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The Sands of Time: A Hermux Tantamoq Adventureby Michael Hoeye
Do Drop In
"What a beautiful morning for watchmaking!" thought Hermux Tantamoq as he unlocked the door to his shop. There was something delicious in the air. He wrinkled his nose and sniffed. His whiskers twitched. He took a deep breath.
"Ripe apples," he said. "Now that's a nice smell!"
He sniffed again. Hermux was a mouse who appreciated a good meal. A nice, plump red apple might be just the thing for lunch. With a thick slice of cheddar cheese. And a crusty piece of bread. What a pleasant thought! He raised the shade and switched on the lights. He put a sign out on the front counter that said, I'm back in the workshop. Please ring the bell!
He took off his emerald green woolly coat with the bumblebee buttons and hung it on a hook. Then he rolled up his sleeves and went to work.
Hermux got Clenton Yooger's big pocket watch down from the work shelf. All it needed was a good cleaning. He fitted his magnifying loupe to his right eye and opened the heavy gold case. First he removed the winding stem. Then he inserted a tiny pair of tweezers to release the main spring, which, as everyone knows, is the very most ticklish part of watchmaking. That's when someone slapped him on the back.
"Tantamoq!" a shrill voice boomed in his ear.
Clenton Yooger's main spring sprang from his watch, skittered across the workbench, ricocheted off the tool rack, and disappeared onto the floor.
"Say! You're not Tantamoq!"
"I am too!" said Hermux.
"Tantamoq is older. He's my age!"
Hermux rubbed his eyes and studied his surprise visitor. It was an old chipmunk. He was bit taller than Hermux, as you might expect, but so skinny that he couldn't have weighed much more than a mouse. He was wearing a faded, rusty-colored corduroy jacket with patches on the elbows. And the shoulders. And the lapels. And the cuffs. Some of the patches even had patches.
Hermux thought chipmunks were a clownish lot in general. But this one looked particularly odd to him. There was even something sort of lopsided about his head. Hermux smiled to himself. Then he noticed that the old chipmunk was missing an ear. It was completely gone. Like someone had snipped it off with a pair of scissors. Hermux winced. "Owl" he thought. "That must have hurt!"
"I am Tantamoq!" Hermux told the old chipmunk. "Hermux Tantamoq." He extended his paw. "You must be looking for my father, Linnix. This was his shop. I took it over when he retired."
"Of course," said the old chipmunk. "Your father. He's the one I want to see! Where can I find him? I want to see him right away."
"I'm sorry, but that's not possible." Hermux stopped. "My father passed away several years ago."
"Linnix!" sighed the old chipmunk. "I didn't know. I'm so sorry." Suddenly he seemed confused and uncertain.
"Well, maybe I can help you," said Hermux.
"I doubt it!" said the old chipmunk, shaking his head violently. "I must be cursed! I need a watchmaker with a solid grasp of history. Not a beginner."
"I'm not a beginner, and I'm very interested in history," argued Hermux. "Just this summer I did a walking history tour of South Glemmon. I visited the very factory where the first twisty watchband was invented. Ask me anything about watches."
"I need somebody who understands mechanics. Who knows how to put pieces together and figure things out. Someone who's not afraid of complications."
"Well, that's me in a nutshell!" said Hermux. "I am certified to repair cuckoo clocks of all sorts. Even the great antiques from Grebbenland. And they are really complicated, I can tell you that for sure!"
"This involves more than clocks and watches, my boy! I need somebody with heart."
Hermux recalled the image of a bold young mouse standing before her gleaming silver airplane. It was Linka Perflinger, the renowned adventuress and aviatrix that he had met in the spring of that year. Hermux had nearly lost his life rescuing Ms. Perflinger from the clutches of a sinister plastic surgeon, Dr. Hiril Mennus. In the process he had lost his heart to the dashing Linka. But in the end she had chosen someone else.
"I have heart," he said ruefully.
"The point is that I need somebody just like your father."
"I'm a lot like my father," said Hermux. He glanced up at the photograph over his workbench. It was a smiling picture of Linnix Tantamoq at the National Convention of Watchmakers. He had just been named Watchmaker of the Year. Hermux drew himself up. "Like my father," he said proudly, "I'm not afraid of complicated problems. And I can solve them under pressure. Perhaps you heard about my involvement in the Perflinger case?"
"No. Why would I?"
"Why, it was in all the papers! Earlier this year. My picture was printed several times. Along with Ms. Perflinger and Tucka Mertslin and Ortolina Perriflot! You can't say you didn't hear something about it. Hiril Mennus? The Beauty Doc Murders? Where have you been?"
"I've been working! In the field! I don't have time to waste reading newspapers! And I couldn't get them if I did!"
"What do you do?" asked Hermux.
The old chipmunk jerked back suddenly and narrowed his eyes. His one ear cocked and alert.
"Why do you want to know?" he asked suspiciously.
"Well, it sounds like you've got a problem. An interesting one. And I'd like to hear about it. What can I do to help you?"
"You can start by helping me get this off," the old chipmunk grumbled. He pointed to the tattered knapsack on his back.
"Boy, this is heavy," said Hermux, wrestling it onto the workbench. "What's in it?" He started to unbuckle it.
"Hey!" snapped the old chipmunk. "Keep your hands off! I'll do that!" He pushed Hermux away.
Hermux watched his irritable visitor rummage about in his knapsack. Time had certainly not been kind to the old guy. He looked run-down and run over. From his patched jacket to his threadbare pants and his dusty, scuffed boots. His fur was thin and lifeless. His paws were nicked and scarred. And then there was the missing ear. How had that happened? He certainly didn't look like any friend of his father's that Hermux had ever met. And Hermux couldn't quite picture his father being good friends with a chipmunk to begin with.
The old chipmunk interrupted his thoughts.
"If you'll have some patience for an old man's cautious nature," he said, "I've got something very interesting to show you. It's a very puzzling object that I acquired recently. It raises several questions about history. Questions that would have interested an intelligent, imaginative watchmaker like your father. Maybe they will interest you."
A noisy clanging in the front of the shop interrupted him.
Copyright © 2002 by Michael Hoeye
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