Marty was curled up on the family recliner, staring at the ceiling with his mouth wide open. He had been hearing a dripping noise while he was reading “All the King’s Men” for a book report, and it was poking at his attention. The book wasn’t so enthralling to him anyways. He tried to ignore the sound for a while, but its persistent tune entered into his reading, and the clamor of political speeches and the intrigue contained in the book were colored with the resonance of drips.
He shoved the book down on the living room couch, not bothering to mark the page. His father and mother were not at home, both being professors who enjoyed working late in their laboratories at the University of Washington in the department of entomology.
By listening inventively, he thought the drips must be landing above him, next to the top of the staircase that leads to his parents’ bedroom. As he walked towards the dripping sound softly as to not obstruct his hearing, he tried to be alert as possible about the sound of the drips. His intuition was not far off: the drips were landing within the top stair of the staircase. “But how could something be dripping inside of the stair?” he thought. He couldn’t find any logical reason for it.
The top stair was covered by an old but thick beige carpet. “I could cut the carpet off of this stair and glue it back before my parents come home,” Marty pondered. Without too much thought of the consequences, he pounced around the house to the garage, where there was a box cutter. After retrieving the box cutter, his hands were shaking slightly from the thrill of trying to complete a secret mission before his parents came home and chat about work, even during dinner.
As much as he could, he cut the carpet covering the top stair cleanly. The sounds of ripping old carpet away coupled with the melody of the dripping lent him some extra favorable anxiety. When he cut the entire carpeting on top of the stair, he encountered a sad sight: a block of metal, probably iron. “How am I going to break into this metal? There is no way I can repair this metal if I try to break it.” These thoughts and more pulsed through his mind while gazing at the block of iron. But after giving up and starting to turn to go back to the garage to find the glue to seal the carpet again, he noticed a miniature, rusty hole in the iron bar at the edge of the side-carpeting of the stair.
Without thought, he ran to the kitchen to get a knife to jab into the hole, but then rushed to the garage to grab a pick and hammer instead. On his way back to return to the top stair, he glanced at the overhead clock in the kitchen: 6:12 pm. His anxiety to complete his goal before his parents came home increased into slight delirium.
He had some hesitation to start chipping away at the rusty hole, as he did not know exactly how he would repair it. But then he thought of filling the hole with rocks from the garden outside and continued on his mission without caution. The clanging of the pick against the metal was a mix of crunchy-breaking sounds and the direct bang when the pick directly hits against solid iron. After about two minutes, he broke into the metal enough to look inside the iron bar from a side view.
What he saw was so unexpected that he could not think. By flashlight, he saw that a tiny red clock was suspended in the middle of the iron bar by metal strings as thin as a spider’s web. Marty marveled the most, however, as to why it had stopped dripping incessantly. But as soon he wondered about its dripping, it started its routine again—a droplet slid down the face of the clock in a clockwise manner, touching all the twelve positions of time. Following the clockwise journey, the dew-like droplet descended directly from the marker “12” and fell to the bottom of the almost hollow iron bar.
“As soon as I started to think again, it began to drip. That means if I stop thinking, the dripping will stop!” This revelation passed through Marty’s mind like he was a mad scientist discovering a new theory that would save humanity. He tried to not think, but the clatter of thoughts in his mind still came, and he saw a few more droplets descend. He tried to not try to think (if that makes any sense) and still thoughts came rushing into his anxious mind. A feeling of dejection came—he didn’t know what to do next. But as he started to gather the pick, hammer, carpeting, and his composure, he remembered that the clock stopped because he was shocked into not thinking. “How can I be shocked all the time?” This thought came without answers. He sat staring outside at the garden, presented by the huge glass windows in the living room. Like spring lightning, the knowledge of what he had to do to keep the clock from dripping came to him.
When his parents came home, they were chatting about work, as usual. But instead of continuing the conversation for the common twenty-or-so minutes, they paid attention to Marty. He was examining a blank piece of paper in the middle of the living room.
“Marty, what on Earth are you doing?” his father said.
Marty turned to meet his father’s gaze, with a hint of a smile.