© TIME SAVER
There was a hint of summer in the air that morning. The spring scents from the garden wafted upwards where two butterflies were frantically whirling around each other in a prelude to courtship. They lighted on a letterbox at the front of a double level suburban home. On the front of the box, the name “Meyer” was lavishly decorated. Standing tall on its cylindrical pole, it was positioned like a sentry at the path leading to the house. A leaf falling from the tree, startled the winged insects, before it was picked up and tossed towards the front door. Inside, the family was sitting down for breakfast.
“Happy birthday darling,” Jennifer said. She held out a small, wrapped box in her hand.
A faint blush came to Jennifer’s cheeks as she responded, “Open and see.”
“Hurry up Dad,” their daughter Tegan said with a hint of impatience.
Seated at the table, and just finishing their breakfast, the three were dressed for their various destinations. Cameron, his suit jacket hanging over the back of his chair, looked smart in his white shirt, navy tie and trousers. His dark hair was liberally sprinkled with grey.
Next to her chair, was Jennifer’s suitcase. Although her light brown hair was tied back in a pony tail, a few curly wisps of hair framed her round face, and softened the harshness of the hairstyle.
Dressed in a green and white checked uniform, that clashed horribly with her red hair and freckles, Tegan was ten and attended St Stephen’s which was a local private school.
“I hope you like it,” Jennifer said, as she watched her husband unwrap the gift, “It’s quite old, but very reliable.”
Pulling off the last of the paper, Cameron opened the box and looked inside. An old fashioned wristwatch lay nestled on a cushion of black velvet.
“Wow! It’s terrific Jen! Thank you,” he said, leaning over to kiss his wife again. He loved antiques.
“The dealer gave me a good price for it because the band isn’t genuine,” Jennifer said, “And all you need to do is wind it every day. He said to be careful not to overwind it or the internal mechanisms will break. Because watch-making and repairing is a dying art, it would be difficult to find anyone to fix it.”
“Ok,” Cameron responded, looking over the watch with a delighted expression on his face. Although some of the outer metal looked a little worn in places, it was a fine looking timepiece. The dial was painted with a picture of the sun with a smiling face. The band looked like it was made from new black leather.
“One of the reasons I chose this watch, rather than buy you a new one was because of its history,” Jennifer said, “Although he wouldn’t go into details, the dealer said that it originally belonged to one of the Heads of State during World War II. The watch was then sold with the rest of his estate after the politician died. Later it was purchased by Robert Mitchum, the actor, and eventually sold along with some of his memorabilia a couple of months ago.”
“Robert Mitchum used to wear this watch?” Cameron said, “That’s fantastic!”
“Hey that’s really cool mum,” Tegan said after taking a sip of orange juice, “But who’s Robert Mitchum?”
“He was an actor many years ago, Tegan,” Jennifer said, “Next time there’s one of his movies on TV, I’ll point him out to you.”
“So was he really cute?” Tegan asked.
The adults laughed.
“He wasn’t really known for his good looks,” Jennifer replied with a smile.
Taking the watch from its box, Cameron placed it around his arm and did up the band.
“The dealer suggested that you try and wind it about the same time every day,” Jennifer added, “And once you get into the habit, you won’t forget.”
“Happy birthday Dad,” Tegan said as she rose from her chair. Walking up to her father, she kissed him on the cheek and said, “I’d better go or I’ll be late for school. Bye!”
“Bye Tegan,” Cameron replied, gazing at his daughter as she exited the room.
“Have a good day,” Jennifer replied, waving to her.
“Oh damn,” Cameron said, looking at his birthday present, “I’d better go too. Thanks for the watch sweetie. I love it! And I love you!”
“I love you too, Cam,” Jennifer replied, rising from the table, “I’ll see you tonight. As soon as I get to work, I’ll phone and book a table for us at DaMici’s for tonight.”
“Sounds good,” he replied, standing up and brushing toast crumbs from his lap.
They said their farewells, picked up their jackets and suitcases, and made their way to their cars.
Jennifer hopped into her blue Toyota coupe and sped off down the street. Jumping into his car, Cameron put the key in and turned it. There was no response from the vehicle. There was not so much as a gurgle.
“Damn!” he exclaimed, smacking the steering wheel with the heel of his hand, “I’m going to be late, late, late! If I’m late for this presentation, Flanagan is going to make me look like an idiot!”
He leaned back in the seat and thought about his options out loud, “I can try and fix the problem myself, but by look of it, I’m going to need a new battery and I don’t have a spare. Choice number two is to phone the emergency car mechanic, but they’ll take at least half an hour to get here. If I take the train or the bus, I’ll never get there in time. Damn!” he exclaimed again. He winced at the whining tone in his voice.
“Ahem!” coughed a small voice.
Looking through the window, Cameron expected to see someone standing outside the car. There was nobody in sight.
He looked in the rear-vision and side mirrors and even craned his head around to see if there was someone standing on the footpath. The only person he saw was a man walking his dog on the other side of the street.
“Ahem!” coughed the quiet voice again.
“It almost sounded like it came from inside the car,” he thought to himself.
Unlocking his seatbelt, he opened the car door and stepped out. He decided that he would go inside the house, and phone for a taxi. At least that way he had a good chance of getting to work in time, and avoiding another altercation with Flanagan.
“Excuse me,” said a tinny little voice.
Looking down at his watch, Cameron thought he saw the smile on the dial widen. He shook his head, and rubbed at his eyes. One of the eyes winked at him.
“What the hell is going on?” he asked, his mind confused.
“What?” Cameron asked in amazement.
“Excuse me Sir,” the watch replied, “but could you tell me what year this is?
“It’s the year 2010,” Cameron answered.
“Oh dear!” the watch exclaimed, “That means I’ve been asleep for more than twenty years.”
Looking around him, Cameron asked, “Am I on some kind of practical joke TV show or something?”
“Oh no. Not at all Sir,” the watch replied, “I am indeed a talking watch, and you are not going insane.”
“If you ask me,” Cameron said, “Turning thirty-six must have been the trigger for a complete mental collapse. Maybe I’ll just go inside, and have a lie down.”
“What were you saying earlier about a presentation?” the watch asked.
“Oh damn! I’ve got to be at work today, and I can’t be late. Four months of effort have gone into this, and I can’t muck it up again,” Cameron said, “Flanagan has been on my case about my tardiness for ages now. He’d love any excuse to belittle me in front of everyone. He’s such a sadistic little sod.”
“Phone for a taxi, and you can worry about your mental state later,” the watch urged.
Shrugging, Cameron entered the house and phoned for a taxi. It arrived shortly after and he managed to reach his workplace on time. Although the incident with the watch had shaken him somewhat, the presentation still went very well, and the Chief Executive commended Cameron and his team, on their fine effort. Flanagan didn’t say a word to him, and Cameron practically floated on Cloud Nine for the remainder of the day.
It wasn’t until he was getting ready for dinner that evening that he remembered the watch. He entered the bathroom and closed the door behind him.
“Did I imagine our conversation this morning, or can you really speak?” he asked softly.
“Sure I can talk,” it replied, “But I’ll only ever speak with you in private.”
“Why’s that?” Cameron asked.
“When I first came to life,” the watch replied, “My owner had a little trouble with some of his friends thinking he was crazy, so I learned to stay quiet. That way he didn’t get into trouble.”
“So do you have a name?” Cameron asked quietly.
“Albert,” it said.
“It’s very nice to meet you Albert,” Cameron said with a grin. He felt rather foolish whispering to his watch, “My name is Cameron George Meyer. I’m married to Jennifer, and we have a ten year old daughter, Tegan. So how come you can talk?”
“I really don’t know,” Albert said, “One day I just woke up on my owner’s wrist.”
“So who was your first owner?” asked Cameron.
“He insisted that I not divulge his real identity,” the watch replied, “Just in case I fell into the wrong hands and people tried to squeeze State or Government secrets out of me.”
“Wow!” Cameron said, “So was it a President or something?”
“I can’t really say,” Albert responded, “But can you see the little scratch there on my bottom right? Well that came about from a brawl that my next owner’s was involved in.”
“Yes,” it said, “I talked him out of a number of fights over the years, but he was a stubborn man, and didn’t often listen to me. He was also very intelligent and hid his sweet nature behind a tough exterior.”
“So why did you wake up after such a long sleep?” Cameron inquired.
“I think there must be some kind of trigger phrase or words that seem to jog me out of my slumber.”
“Once I am allowed to wind down, I go into a kind of coma and I don’t notice the passage of time at all. It’s kind of ironic considering I’m a timepiece,” Albert said with a laugh.
“So why do you think were you given life?” asked Cameron, “Do you think you were made for a purpose?”
“I seem to feel a need to help my owners,” it answered, “From helping them to be on time, to reminding them of appointments and special occasions.”
“That would be tremendous help,” said Cameron, “I’m always forgetting things, and I seem to often get into trouble about my tardiness.”
“Well! Let’s see what we can do about that!” the watch exclaimed with enthusiasm.
“Cameron!” said Jennifer through the bathroom door, “Are you ok? Who are you talking to?”
“I was just talking out loud,” Cameron said, and winked at the watch. Then opening the door he said, “C’mon honey, let’s go to dinner. I’m famished!”