Time stood still at the old watch shop on the corner of 7th and Broadway. From the street, the vintage store front showed little change since it was built in 1920. The faded red façade facing the street needed a new coat of paint, and soot and grime glazed the large display windows. A large sign hung above the door, welcoming all to Milo’s Watch and Repair.
Yanno parked his dull yellow taxi in front of the shop. He quickly ran to the other side of the cab and opened the rear passenger door. Taking Yanno’s extended hand, Mrs. Henry Emmerson of Signal Hill exited the cab.
“I will only be a few minutes if you don’t mind waiting,” she said.
“No problem Mrs. E. I’ll be here when you come out.” Yanno lit a Lucky Stripe cigarette and leaned next to the cab while he waited.
Inside of the small shop, time was frozen as well. Along the outer walls, old glass cabinets held hundreds of watches from every era. There were railroad watches, military watches, chronograph, and quartz. On the walls, antique clocks ticked-ticked-ticked to an unchoreographed melody.
Behind the front counter, Milo Schwartz hunched over a cluttered table as he worked on an old pocket watch he found at a garage sale. With a little effort, he knew he could get it working as good as new. These days, Milo spent most of his time repairing watches he had picked up along the way. Everyone has a smart phone now, he was known to say. No need for a good watch. Which is why he quickly stood up and smiled when Mrs. Emmerson walked through the door. She was not just a customer, she was a dear friend, and he had not seen for quite some time.
“Mrs. Emmerson! What a surprise! How can I help you today?”
Reaching into her black coat pocket, she took out a small bundle wrapped in an old blue handkerchief with the initials “H.E” embroidered in the corner. Inside was a pocket watch.
“This was Henry’s and I’m afraid it is broken. It hasn’t worked since he passed away. I thought you could look at it and see what is wrong. “
Milo gently took the watch as if it were a delicate flower. Such a beauty, he thought to himself. As he examined the watch, he could see that that it was German made, with a slightly tarnished case. There was a long chain attached with a small key at the end. Milo opened the back and found an inscription, H. Emmerson, Berlin. The Emmerson’s were originally from Germany and Milo guessed Henry must have received the watch as a young man. Old as it was, the watch was in excellent condition. A watch like this should last a lifetime. Milo reached into a small candy dish and popped a peppermint into his mouth.
“I am sorry for asking, but how long ago did your husband die?”
A look of sadness momentarily crossed Mrs. Emmerson’s face. “It’s been almost a year now. It was such a shock. Have I ever told you the story of how he died?” Milo invited her to go on.
“It was a Saturday night, and Henry and I had just arrived at our favorite restaurant. A lovely little Italian place, called Luna’s. We had been going there every Saturday night for as long as I can remember. Our grandchildren use to call it our ‘date night.’ Every week we sat at the same table, next the window so we could look out across the ocean and watch the sunset.”
“We were drinking a glass of wine when largest man I have ever seen walked in. You could tell he was in dire need as his clothes were well worn, and a bit dirty. We overheard the man ask the owner for a meal, but the owner does not allow panhandling of any type and ordered the man out. My Henry was always such as pushover for someone in need. He walked over to the man and offered to buy his dinner. The man was so grateful that he grabbed Henry in a bear hug, saying Thank You, Thank You.”
“Henry was not a large man and had a bad heart. I guess the man just hugged him too long because when he let go, Henry fell to the floor. By the time the ambulance arrived, there was nothing they could do to save him.”
“Such a terrible story,” Milo said. “What happened to the large man?”
“He felt horrible of course, but I have to admit I wasn’t very nice too him. For the past year, I blamed him for what happened and it has been eating away at me. But now it is time to move on. That is why I brought Henry’s watch to you.”
Milo inserted the small key at the end of the chain into a small hole on the inside of the watch and gave it a few turns. He placed the watch by his ear, then with a smile handed it back to Mrs. Emmerson. For a moment, their hands touched.
“All it needed was to be wound. See, it is good as new.”
Mrs. Emmerson listened to the watch then shook her head. “Well imagine that! I feel so silly. Every time I looked at that watch it reminded me of Henry’s death and how time had stopped for me as well. Just think, I could have started it any time I wanted.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself Mrs. Emmerson. Everyone makes mistakes.”
Mrs. Emmerson smiled at the old watch maker. “Please, call me Clara,” she said. “We have been friends for a long time, and I don’t see a need for formalities.” She paused for a moment. “I hope that man will forgive me for being so awful.”
“Mrs. Emmerson…. I mean Clara. Would you like to have lunch with me?”
They planned to meet later that week at a small diner up the street. True to his word, Yanno was waiting for Clara when she walked out the door. As the taxi drove off, Milo noticed an old clock on the wall that had not worked for many years. As if by magic, the brass pendulum was swaying back and forth. I guess time has started for me too.
This story was inspired by a writing prompt from Creative Writing Now (http://www.creative-writing-now.com/short-st), using the words Broken Wristwatch, a peppermint, and a hug that goes too far.
Total word count is 1080.