Clock of the Nations, Midtown Plaza, Rochester, NY


At first, the young businessman lies. He says that he visits the clock because he wants to see the true potential of  his city. He wants to feel the heel-clicks of progress. But when the hour comes and Scotland’s door opens, he holds his breath.

Her hair is a soft cloud in the painted green blue valley. Her pale blouse neatly nips in to reveal a slim dancer’s waist. She twirls in the highlands with a unicorn who surely realizes it has caught its own luck. When the door closes, all of them are in darkness again.

Each day he watches her twirl. There are so many things that he wants in his city. His city no longer belongs to the old, and it offers so much for taking. But he cannot think about his city while she twirls, unaware of time at her back.

Years pass. The businessman takes his business, and a few others. He takes his homes. He takes loyalty. He takes respect. He takes pale blouses, wide plaid skirts, and horses to his daughter and to each of his wives in turn. None ask why. None twirl.

Each time a door closes, he feels the sawdust in his arms and legs settle.

More years pass. The old businessman makes plans to leave his city. When the plaza is torn down, he takes the clock. At first, the old businessman lies. He says that he has taken the clock for the children of the city. But when he sees Scotland again, her limp soft hair, her broken slim waist, her sad merry face, he holds his breath. Until she twirls once more.

At the end, he leaves the clock in his city’s new airport. Where there is still hope for potential. Where there are still sometimes heel-clicks that whisper progress. And where time will forever be at both of their backs.


Erin Fitzgerald’s stories are in Wyvern Lit, Barrelhouse, Gigantic Worlds, Salt Hill, and other wonderful places. Find her at, and on Twitter as gnomeloaf.

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About Author


Jen Michalski is the author of the novels The Summer She Was Under Water and The Tide King (both Black Lawrence Press); a couplet of novellas, Could You Be With Her Now (Dzanc Books); and two collections of fiction, From Here and Close Encounters. Her work has appeared in more than 100 publications, including Poets & Writers. In 2013, she was named as “One of 50 Women to Watch” by The Baltimore Sun and “Best Writer” by Baltimore Magazine. She is the host of a fiction reading series in Baltimore, called Starts Here! and editor in chief of the weekly lit journal jmww.

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