The Unexpected Present

No, it's not what you're thinking. Unless it is, in which case...you think of the weirdest stuff.

My husband's alarm went off this morning, just like, well, you know. And, similarly, he smacked the snooze button. However, that's when everything changed for the wacky.

You see, he didn't actually hit the snooze button. He turned his alarm off. And the next time an alarm went off in the room, it was from somewhere else.

My alarm clock broke a couple of years ago. I don't really need one; I work at home and my kids make sure I never get to sleep in anyway. But my husband wanted to get me a cute little clock for my birthday, so he did, and he set the alarm on it as an avenue to presenting me with it, at 8:06 AM.

Such a cute little plan amused me, as did the cute little clock. A simple rectangle with a wraparound pink frame resembling a pinafore, there wasn't anything extraneous about the thing. The buttons were easy to use, the face was easily readable...

...and something was thudding around inside.

It took three minutes of shaking it and pestering my husband before he admitted he hadn't put the whatever-it-was inside the clock. So I decided to open it up and see what it was.

If any of you have ever bought a lightweight plastic clock before, you might already know what was banging around in there. If not, let me explain that this adventure might have started off being about the destination, but once I was there, it ended up being about the journey.

Out came the jeweler's screwdriver, for the infinitesimal screws that held on the pink aluminum plate around the clock face. I swear, the world should outlaw such tiny metal bits. Not only are they hard to hold, let alone find, but banning them would probably cut down on child labor, since tiny fingers are pretty much a requirement in handling the stupid things.

The aluminum plate slid off from around the clock with reluctance, as if it only found purpose when attached to the shiny silver clock. Well, let me tell ya, little pink metal piece, I instantly thought of a couple wicked geocache tricks I could do with you, so don't get comfortable.

Then, things got a bit hairy. We couldn't figure out how to open the two halves of the clock body! You'd think, after years of infant and toddler toys, that we'd have an eye for tiny catches and hidden screws and the like, but it took a couple minutes of prying and finger pinching to realize that a pair of recessed screws, again microscopic, were foiling us. And all the while, the clonk-clonk of the mystery item inside taunted us.

One recessed screw gave up easily and came out with its hands up. The other one burrowed in for a siege. Peering into the hole with my face in one of those odd squints we make when we have to get the angle just right, I worried that I'd either stripped the head, or that a screw with a stripped head had been inserted to begin with (after all, one of the first set of infinitesimals was missing entirely).

But, after the husband gave up and went for a shower, inspiration sneaked up behind me and thwacked me on the head. There was another size of jeweler's screwdriver in the box! It was larger, and might overcome the slippage issue I was having.

I hobbled out to the kitchen (did I mention I twisted my ankle pretty badly on Saturday? No? Well I totally did. Fetching screwdrivers from the kitchen was literally a pain) and got the larger screwdriver, and voila! It opened the clock!

The moment of truth was here! What was inside my new alarm clock? Was it a wandering battery? A container of microfilm? A mini-bomb? The key to a safety-deposit box? A couple of dimes glued together? A smuggled sapphire the size of my thumbnail?

No, no, of course not. It was a slice of an iron rod (or possibly steel--there's a way to tell the difference, but I'm fresh out of grinding stones--gotta love novel research*!), once upon a time glued into the clock case so it wouldn't feel as light as the plastic it was made from. The weight broke loose at some point and was rattling around inside.

Sure, it's just a smidge of slag metal. But boy did I have a blast finding that out! One more mystery bites the dust.

*Elements of Allegiance, First Seal in The Seals of the Duelists series, Winter 2012

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