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Flash Fiction: 1897 Pocket Watch, Coney Island

1897 Watch by Joann Brosnan

Dan was a good father. He loved his two sons and worked hard to provide for them. When he left Ireland shortly before his seventeenth birthday, he had received his patrimony in the form of a brand new, gold-plated, pocket watch. This treasure had never left his possession.

Today, he walked the boardwalk, with his younger son on his hip. It was July of 1923, just twenty-six years from the day he had left home. As Dan strolled through the Sunday crowd, his wife and older son a few paces behind, the toddler on his hip laughed, spotting the balloon seller.

“Would you like one, Joseph,” Dan asked, and pulled a coin from his vest pocket. Joseph laughed again and pointed to a beautiful red one. Coin and balloon changed hands and Dan handed the string to his son. “Don’t let it go, now, Joseph,” he said.

Glancing at the sun’s angle, Dan reached into another pocket for his prized watch. Running his finger, lovingly over the inscribed date “1897”, he hadn’t yet opened it when the fates, in the form of a red, hydrogen-filled balloon and Dan’s lit cigar, collided explosively. The fiery bang, at the end of his nose, startled Dan badly enough that he dropped his son and staggered backwards. When the boardwalk railing hit his back, he lost his grip on the watch and it sailed into the air for several yards, landed on the boardwalk, slid another yard or two and dropped between two boards, and out of sight.

Dan’s first thought was for his son, who had landed well and now sat on the boardwalk, looking wide-eyed. “Bang, Daddy,” he said.  The second was the fate of his precious watch and in seconds, he had a small army searching the area under the boardwalk. They search for almost an hour, with no success; the watch never was found and Dan was forced to accept its loss. On the ride home, he held his son on his lap and, once, gave him a little squeeze. “I’ve got you,” he said.

Waiting by Nate Worrell

Benjamin watched the second hand step around the circle.   There was something comforting in its predictability.  He held the watch often for reassurance.  Over the years, the palm of his left hand had actually molded into a cup that fit the watch perfectly. He seemed to think as long as he saw the next second arrive, he wouldn’t be dead.   Coming to America was supposed to have given his family opportunity and freedom, but the slums had taken their toll.  His mother died of illness, his older brother was fatally stabbed in a knife fight, and his father took a cowards way out one rainy evening in April.  The only thing Benjamin had to live for was Ana, and she was due to arrive at Coney Island on the midday ferry.  Her letters gave him hope through the mud and the blood.  The ship’s horn groaned and Benjamin snapped the watch shut and placed it in his pocket.  He watched passengers stream off the boat, eagerly scanning for blond curls under a blue hat, which she promised to be wearing.  He never saw her.  He checked his watch again, making sure he had the right time and place.  He looked all over for her.  He waited all day, watching boat after boat empty and never a sign of her. He came back the next morning and the next.  For weeks, he waited for her counting the seconds between the arrivals and departures until he had their schedules memorized to the minute. Benjamin decided Christmas Eve would be the last time he would try to meet her.  It was bitterly cold, and he huddled on a bench. He shivered, alone, in the wind and icy rain.  At some point, he fell asleep, because a tap on the shoulder woke him up.  He squinted through the dreariness to see a soft face with blond curls under a blue hat.  His Ana had finally come.  He checked the watch to see what time it was, and noticed the second hand had stopped.

1897 Pocket Watch by Grady Yandell

An old man walks through empty stretches of lonely sand, remembering a night long ago. He wonders aloud. “Was it late summer, or was it early fall?” He sighs knowing recollections like time fade into the mist, but one memory refuses to die. “Melody.” Her name still brings tears to his ancient eyes. He stops near the broken pylons of a primeval pier. The sturdy dock is no longer here. Like his mind it was once so strong. Now their remains rests in depression.

“I never liked night swims so I watched Melody from here. My little bunny danced on the waves before they wrestled us to separate graves. Her watery crypt filled with a broken body and heart stopped. My body a lifeless tomb with a heart beating.” He looks left, then right. Lights from a distant ship twinkle with gathering stars in this eve’s twilight. “Alone with you forever Melody.”

First his shoes and socks come off. Then shirts and pants join them in the sand. He stops to look at his watch rusted from waters that stole his soul mate. Time frozen to the minute when their lives ended. He walks into the surf, fear in his cataract eyes. Frosty waters chill his bones, but he braves them, more afraid to be alone.

Inheritance by Rebecca Lynne Fullan

On his deathbed, our father held out his hand and called my youngest brother, Gregory.  Abernathy and I sat side by side in straight-backed chairs, in the tiring tension of a long death, eyes drooping, jaws clenched.

Our father’s mouth worked itself open.  Thin strings of spit hung from the top lip to the bottom, and yet his mouth looked frighteningly dry.

“The watch, for you,” he said to Gregory. It was a grand watch, bronzed and shining and engraved with our father’s initials.  It ticked with pleasant loudness.  When I was a child, I would wait until he took it out on our walks together and then thrust up my hand, laughing at the weight of the watch against my small palm.  We all three walked the Coney Island boardwalk with him on holidays, but only I played the watch game.

I’d expected to lose to Abernathy.  We were grown now, such games abandoned, and he was the eldest son, carrying my father’s name, though we shared his initials.

Gregory sobbed in strange, messy gasps.  He would never be grown, not really.  He did not take our father’s hand.  Gregory abhorred physical contact and would cry out as though it bruised him.

Our father smiled and held the watch out to him.  “Now you’ll always know what time it is, Greg,” he said.  I stood up.  Abernathy stood and took my arm, and I leaned against him.  He pulled me to a window seat, and we perched on the cushion.

“He’ll lose it,” I whispered.  “Or he’ll drop it—”

“I don’t want the watch,” Abernathy whispered back.  “It’s all right.”

Gregory was laughing now, persuaded to pleasure by some trick of our father’s, clutching the face of the watch in both his hands while our father held the chain.

“I want the watch,” I said, too-loudly, grabbing everyone’s attention.   “want it.”

“Anne,” our father said.  His voice was angry despite its quiet rasp.

“I won’t get married,” I insisted.  “I won’t ever change my name.”  Gregory let go of the watch and put his hands over his ears.  Our father kept it from dropping.  “See?  You can’t trust Greg—”

Abernathy hit me.  He had a thin hand, but the force of the blow was surprising.  It drove tooth to cheek and filled my mouth with blood.

“That’s enough,” Abernathy said.  I stared.  Abernathy was quiet, kind.  He relied on me.

“Anne,” my father said, “Anne.  Anne?”  I went out of the room to clean my mouth.  He lived for a few more days in silence.  Gregory carried the watch constantly, and then one day he came up behind me and put his hands over my eyes.   It was the only time he’d touched me voluntarily.

“I gave it back to the water, where we walked,” he said, solemn, pleased.  “It’s fair.” A few days later, I noticed he didn’t have the watch anymore, but not one of us ever said anything about it.