Sunday, January 1, 2012

Dial 00:00:00 for murder

“…'Cause if my baby don't love me no more,
I know her…sister will!”

It’s a safe bet that Jimi Hendrix wrote “Red House” about a far more shapely subject than a stainless-steel kitchen timer. But sadly for the Perratore household, the closing lines of this ’60s song have taken on a whole new meaning since we opened our Christmas gifts.

Regular readers of this blog will remember well that during the fall, a shadow lay over our family. Its name was OXO, a three-event timer that took on a personality and took to devilry whenever I was within her—yes, her—vicinity. Even placing my hand inches away was all it took for her to reset her clock to noon or shrieking like a banshee.

Shortly after she got what she wanted, publication of her story for a worldwide audience, OXO promptly expired. But she didn’t exactly go to meet her maker, which would probably have meant being shipped back to some Chinese labor camp. The next day, her lifeless shell showed up into the backpack I take to the office. She resides on my bookcase, where she can sit in judgment for eternity—not counting evenings and weekends—on my every deadline.

End of story, right? I thought so, and so did Elena. Until she reached into her stocking on Christmas morning, our favorite Bing Crosby LP playing softly on the stereo, and pulled out…Sister.

Despite our experience with OXO, I alone knew that my wife still wanted to have a kitchen timer she could use to time a few parts of a dinner at once. But don’t look at me; I was as surprised as Elena. What we quickly dubbed Sister was soon situated at the same post her fallen twin once manned.

From several feet away, I regarded the newcomer with suspicion. I drew closer, staring, and finally had the nerve to reach over and nudge the timer. That alone would have produced, from her predecessor, the polyphonic screams of feigned injury. From Sister, it resulted in nary a sound; I might as well have poked the toaster.

Next, I picked her up and unceremoniously held down her Clock button to reset the time. OXO would already have been livid—and let us know it by resetting her clock faster than I could set it. But Sister, a cooler character indeed, was not about to show her hand so easily. I reset the clock, pressed the Clock button again, and set her back down. My hands were shaking.

This morning, Elena asked me how I’d slept. The answer was easy: hardly. For the realization hasn’t escaped me that Sister has the same number of built-in timers as this household currently has people. With no weapons but a countdown—isn’t that, in the end, what we all face?—I suspect Sister’s first buzzer is for me. And my time draws nigh.

The day they find me at home, an expression of horror betraying my last moments alive, a cleaning attendant at my office will hear tones from a bookshelf in my office. From a device that hasn’t known batteries in weeks, midnight will flash…and flash…and flash….

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