked Tractus. “I don’t want any of you blossoms wheezing out on me.”

            “Tick, tick, tick,” teased the bulky man.

            After nine and a half revolutions, the bulky man crunched to a stop, wobbling in his place. His knees buckled, his eyeballs rolled back and he fell backwards onto the ground. The fall sounded unhealthy. Tractus stayed put on the wall. He watched his limp body on the ground, tasting the moment.

            “Extra motivation?” he tried. “Oy, SPUD! Clean-up on aisle two!” Spud waddled out as quickly as he could and hauled out the lazy body by the boots.

            After sixteen revolutions, two of the men exchanged glances, producing theatrical yawns. One crawled, sloth-like, off to the side of the floor, and stuck his thumb in his mouth. Gentle snoring followed. The other collapsed happily onto the floor and spoke dreamily of a full breakfast with French toast and crisp bacon.

            “On your feet, you bastards!” yelled the last man on the minute hand, prodding their heavy bodies with his feet. He looked around in panic, his eyes resting on Tractus. Tractus was beginning to sweat. He looked grim. The last man chanced a compromise.

            “Your Majesty, all I need is a sip of water, honest.” He stared at him full in the face with big eyes. “Please?” Tractus seemed to consider this, clearly unhappy.

            “Advance it by ten minutes first. But don’t take any more than five.” The man advanced it- it was heavy and difficult since he was alone.

            “Thank you, your Majesty.” He bowed and flitted away. Tractus grumbled and got up to man the minute hand himself. He was beginning to regret his decision.

            Tractus was still alone in the room at the five-minute mark. The five minute mark turned into the ten-minute mark, which turned into the twenty-minute mark. Tractus looked through the glass to see Max’s bloodshot eyes gazing zombie-like at the watch. An idea struck Tractus.

            He looked into the watch strapped to his wrist. He really looked. Ten-thirty, four hours behind, and he swore he saw a little man sleeping on the minute hand. Time didn’t really measure anything. Tractus exited the face of the watch through the laboratory. 

The End

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