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Monday, November 12, 2012

GRANDDADDY'S GOLD WATCH

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 5 of  Hush, Boy, my novel in progress. The narrator is a five-year old boy growing up in the deep South and trying with all his might to be grown-up and to make his grandfather love him:

    As a boy, I usually steered clear of Granddaddy, but I wondered a lot about his gold pocket watch. I knew about that watch ’cause Mama had told me it was worth a lot of money, but I didn’t get to see it much…just a glimpse now and then. Sometimes, if I was playing in the front yard in the late afternoon when Granddaddy had his one-a-day Gin Rickey on the front porch, I’d notice him look at his gold watch to see if it was supper time yet. He always kept that watch in his vest pocket with the shiny gold chain draped over to one of the buttonholes.

Real early one Sunday morning, a little while before breakfast, I was alone in the living room with Granddaddy, readin’ the Sunday paper. At least, Granddaddy was reading—I couldn’t read, but I liked to look at the funnies. When I heard Granddaddy fold up the front section and put it down, I jumped up from the papers I’d spread out on the floor…got up quick so I could get out of there in a hurry if Granddaddy was mad about something.

I watched real close while Granddaddy pulled the gold watch out of his vest pocket and pressed on the button to make its cover pop open like a seashell. “Come over here, Jonathan,” he said. “Let me show you this watch.” He held out the gleaming seashell and unfastened the golden chain so I could hold the watch. “Take it in your hands—be careful, now. This watch was the very best timepiece of its day. Look here, you see that second hand goin’ round…I used that little hand to time the trains right down to the second.”

“Time the trains? Why’d you do that, Granddaddy?”

“Timin’ the trains was part of my job. Southern Railway gave me this watch…gave it to me a long time ago when I was the telegrapher at the station in Waverly Hall. That’s where I met Eva, your grandma. Waverly Hall. Her family lived there…she was a pretty thing, prettiest young girl in town.” He smiled. Granddaddy actually smiled. “Those were real good times for Eva and me—a long time before all the trouble started. You can go ahead and close the watch. Just squeeze it easy…not too hard, now.”
 
    I squeezed the watch to close it and the lid clicked shut soft as a whisper. I turned it over and looked at the back, and I saw something engraved there. I couldn’t read the fancy letters, but I knew it was s’posed to be Granddaddy’s initials. I held the watch to my ear and listened to the ticking, then smiled at Granddaddy and pressed the stem to make the lid pop open again. Gently, very gently, I returned the watch to the safekeepin’ of his grown-up hands. Holding that gold watch and talkin’ to Granddaddy like that made me feel a lot different, made me feel somethin’ I’d never felt before. Maybe what the Dutch Baby told me was true. Maybe Granddaddy really did love me after all…or maybe it was all just pretend. He never did say the words.
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