"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!"
Before he went inside he took another good sniff. 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,
Back in the workshop, please ring the bell!
Then he 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 mainspring, 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 mainspring 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. A 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.
He looked a little clownish to Hermux. There was 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. "Ow!" he thought. "That must have hurt!"
"I am Tantamoq!" Hermux told the old chipmunk. "Hermux Tantamoq." He extended a friendly 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. "I have heart," he said simply.
"The point is that I need somebody just like your father."
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