The grandfather clock loomed against a wall in my Dad’s living room. Its loud ticking could be heard down the hall where my bedroom was, and it would keep me eerily awake on very quiet nights. I had never thought to look inside the small wooden door of the grandfather clock, but one day when my older sister and brother were feeling mischievous as my Dad was doing work upstairs, they decided to see what was inside.
My parents had gotten divorced just a couple years before, and my Dad was still in the process of furnishing his new house. Now that he was a bachelor with three children who he only saw on Tuesdays and every other weekend, his taste began to include all things found in an antique store. The leather chairs in his living room on top of the practically ancient Oriental rug were faded and smelt of old, dusty books. Hanging high on the wall was an old-fashioned crosscut saw, jagged and intimidating. His shelves and mantle were covered with random antique items, like a rusty horse that used to sit atop a barn in the 1700s as a weather vane, with bullet holes from the farmer who shot it to make it spin. It was one of my Dad’s favorite antiques, and he loved pointing out the bullet holes and telling the story to anyone visiting his new house.
It was odd that my father decided to fill his home with museum-like items when he still had three young children to take care of occasionally. At that age, I was unable to grasp that some things were simply meant to be looked at and admired. I was lucky to have been young enough so that the divorce did not take a toll on me emotionally, but packing up my bag to spend a weekend at my Dad’s was a disillusioning transition. The home I had with my Mom was filled with softness, warmth, love, comfort, with toys strewn all over the ground just waiting to be picked up and played with. I didn’t have to worry about spilling on the rug or jumping on the couch or handling something too valuable for my little hands. Although my Dad’s house was still filled with love, it was only his presence that made it feel that way. The rest of his home, with its expensive, untouchable antiques felt like doom to me.
Since there were no other toys in my Dad’s new house, we had begun to play with some of his more friendly antiques, like the old-fashioned phone with the spinner you turned to dial in each number, or his fireplace air bellow that sent an abrupt gust of musty air causing us to giggle when it was blown in our faces. So when my siblings and I finally opened the door of the grandfather clock, we thought that these ancient items we had discovered were toys waiting to be played with. Inside were three rifles. They had turned a reddish-brown from being tarnished over time. After looking in awe at such mystical objects, we each drew one out. I suspected this was what the Revolutionary War smelt like: cold metal and rain and corrosion.
We brought these three guns to our huge, forest green couch, climbed up on top of it, and began jumping up and down with glee, laughing hysterically at our find and our unseen misbehavior. As we continued to jump, clutching these rifles in our young hands, the butt of a rifle was suddenly jammed into my eye as one of my siblings went up as I was coming down. My father ran down the stairs in response to my blood-curdling screams, and was surely horrified by the sight of his youngest daughter on the ground clutching her eye as his other two kids stood guiltily holding his historic rifles in their hands.
I returned to school that week with a black and purple eye. While the kids were amused with my battle wound, my teacher was filled with alarm.
“How did you get that bruise, Kelly?” she asked me after pulling me aside before class.
“My Dad’s gun,” I answered, matter-of-factly.
The next thing I knew, I was in the principal’s office, retelling my story as both of my parents were called. Luckily for my Mom, she was told the night before about what had occurred, so there was no shock when she was told what I had said to my teacher. The story was cleared up after they were asked to come in, and everyone was able to laugh about it in the office as I smiled naively, content that I had caused some amusement among adults.
Although everything turned out fine, my teacher continued to suspiciously watch me as I walked into class every day for the rest of the year. And the next Tuesday I arrived at my father’s house, the door of the grandfather clock was nailed shut.