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(3) Awful News

The small clockwork device had never been alone in the streets of New Babbage before. He didn’t know the name of the street nor the location of the store but he knew it would be a long and difficult chore to find Mr. McKenzie’s shop. New Babbage was a very large city and the streets seemed to stretch in all directions. Where could he find Mr. McKenzie’s clock shop? Which street would lead him to his destination?

The days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months, as Maxwell searched north and south, high and low, east and west. He even began to worry that the search might be more difficult than he had first thought. Every time Maxwell met a stranger, he always asked the same familiar questions.

 “Do you know where Mr. McKenzie’s clock store is?  Excuse me, can you help me? I’m sorry to bother you but … ”

Maxwell approached stranger after stranger, week after week.

Sadly, the many people that he asked had no idea where the store could be found. So, he simply followed the direction of crowds, continuing his way deeper and deeper into the city’s centre.

Finally, when Maxwell was starting to give up all hope of ever finding the store, a remarkable coincidence occurred.

“Well I never!” a lady’s voice exclaimed out from behind Maxwell. “Fancy seeing you again after all this time!”

Maxwell jerked his head around to see a lady following behind. At once, he recognised the gentle smiling face that beamed down: it was his first ever customer.

“I remember you, Ma’am,” Maxwell exclaimed. “You bought two gas-burning clocks from Mr. McKenzie’s, at two hundred and fifty dollars each. You were my first customer. What a remarkable coincidence in seeing you again.”

The lady continued to smile.

“You were right,” she explained. “They have been excellent timekeepers and the envy of all my friends! I am so pleased with them, Mr. McKenzie did indeed make very fine steam-powered time pieces.”

Maxwell looked up and inquired tentatively, “I don’t suppose you can help me locate the store please, Ma’am. I seem to be rather lost.”

“Such a polite young bear,” the lady smiled back. “Why sure, it’s behind you, the second street on your right – a few minutes walk from here. But … ”

Maxwell beamed broadly. He had been so close but he was heading in the wrong direction. Excitedly, Maxwell thanked the lady for her directions, reversed his way back along the road and darted away quickly, not hearing her final departing words. The lady sighed and walked on. The small bear would find out her news for himself soon enough.

Maxwell continued down the street, following her directions. Within a few minutes, his mechanical eye spied the large imposing sign of “Mr. McKenzie’s Clock Store” above the façade of one store.

“At last,” he exclaimed to himself, “I’ve found it.”

With that, he ran excitedly along the street and up to the door of the store.

However, when he arrived at the shop front, his smiling face was soon to be replaced by the grim realisation that something was seriously amiss. There was a single plank of wood nailed diagonally across the store window and the window display was bare. To the outside of the shop door, an aged yellowing notice was pinned. Maxwell’s mechanical eye began to scan each line in turn.

Awful News

“Public Announcement: We regret to inform you that Mr. Albert Ebenezer McKenzie sadly passed away last Friday. The funeral will be held at St Mary’s Church, Main Street, New Babbage at 12.00 noon on Monday September 22nd. In lieu of flowers, please send contributions to the benevolent fund of the Professional Association of Master Clock Makers and Sellers. Thank you.”

The small mechanical device turned to face the ground; words failed him. A single oil drop welled up in the corner of his mechanical eye and trickled silently to the ground.

There was silence for a minute.

“What am I to do?” Maxwell whimpered out sorrowfully. “What on earth am I to do?”

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