It's quite the most remarkable thing Walter's ever seen – a lustrous black (perhaps onyx was the color its creator had in mind), marked by gradiations, each highlighted with a white paint that is, as yet, undimmed by time. The moving parts shift easily; the precision of the object's workings are a wonder to behold, and Walter turns the object back and forth between his fingers, examining every tiny crenellation beneath the comforting glare of his laboratory lamp. Walter's distantly aware when the laboratory door opens; he vaguely processes that the footsteps headed toward him belong to his son.
"Peter," he says, turning at the last possible moment, unwilling to turn his attention from the object until he must. "Peter, look, look – the most fascinating find."
Peter squints – a terrible habit, the boy is always squinting. "It's an egg-timer, Walter."
"Yes, yes, but observe how it is fashioned to look like a chicken?" Walter beams at the egg-timer, at the bright yellow beak and the red of its comb. "The association with timing eggs would suggest this is a hen, and yet the comb prompts me to consider it is a rooster." He gazes upon the egg-timer thoughtfully. "Perhaps there are species of hen which, given proper encouragement, develop the showy red cockscomb of a – "
"Where did you get this?" Peter asks, bending to look at the egg-timer more closely. "Because if the guy was bald . . ."
"No, no, a – um – rummage sale! I believe, yes, yes, rummage was the word used by the young men and women in the hallway, upstairs, in the other building, perhaps because of the – but indeed, to raise money for the orphans, or perhaps new music stands for the – did you know it ticks?" Walter turns the base of the egg-timer and sets it on the counter, hums delightedly as it turns. "And not one whit explosive from all I can tell."
"Not one whit explosive," Peter repeats, and stuffs his hands in his pockets. "Nice change."
"Isn't it?" Walter asks, pleased that Peter is making an effort to understand in his own, slightly slower fashion. "Perhaps I shall find more. I could use them to time a great many things. The transformative capacities of – oh!" The egg-timer pings and Walter laughs at the crystalline perfection of the bell. "Do you think you might find me a sandwich?"
"Hmm, I'm quite hungry for some reason. Perhaps something with egg . . . "
"Egg." Peter huffs a breath that Walter thinks might be rueful, but it's possibly even fond. "Coming right up."
But Walter's already engrossed in the egg-timer; Peter is barely a shadow at the periphery of his vision. "Now," he says to the squat, plastic hen. "You are, admittedly, limited by your relation to Newton's understanding of the universe, but I believe you and I can fashion a most satisfactory relationship . . . "
He'd swear, were he asked, that the egg-timer smiles a response.