A short story by Bob Collins (Stumpy)

The old Boss’s missus was a very nice lady. A wonderful wife, housekeeper, and neighbor. She was so totally honest, prim, and truthful herself, she completely failed to comprehend that there could be liars, cheats or dishonest people in this world.

As a consequence she always believed without question whatever she was told, by whoever, refusing to accept she had been misinformed until the fact was proven beyond all doubt. Even then she sometimes refused to believe.

In this village, in this valley, of all the possible neighbor combinations, the old Boss’s missus had grave misfortune. Her over-the-road neighbor was William, a crafty, cunning, likable fellow with a diabolical sense of humor. To make matters worse he was a compulsive, blatant liar and practical joker. William would tell a lie just for the hell of it, even if the truth would serve him better.

The old Boss’s missus was the perfect butt for William’s conniving antics…. like the time her clock broke down. The old Boss was a stickler for punctuality. Seven a.m. was start time for the bushmen, so staff, including himself, had to be ready and waiting at five to seven! No excuses, no reasons why not.

When the clock in the house broke down the old Boss’s punctuality took a bit of a battering much to the delight of the staff, particularly William. The old Boss’s missus, apparently receiving considerable flak at home for not getting her husband off on time, approached her friendly neighbour, William, explaining the clock problem and asked him how she could now regulate her spouse’s departure for work.

This approach was pure delight for William, who immediately advised the lady to “Listen for the sawmill slab truck passing by each morning. It was the most punctual truck in history”, he said, “Always leaving the village at six thirty a.m. So timing was simple, get out of bed when the truck passes, have breakfast, and off to work by five to seven.”

The old Boss’s missus went home full of confidence, the problem was solved. But of course it wasn’t! That truck left the village sometimes at six a.m., sometimes at eight a.m., and also at any time in between.

For the next three weeks all the staff, especially William, were delighted to note that the old Boss’s start times became totally unpredictable, in fact, absolutely chaotic. Then one day the old Boss’s missus came galloping across the road to William’s house with thunder on her brow.

“William! You’ve been telling me lies! This morning I got up early and as the mill truck passed by the radio said the time was six o’clock. Not half past six as you told me!” William looked indignant, unjustly accused, hurt, and puzzled.

Then his brow cleared. With dawning in his expression he replied, “But of course, you have one of those old battery powered radios! The battery must be going flat so its time is half an hour slow!”

The old Boss’s missus swallowed that, and with profuse apology for doubting the offended William, walked thoughtfully home. The next two weeks the old Boss’s punctuality showed no improve­ment. Sometimes he arrived at work at six thirty, sometimes eight thirty, with a smattering of all times in between. Once he even arrived at exactly the correct time! He kept the staff in hysterics.

Something had to crack so once again William saw the old Boss’s wife descending on him from across the road.

“William! You HAVE been telling me lies! My husband has explained to me that flat batteries will not alter the time on the radio! You HAVE been telling me lies.”

William’s face broke into an expression of innocence, wondrous enlightenment, and learning. “Well, now, who. would believe it? I never realized! You learn something new every day!

The Old Boss’s wife walked home somewhat bemused. Perhaps she had misjudged and offended that nice neighbour William. She must make amends, be nicer to him in future, and not fly off the handle with accusations.

She went the sixty miles to town next day and bought a new clock.