Pocket Watch

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The story follows a pocket watch that is handed down from father to son for several generations. You'll discover that it's no ordinary pocket watch.

Submitted: April 29, 2014

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Submitted: April 29, 2014

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The Pocket Watch

August 4th, 1917: 12:18pm, New York

James hated waiting. He checked his pocket watch for the tenth time since he arrived at the coffee shop. The cigarette he lit twenty minutes ago lay untouched in the ashtray. The waitress brought over his fourth cup of coffee and asked, “Mister, you’ve been here over two hours. What is it you’re waiting for?”

What could he have said? James clutched the gold watch to his chest. It wasn’t much to look at yet he never went anywhere without it. Nothing was more important than this piece of small machinery. It was a gift from his grandfather, a watchmaker, who died when James was ten years old. Around the border was the celtic knot and in the center was a shield with an hourglass on the front. He looked up at the waitress, her name tag said Rose, a strange look in his hazel eyes.

“Ma’am it’s not so much what I’m waiting for, but whom. Today is a lucky day, I feel it.” Even as he spoke Rose could tell he didn’t believe his own words. As she walked away, Rose glanced back to see James check his watch yet again. He seemed well dressed for a Thursday afternoon. His auburn hair was combed back and his suit was perfectly tailored. With a sigh he paid for his coffee and left the shop.

Disappointment weighed him down as James crossed the street, weaving between automobiles.

He knew his grandfather was crazy so he shouldn’t have gotten his hopes up, but it was the old man’s most prized possession. And that note he left…James shook his head. “A magical watch. What baloney,” he muttered under his breath. Out of pure habit James’ fingers brought out his watch once more. It clicked open and glancing down his heart raced as he saw ten seconds left on the hands that had been counting down the last sixteen years.

May 15th, 1943 4:52pm, Somewhere in Europe

Will woke, without opening his eyes, to an infernal ringing noise. A pounding ache nearly split his head in two; not to mention the sharp twinges of pain in his left side. He was laying on a lumpy cot, but he couldn’t seem to remember how he had gotten there. The last thing he could picture was a flash of blinding light and searing pain in his left side. Gingerly Will ran his fingers over his body examining the wounds. A thin blanket covered him and he had thick bandages wrapped over his ribcage, as well as around his head, covering his eyes. Will felt the cot shift.

“Easy soldier, try not to move around too much. I just changed you bandages an hour ago, so don’t go reopening your wounds. Glad to see you’re finally with us, you’ve been in and out of consciousness for over two weeks. Personally, I think you’re lucky to be alive. How do you feel?” The silky voice of a young woman flowed like honey past the ringing in his ears.

“Well miss, I feel pretty damn beat up. Can you tell me where I am? And how I got here?”

“Do you remember anything? Specifically anything about yourself? I want to make sure you didn’t suffer serious brain damage. If you can, tell me your name, when you were born, who your parents are and what your division is.”

“My name is William Allen Chrisholm, I was born in New York on June 12th, 1918. My parents are James and Helen. I am a sergeant first class  in the 34th Infantry Division, our mission was to capture Hill 609 from the German troops.” Realization hit him and his pulse quickened. “My men. What happened to my men?”

“ Your mission was a success, the Hill was captured on the first of May. That was when you arrived here, at our medical facility. Most of the 34th division came through here as well in the days after the battle. You had sustained a serious head injury and multiple lacerations to your left side. Plenty of shrapnel came out, let me tell you. I still wonder how you survived.”

“I’d say it was my guardian angel looking after me,” Will said with a cheeky grin. “When will I be able to take this bandage off my head and put a face to that lovely voice of yours?”

“Not for another day or two.” Will heard the smile in her reply, though he could tell something was off by the way she paused. “In the meantime if you need anything just holler. My shift doesn’t end for a few more hours.” The cot shifted again as she got up. Blindly, Will grasped at the fabric of her dress.

“Wait, please. You didn’t tell me your name.” Small delicate fingers removed Will’s hand from the fabric and squeezed it. He felt a breath close to his ear as she whispered, “Mary.” It sent a shiver up his spine. Will didn’t let go of her hands.

“Mary can you tell me where my things are? I need to check if my father’s pocket watch is still  intact.”

“They keep all the mens personal effects in lockers. I can locate yours and check for you if you like,” Mary offered.
“Could bring me the watch if you find it? I’d much appreciate it,” Will said gratefully.

“Sure thing, but right now you need to get some rest.”

* * *

Mary watched as the man let go of her hand and drifted back into unconsciousness. This time at least she knew he was sleeping. Most men with as bad of a head wound as his died within a few days, but this one fought hard. Mary located the locker marked “William Chrisholm: Sergeant First Class.” Not much remained but for a half charred sack, uniform and combat boots. She rooted through what was left of the sack but couldn’t locate the watch until her fingers brushed against what felt like an open seam in the side of the sack. It was a small pocket Will must have made himself. Inside were a pair of dog tags presumably from friends who died in combat, and a picture of Will standing with an older looking couple. Mary assumed the couple to be his parents from the similar jaw structure shared between Will and the older man. He also had the same jet black hair as the woman.

The last thing she pulled out was the small pocket watch. She examined the watch’s simple design of a shield with an hourglass and celtic knot border. Mary pressed the button and it popped open with ease. Inside was more unique than any other pocket watch she had ever seen. On one side was a normal clock keeping time. The other side was a different style of watch, with three hands, instead of two, each a different length. The longest hand kept track of years, the middle hand tracked days, and the smallest hand tracked hours. Mary noticed these hands weren’t moving. “I wonder if it’s broken after all,” she thought.

Putting the items in her pocket and replacing the sack in the locker she went about finishing her rounds. Due to the aftermath of the the battle, more cots were filled than usual. It took Mary several hours of checking on the injured and making them as comfortable as possible before she made it back to Will. She saw that he was still sleeping so she put his belongings on the table beside him and finished her shift.

* * *

 

Will woke with a start, the dream which prompted his awakening dissipated as soon as he fully reached consciousness. He opened his eyes, thinking it must have been the middle of the night with how absolute the darkness was. His bandages itched like crazy and Will couldn’t help but scratch. Unfortunately, as long as the bandage stayed in place the itch didn’t go away. Mary did say it could come off in a day or two. Will unwound the bandage from his head and let it fall to his lap.

December 27th, 1992 11:24pm, New York

Dear Grandpa,

Remember that old pocket watch Dad gave me before he died? The one with the shield and hourglass on the front that counts down. He said you gave it to him as a kid and it has some kind of magical powers. Is it supposed to stop before it gets to zero? There was only two days left but it stopped at 7:43pm. The clock still works fine, just the countdown stopped. What happened Grandpa? Does that mean I won’t ever find her? I hope you and Grandma are having a good time in Paris. Tell Grandma to quit smoking, will you? She was a nurse, she should know better.

Love, Michael

Slider jumped into Michael’s lap just as he hit send in the email to his grandparents. Even at full maturity, his cat couldn’t meow louder than a kitten, so to get attention he would jump up on everything. Michael just figured Slider never got his lion voice. Absently he scratched behind Slider’s ears and looked wistfully at the broken pocket watch on his desk. Maybe he could sell it. This had to be the only pocket watch of its kind in existence, that had to count for something. Michael felt guilty for even thinking about selling it, he knew it would crush his grandpa; after all it had been in the family for over a hundred years.

“Today just isn’t our lucky day, is it buddy,” Michael said to his cat. “C’mon, time for bed.”

* * *

Michael’s alarm woke him promptly at 6:30 in the morning. By alarm, he meant Slider pawing at his face until he got up. “Thank God I got you declawed you jerk.” Slider ignored the insult. Michael got up and fell into his morning routine of showering, letting Slider out and turning on the news. He finished dressing for work to hear the news anchor talking about a local robbery that turned into murder.

“Last night twenty six year old Sarah Johnson was killed in her home when a man attempting to rob her shot her in the chest. The police caught up with the suspect and he is now in custody. A neighbor who heard the gunshot called 911. When the ambulance arrived Sarah was barely breathing. She died on the way to the hospital, the paramedics called her time of death to be 7:43 pm.”

He didn’t need to look at the watch to remember the exact time it had stopped was the same as when Sarah died. Was she the one?

August 4th, 1917 12:29pm, New York

4…3…2….James felt a tap on his shoulder.

“Excuse me sir, do you have the time?” James turned to see a petite young woman with ebony hair, hand propped on her hip. Her face was full of life, laugh lines the only flaw on otherwise perfect skin. She was beautiful.

“Sir?” Her voice knocked him out of his stupor.

“I’m sorry, did you say something?” James stammered. The woman smiled.

“I asked if you had the time. If you don’t know, thats alright, I just saw you had your pocket watch out.”

“Oh. Of course.” He glanced down again to see the countdown had stopped. “It’s 12:30.”

“Thank you very much, I won’t take up any more of your time. Good day, sir.” She gave a polite nod and turned to walk away.

James put away his watch before he called out to the woman. “Ma’am? Can I get your name?” She paused in her step and turned back to him, smiling. “My name is Helen.”

“Well, Miss Helen. May I walk you to wherever it is you’re going?”

May 15th, 1943 10:03pm, Somewhere in Europe

Will blinked once. Twice. Three times. He could see nothing but black. A scream erupted from his lips.

“MARY! I CAN’T SEE!! MARY, WHERE ARE YOU?” He heard startled shouts throughout the room and footsteps came running.

“Calm down soldier,” a voice said. It wasn’t Mary. “You sustained major injuries to your head. The doctors were able to patch up your side but they said you might never recover your sight.” The realization that he would never see Mary’s face drove sane thoughts from Will’s mind. He thrashed wildly, but a stabbing pain in his side forced him to quit moving and his mind to clear. His hands grasped at the air around him. They bumped into the side table and he groped over it to find his pocket watch. “She found it,” he thought, visibly calming. He pressed the button to open it.

“What does the side with three hands say?” He asked the nurse who had apparently come running at his outburst.

“The hands aren’t even moving. You sure it’s not broken?”

“No miss, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear.”


 

December 28th, 1992 7:11am, New York

Michael didn’t know what to do. He paced the span of his living room, Slider mewing his protest. On one hand it could have been one giant coincidence. Was he willing to ignore the pattern and never know? Michael picked up his hundred year old family heirloom and made his decision. The watch whirred to life, as if recognizing his resolve and the countdown reset. Now an hour left. He called in sick to work then sat down at the table with his newspaper to begin his research. Michael scanned the obituaries, trying to find Sarah’s next of kin. He had to start somewhere. Her mother and father lived on the other side of town, only a twenty minute drive. After filling Slider’s food and water bowls he grabbed his keys and left.

* * *

Sarah’s parents house was a quaint brick building that had obviously been lived in for many years. Michael took out his pocket watch. Ten minutes. It took him longer to find the house than he anticipated. He tried to calm his nerves as he climbed the steps and rang the doorbell. An older woman answered, eyes red from crying.

“Can I help you?” She asked.

“Yes. Um. My name is Michael and…I was…a friend of Sarah’s in college. I saw on the news about her and wanted to come offer my condolences and pay my respects,” Michael stammered. The woman eyed him with slight suspicion but opened the door to allow him in. She led him to their living room where an older man sat with a picture frame in his hands.

“I’m Maggie, and that’s my husband Frank. Our other daughter Emily is upstairs. Please, have a seat. I’ll bring out something to drink.”

“Oh you really don’t have to bother, I won’t stay long.”

“It’s no bother at all, dear,” she said and disappeared into the kitchen.

Michael stole a glance at his pocket watch. Two minutes. Could this really be it? He took a seat opposite Frank, who still held the picture frame. “You knew my Sarah?” He asked after several awkward seconds.

“Uh, yes, from college.” Michael replied hesitantly.

“Sarah loved college. She just graduated with her Masters degree in Speech Pathology. She always loved kids…” he drifted off as if retreating back into his memories of Sarah.

“Why don’t I go see if i can help Mrs. Johnson in the kitchen?” Michael said helplessly. Once again he stole a glance at his watch. 5…4…3…Michael looked up right as he collided with the girl that just came from the stairwell.

“Watch where you’re going jerk. Who are you?” The girl’s eyes were puffy and red, but her fiery expression shone through the grief. She stood nearly eye to eye with Michael which was a combination of intimidating and breathtaking.

“I…I’m Michael Chrisholm. And you’re Sarah’s sister?”

“I’m her twin.”

July 12th, 2005 3:00pm, New York

It was Jacob’s tenth birthday, and his dad had been hinting at a super secret surprise for too long. He bounded down the stairs to his dad’s workshop.

“Dad do I get the super secret surprise yet?” Jacob demanded.

His father grinned and turned to his son. “Right now Jacob. It’s a very special surprise.” He reached in his workbench and pulled out a small wooden box. Crouching down so he was on Jacob’s level he held it out. As gingerly as a ten year old could be, he opened it. Inside, resting on a bed of black velvet, was a pocket watch with a shield and hourglass, and celtic knot border.

“Son,” his dad began. “This is a very old, very special watch made by one of your ancestors. It’s been the tradition in our family to pass it on when we reach ten years old.”

“What’s so special about it?” Jacob asked as he picked up the watch. As if in answer the watch seemed to hum to life. It clicked open and Jacob saw on one side, three hands were spinning frantically.

“This watch is magic. Those three hands tell you how many years, days, and hours it will take you to meet your soulmate. Read the note.”

Jacob then noticed in the box the folded yellow paper that looked like it could fall apart at the slightest touch. He took it out and read.

March 24th, 1875 12:00pm, New York

My dearest grandson,

May this pocket watch bring you and your children as much joy as I had crafting it. Be wary not to lose it, lest your fate be changed. Given at the age of ten, the boy who possesses this watch begins the countdown. Before his thirtieth year this watch will lead him to his soulmate. May the cycle never falter, and may the Chrisholm name live on forever.

Regards,

Silas

 


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