By Steph Liberatore

November 29, 2021


She wanted people to see the antique clock when they entered the house. That’s why she put it on the shelf to the left of the window, the one you see when you first come through the door. The black mantel clock, with its golden dragons for handles and clawed feet, sits inside her cheap white bookshelves from IKEA. But it used to sit in her father’s dining room. Set against his own white shelves, built into the old walls of the house she grew up in.

She wanted people to see that weird old antique and think she was worldly. That she appreciated things like this that had a story, a past, like her father did. She wanted people to ask about it. To notice that it wasn’t working, but sat on her shelf anyway.

She wanted to say, “That was my father’s.” To use the past tense when she said it. She wanted people to know that her father had died horrifically and too young. Not from a heart attack or from cancer. But from electrocution. From trimming a mulberry tree too close to a power line with another old thing that had a story: a metal tree trimmer he’d pulled from someone’s trash pile.

She wanted people to see her there, without her father but surrounded by his things. Things that had stopped working, but sat on the shelf anyway.

Reminders of what was once ticking.


Steph Liberatore is a writer and professor in the English Department at George Mason University. Her essays have appeared in Cream City Review, Inside Higher Ed, Scary Mommy, and elsewhere. She’s currently working on her first book, SALVAGE: A MEMOIR.


Picture by Time Miroshnichenko courtesy of Pexels

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