It’s taken four years, but I’ve finally finished unpacking from my move from DC to Atlanta. During this time, I was certain that the movers had not only destroyed two of my bicycles (can you say pretzel?), but had stolen one of my prized possessions, my father’s pigeon clock.
No, this is not a clock that looks like a pigeon, or a ceramic pigeon with a clock embedded in its chest. No. This is the clock my father used to “clock in” his racing pigeons at the end of each race. When a bird arrived, my father would grab it, remove a special band from its leg, put the band in a special clock chamber, and then crank the band across an internal device that logged the exact time the bird had arrived.
I remember that each pigeon man had to bring his clock to the pigeon club in advance of the race to be checked over, synchronized, and locked by a man I’ll call the race master, although his title could have been Grand Pigeon Poobah. I just don’t recall.
After the race, the pigeon men would go to the club, deliver their clocks to the race master, and await the results. Time was not the only factor, of course, because the distance from the release point to each man’s coop was different. So math was involved, and in my experience, when math is involved, fist fights are not to be ruled out.
So it was not unusual for my father to come home with a trophy and a black eye. And more times than not, the black eye was bestowed upon him by his best friend, Romie Labona, a name I need to work into a novel at some point.
At any rate, when I opened the last box, a box marked “kitchen,” there was the clock in all its glory. After admiring the polished wood, I opened it up to look at the clockworks, and there was my father’s signature, written in pencil, preceded by “property of.”
And there was something else. My father was a self-employed upholsterer, and to save money, he had used a rubber stamp on plain paper to create his invoices for “Boswell’s Upholstery.” Just seeing it stamped there in black ink inside the clock, complete with an image of a little sofa, brought back so many memories: where he kept the stamp, what his desk looked like, the room, the house, the smell of the place—everything.
What was lost is found.