The aging clockmaker set down his tools and glanced at one of his many watches. It didn't matter if the timepiece ran forwards, backwards, side to side, or announced the time in Bangkok, they all told him the same thing: it was late. He stretched his knobby fingers, and placed his newest creation on the wall. It was a simple piece: the typical round face, heavy numbers contrasting with the light face, a quiet-yet-sprightly chime, modestly ornate hands, and an austere brass pendulum. Nothing special, really.
But there was something to be said about the old man's clocks. Each was different, not only in appearance, but behavior. How can a clock behave, one may ask? Perhaps the timbre of the audible mechanisms, or the sheen a coat of varnish may have. Or maybe the temperament a particular clock may have.
The clocks, whether perched on the wall or crouching on a table, slept most soundly, clicking quietly to themselves. But not this newest clock. It sat awake, listening to the rather boring sound of his own ticking. It wished to do something more interesting, something with a little more... zip. If only it had some direction.
Then, a beautiful sound wafted into the tiny shop. A quartet was playing outside the cafe downstairs. It was a beautifully simple melody, and the peppy rhythm fell right in time with the clock's steady tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock. But occasionally it fell off the beat, only to return to the original pulse. That fascinated the clock. How could something so metrical hiccup for a moment, and fall back in step without sounding out of place?
Perhaps it could try that, too?
It ticked normally a few beats, then held a tick a bit longer, only to let it go and fall back into step. It sounded alright, and it felt rather good, too. It held up the works a moment, but that was the beauty of it. After a few more tries it nailed the off-beat perfectly. The clock was so overjoyed that it couldn't resist ringing its happy little chime with the music. But after a few strains of that it noticed the whir of sleepy disapproval from the other timepieces, so it went on with its syncopated ticking.
Although it couldn't help letting loose a strain of rapid ticks, a few finger snaps, and an ecstatic zwwinng! as the quartet finished.
The Syncopated Clock; Leroy Anderson