Thirteen o'clock in April

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen, or at least my grandfather clock in the hall had just struck thirteen. I know it was thirteen because my teenage niece, Mellissa, numbered off, aloud, each stroke as it chimed and she counted thirteen. There can be no doubt about it, for at the end, she said, quite nonchalantly, "It’s thirteen o’clock."

I was dumbfounded. I wondered if something had gone wrong with the clock. My grandfather clock was too big for the shelf so it stood 90 years on the floor and this had made it something of a plaything and a hide-and-seek hideaway for generations of youngsters.
"If the kids have fouled up the chiming mechanism it comes as no surprise," I said, thinking out aloud. "I've been expecting it to happen for some time. Whatever the cause, though, it will be difficult to get fixed or even find someone to fix it and will cost a small fortune."

My concern for the old heirloom spread a pall of sadness over the family gathered in the living room. If a favourite pet had died they could not have been more downcast, all except Mellissa, that is. She was smiling an impish smile, but that quickly changed to a grin and then to a burst of hilarious laughter, dispelling the gloom around her.

"April Fool!" she yelled, joyously. "You are all April fools."

In a flash, we realised we had forgotten that it was April Fools Day. Now the whole family shared in Mellissa’s mirth. Everyone knew they had been caught and laughed at it, though still unaware of how they had been caught. No-one laughed louder than I until a thought crossed my mind that filled me with consternation, ‘What am I laughing for? What has she done to my clock to make it chime thirteen?’
With worry written all over my face, I asked, "What did you do to the clock to make it chime thirteen? I hope you haven’t fiddled around with the gears."
"Uh-oh," she said, making me even more worried, and more than a little annoyed. "I will try to explain but it will take a minute or two, so please be patient."
There was a breathless hush of expectation.....

Complete silence! She never uttered a word.
"Isn’t she going to tell us anything?" I whispered quietly to myself.
"Shhh," was all she said, putting her finger to her lips.

Suddenly the silence was broken — the grandfather clock had started to chime!
Mellissa counted off each stroke, "1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12." and added, very dramatically, "It’s twelve o’clock and all is well."
Everyone looked amazed.
"How come? they asked. "What did you do?"
"It was easy," she explained. "Yesterday, I made a tape-recording of the 12 o’clock chimes but added an extra chime at 1 o’clock. About 10 to 12, today, I set the tape recorder playing and hid it behind the clock. Then I came into the living room and waited to count off the chimes when they played. Nobody noticed that it wasn’t 12 o’clock and as the old clock is not a hundred percent accurate, anyway, nobody cared to check and so I caught everyone as an April fool."

© 2004, Graeme Lindridge

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