Benjamin waved goodbye to his friends then vanished out of the throne room. In the twinkling of an eye he appeared in front of the beautifully landscaped yard of his mansion and started up the wide marble sidewalk. He knew he didn't have to twinkle to the yard, he could have twinkled into his bedroom or living room or anywhere else he wanted, but it felt like a little piece of the old days when he walked up to the front door instead of twinkling.
As he strode up the curving sidewalk that was just right for him (naturally) he caught sight of the clock he'd built for his amusement when he first arrived. There was no need for clocks anymore (obviously), but it tickled his funny bone to build it anyhow. He hadn't gotten in trouble for it so he'd just left the silly thing sitting on his manicured lawn, the electronic numbers slowly ticking off the passing years.
It caused a bit of a stir at first but pretty soon – actually sooner than he'd expected – no one cared about it anymore. It was just another curiosity.
It was elegant and well-made, running perfectly (of course) despite a complete lack of maintenance on his part. In fact, he'd only had to make one adjustment to it when the numbers started becoming so large they were getting unwieldy. He'd reset it so that each number represented a trillion years.
Now it read 100.
100,000,000,000,000 years to be exact. It didn't seem like that long. Looking back on it, it didn't seem like any time at all really. The whole meet-and-greet thing when they first arrived, for instance, spending one year with every person getting to know them, had only been 20 billion years. Poof!, and it was over just like that. Where did the time go?
He laughed gently at himself. When he'd been a kid back in Boston, growing up on Milk Street, a year seemed like forever. Now 20 billion of them went by so fast it made his head spin.
A loud, jovial voice interrupted his reverie. He looked up to see Daniel approaching from down the street. He gave him a jaunty wave. “Hey, Daniel! How are you today?”
“Gee, let me think,” Daniel returned in a deadpan voice. His expression changed. “Perfect!”
They looked at each other and cracked up. It was one of the oldest jokes in town, but it was still funny every time. No one ever got tired of it.
They finally ran down and Daniel turned to stand and observe the clock with him. “When are you going to get rid of this silly thing?”
Benjamin shrugged. “Actually, I was noticing how long we've been here, 100 trillion years today.” He clasped his hands behind his back and rocked back and forth on his heels. There were times when he missed pushing his wire-framed glasses up on his nose, this would have been the perfect time to do it. “It seems like we ought to . . . I don't know . . . celebrate it as a milestone or something, don't you?”
Daniel shook his head. “I never thought about it.” He paused. “You know, most of the people from your country expected you to build a kite when you got here, but instead you built this thing. Why? What's so important about it? You know it doesn't matter anymore.”
Benjamin laughed. “Because I'm still a bit of a contrarian I guess. Maybe I got tired of people asking me about the kite thing.” He glanced at his companion. “Don't you get tired of people asking you about the lions?”
“Only on days that end in Y.”
They grinned at each other.
Daniel's smile faded. “You still haven't answered my question though. What's the deal with the clock?”
Benjamin studied it for a long moment. The shiny black case and background contrasted with the bright red numbers without being washed out by the ever-present light. “Well, I never heard of electronics until I got here, so I was curious to see if I could build something electronic and a clock was the first thing that came to mind.” He cocked his head from side to side. “I don't know really. I guess it was just a whim.”
“What was a whim?”
They turned to see a movie star handsome man approaching. As usual, he had dirt on his hands and knees from working in one of the gardens around the city.
“Hey, Adam,” they both said. Daniel continued, “Benjamin said he built his clock on a whim.”
Adam snorted disdainfully. “Horticulture is where it's at, Benjamin. I've told you that before.”
Benjamin rolled his eyes. “Only about a zillion times.”
“No, no,” he argued in his literal-minded way. “It was 1,234,618 times. This time makes it 1,234,619.”
Benjamin rolled his eyes again. “I know that too. I was just exaggerating. You old timers aren't very good at that.”
“Eve is an old timer and she's really good at it,” Adam countered quickly.
“She has what you don't and you have what she doesn't,” Daniel put in. “You two were . . .”
“. . . made for each other,” the other two men finished in unison, laughing at the oldest joke in town.
Benjamin turned back and stared at his clock. “So what do you think, Adam? Should we celebrate being here for 100 trillion years?”
The First Man blinked at him. “What for?” He ran his eyes over the electronic numbers. “We're going to be here forever, so what's the point in celebrating one date over another? What's the point of even keeping track of them?” He brushed some dirt off his knees. “You're a strange bird, Franklin.” He waved, “Bye!” and twinkled away.
“He's always been a bit blunt-spoken,” Benjamin mused absently, staring at the spot where Adam had been a moment before.
“It comes from not having an actual childhood like the rest of us,” Daniel nodded. He hesitated. “I have to agree with him though; this clock is kind of strange. You really ought to get rid of it.”
Benjamin was noncommittal. “I'll think about it,” he temporized.
“In other words, not a chance,” Daniel smiled, knowing the answer before he said it.
They shared the smile of old friends.
“See you around, Franklin.”
Benjamin nodded. “See you around, Mister Lion Food.”
“Never,” Daniel laughed. He twinkled away.
Benjamin stared at his reflection in the glass face covering the clock. “I guess it's just you and me then.” He paused for a moment then shrugged. “Why not?” He straightened up. “Mister Franklin, happy 100 trillionth birthday in heaven!”
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