Writing Resources from Fifteen Minutes of Fiction
The Fable of the Gold Pocket WatchThe gold pocket watch was given to the boy on his thirteenth birthday. It was a family heirloom which had been passed through the family for many generations. It was prized for sentimental reasons, but also because it had been appraised at over a hundred thousand dollars.
The boy's father explained to him how valuable it was, and told him that none of his friends ever had anything so precious. The fact that he was trusted with such a valuable family treasure meant that he was growing up to be a responsible and trustworthy young man.
The boy understood that he should never take the watch out of the house, so he set it on the night stand by his bed. Every night when he went to bed he would take the watch from its case, lay it on his chest, and fold his hands over it. This is how he would fall asleep every night.
All night long the gold watch would lie there on the boy's chest, folded within the embrace of his hands, rising and falling with each breath the boy took.
And the gold watch felt loved, as it had never felt loved in all the generations it had stayed with this family.
The boy grew up, going through high school, and on to college, at a prestigious Ivy League school. Year after year he outgrew his toys and playthings, one after another. But he never outgrew the gold pocketwatch. Even when he went to college, the watch followed him, and every night when he went to bed, he would lay the watch on his chest. Every night the watch could feel the beating of his heart, and the rise and fall of his chest. And the gold watch felt loved.
But soon the young man met a young lady, and within a year they were married. The young man no longer placed the gold watch on his chest; the watch remained on the night stand, while the man's wife laid her head on his chest. Now she was the one who felt the beating of his heart, the rise and fall of his chest, while the pocket watch sat - silent except for a quiet ticking - alone on the nightstand.
The gold watch no longer felt loved. It had been replaced.
Years passed, and the years did not treat the young man well. A week before his thirtieth birthday, his business went bankrupt, and the young family had to move out of their fine home. One night while they lay in bed, with her head on his bosom, his wife said to him, "You know, you could sell that watch - it would bring enough money to get you started in a new business."
The watch skipped a beat, in horror at the idea. The man said nothing in response to his wife; he merely rolled over on his side, facing the nightstand. For the first time in years, he slept without anything - or anyone - resting on his bosom.
And the watch felt a small spark of thrill - the man still loved him after all.
When the man was forty-two years old he was laid off from his job. For the second time the wife broached the subject of selling the gold watch. This time the man got out of bed, and went downstairs to sleep on the sofa. The man's wife did not sleep at all that night, and all night long the gold watch could feel her cold, angry stare on him.
The man borrowed some money from his father, and they made it through the lean times until he could get another job.
Seven years later, as the husband and wife lay in bed, the watch heard her say: "Our second son will be heading to college next year."
"We can't afford to send him anywhere."
"We'll make it. I'll get another job."
"You already have two jobs."
"I can do three."
She sat up in bed and glared at him. "We never see you as it is. If you take a third job, you'll never be home. Doesn't your family matter to you?"
"I'm providing for my family. That matters to me."
"There's another way you can provide..."
The man said nothing, but before she could finish the sentence, he was out the door.
When the man was fifty-three years old, he had a heart attack. Strange men in uniforms came and took him away, and for three days the gold watch saw neither the man nor his wife. The watch grieved alone in the bedroom, on the night table. He wished that the woman would take him to his master. He knew the man would feel much better once he felt the weight of the gold watch resting lightly on his bosom.
Then, with no loving hands to wind him, he stopped ticking.
At last, after three days, the woman returned to the bedroom and picked him up. She dropped him in her purse, and walked out of the house. When she removed him from the purse, the watch saw that they were in a different house, and there was his master, resting quietly on his bed.
The woman stared at the watch for several minutes, and then placed it on her husband's chest, folding his hands over it. It was where he belonged. "You win," was all she said, her tone filled with both bitterness and grief.
And then the world went dark.
As the casket lid closed, the director of the funeral home compassionately watched the woman walk away, her shoulders slumped. His line of work required him to see people at their very best and at their very worst, and over the years he had come to understand a great deal about human nature. Though he understood nothing of the woman's circumstances, he understood completely the anguish that prompted those two words: you win. He looked across the casket at his assistant and said sadly, "That is the worst tragedy in all human experience."
His assistant, who understood far less, simply stared at him, until the director nodded at the casket and continued: "There lies a man whose greatest treasures in life could be buried with him."
Strong hands grabbed the handles and lifted the casket, carrying the gold watch and his master out to be buried.
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