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Fiction #138
(published June 12, 2003)
The Zigraffian Clock
by Howard Van Sherwood

A man was sitting in a train station in the small, central European country of Zigraffia, waiting for the 10:00 AM to Prague. He was not at all at his ease, because it was now 10:25 and the train had still not arrived. Since he was not wearing a watch, he thought that perhaps the station's clock was wrong.

He walked over to an attendant and asked if he was sure that the clock was correct. With a disdainful snort and an angry glare, the attendant replied, "Zigraffian clocks are always correct! I'll have you know that the Zigraffian secret police have the authority to shoot you for even suggesting otherwise!"

Trying to cover for his offence the man replied, "Oh, I thought that perhaps it was not a Zigraffian-made clock."

The attendant seemed enraged. "Why, how dare you even suggest that an inferior, foreign clock would be kept in a Zigraffian train station? They would be well within their rights to shoot you for saying that as well!" Struggling to save himself, the man replied, "But of course I knew that! I just thought perhaps that a jealous foreigner had switched the proper one for a foreign clock that LOOKED exactly like the original in the night."

The attendant stammered with anger, "Why, to have such impudence as to say that a foreign clock could ever be made to look anything like a fine Zigraffian clock! It would be permissible for them to shoot you on the spot for that!"

As a last resort, the man said, "Well, perhaps I meant that a foreigner could have possibly tampered with the clock."

Human words could not describe the fury of the attendant. "Why, that a Zigraffian clock could not mend itself instantly after being tampered with! Our laws say that ANY Zigraffian citizen has the right to kill you for suggesting that, sir!" And with that he pulled out an enormous ax and lopped the poor man's head off.

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