Time just stops. This old pocket watch is my father’s. If I have this, it means he’s dying. And he knows it. I keep looking at it. The metal casing is dulled and tarnished, and covered in tiny scratches. But it’s still a treasure – heartbreaking. I swallow down the lump pushing up in my throat. Feel the cold of the metal and its weight in my hand. They don’t make them like this anymore. Don’t make anything like this anymore.
Old memories reflect off the marked glass face. Father at table, mug of tea in hand, reading the Sunday papers. The old grandfather clock out in the hallway would chime the hour, but his ritual never varied. He’d fold the paper with care, place it on the table in front of him, all square.
Then, in no hurry, he’d draw his pocket watch out and hold it in his strong, capable hands. I’d be sitting on the end of the table, Sunday roast long gone from a plate scraped clean, watching his every move.
My heart would race with anticipation at what I knew came next. Every week it was the same. Even after I’d grown and married. We couldn’t afford our own place, Mabel and me, so we lived with father and mother.
Watch duly studied and contemplated, father would slide it back into his tweed waistcoat pocket. Then his gaze would slide its way to me. I’d sit up a little straighter, and he’d smile at that. From yet another pocket, my old dad would draw out a few pennies. I’d learned not to reach for them ’til he’d offered. Palm open, arm outstretched.
From when I was but a snipper, this had been my job. Run down to old McNeal’s and buy a bottle of stout for Dad. And some lemonade for Mum and me.
After the first three times, he stopped counting the change. No need. I always got it right. He never said much – bit like me – but he saw a lot. He’d soon let you know if he was displeased.
His approval came slow, but strong and wholehearted. I try and be a bit more gentle than that. Mabel has my heart. Always has done. She’s the only one, now, who knows me through and through. The only one who knows my secret. Can I trust you? I may as well spill the beans. Tough dock worker that I am, I love to sit and do a bit of the old needlework, like. Folk never would guess it, to look at me.
Dad’s memories are fading, and me old mum died five years since. I knew before Mabel gave this to me what was coming. Her eyes said it all.
Still the feel in my hand as I turn it over and over, and just sit here in my old seat at table… it holds a magic over me. Just a piece of old junk to some. Not to this old lad, though. This is my childhood. My father’s trust. This old watch marked time, while I became who I am now. It was there any time I came home late, or asked could I go out. It gave answer, after a pause, when I asked Dad could I marry little Mabel.
At last, I tear my gaze away, and pull myself forward – back into present time. And still, this pocket watch ticks away. Ticking with my heart. Ticking with my life. Marking time.
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