In Middleglen, the pendulum clock is in the town square, where the streets are lined with white needle trees. It’s been there for years, right beside the Hare’s Heart Inn, and no one knows how to calibrate it properly. It swings one way, then the other. Never stops in the middle and no one knows why.
It was there by the pendulum clock that they met. She had long violet hair, and heart-shaped eyes. The boy was dark-haired, pale, and still soft. She slept on what fell from the white needle trees, ate from the bins of the Hare’s Heart Inn, and her kiss, it was said, could drain a man’s soul. Leave him wrinkled, and empty, like a seersucker suit left to dry on the line.
The boy spent most days alone in his room. He read the newspaper, found strangers’ names and wrote eulogies for them. He listened to music, old scratched forty-fives; tunes from a time he did not remember. “Honey Roll”, by the Jelly Dots. “I Gotta Be you”, by Ferlin Quinn. He traced pictures he found in anatomy books. The boy preferred people as a series of lines, a collection of circles, ink-sharp, and precise. Their otherness stung like a handful of bees, otherwise, and sometimes it roared, like a mountain of lions.
But he saw her one day by the pendulum clock, on a rare foray he made into town, and it touched him how she looked straight at the sky, as if she were daring the clouds to rain; how she wore her hair like a violet crown, and whereas before the boy hardly ever went out, now he walked by the Hare’s Heart Inn every day.
And she noticed the boy. And he noticed she noticed. There were glances, exchanges. Whispers and wishes. Hers, his. It went back and forth. Late one night, she rapped at his window. He brought her inside. She could’ve stayed for the rest of his life.
As dawn was breaking, the boy watched her go. So did the man who worked for the county, who always rose early to get a headstart. He thought it strange, a violet-haired woman climbing out of a window that time of the morning. He called someone who called someone else, and the buzz was soon louder than ten handfuls of bees; he was only a boy, he was just seventeen, and she made a living by questionable means.
They came with ropes. They came with knives. They strung her up high by the pendulum clock. They all took locks of her long violet hair and because this was, after all, Middleglen, they took only one of her heart-shaped eyes.
No one speaks of it now. No one talks of that day. The boy threw away all the old forty-fives. The pictures and books. His hair is white as the white needle trees. The pendulum clock still stands in the square, swings hard to the left. Hard to the right. Never stops in the middle and no one knows why.