A timeless classic 🙂
Adams Tilbury Partnership was one of the cheapest and shittiest law firms in Bunbary. Which was apt as Bunbary was one of the cheapest and shittiest places to live in Oxfordshire. A match made in heaven you could say. The law firm offices reflected the area and the clientele they attracted: drab, bleak and stinking like sewerage. Joe was summoned by Geoff Adams to collect his inheritance as his father’s probate had been completed. Joe’s dad, Kip Withers, was not a man of great means. His life consisted of spending little and making even less. His real name was Grant, and he had been raised on the south coast, the son of an unsuccessful fisherman. Kip was his nickname, given to him by his peers who thought he slept through his entire life. He never refuted it and so the name stuck.
“Thanks for coming Joe. Let’s cut to the chase. Time is money.” Geoff chortled as he said it. He was a round man, whose head was as big as his arse. It was difficult to tell which end was speaking. Joe sat with a vacant look, completely baffled by the innocuous comment. Noting his stern audience, Geoff moved the conversation on. “Right, erm. Your father didn’t leave much and once we sold off everything to cover his debts there was nothing left. Well, I say nothing. There was this one thing. He wrote in his will you are to have this.” He slid a red leather box along the table to Joe. “Luckily for you we didn’t need to sell it so you can have it.” Geoff saw Joe glaring at the box. “It’s a watch you see. Time is money? Get it?”
Joe ignored the monotonous drone and opened the box. The watch was old, silver, chunky and very heavy. You could almost feel the vibration of the moving parts. It had a peculiar face, one you’d not expect on a watch of that age. It had the usual numbers, minute and hour hands. It even had a date, but unusually it had the year next to it. It was set to the present day and time. The strangest thing was that it had another smaller clock face positioned just above the number six. It too had the date, including a year dial, set to the current date and time.
“You know he was never there for us,” Joe suddenly volunteered. “He was a twat if I’m honest. I’m surprised he remembered he had a son. I shouldn’t speak ill of the dead but he was a fucking wanker. And to sum up our relationship he gives me a shitty old weird watch. Like what the hell use is it? No one would wear this crap. It’s worthless, just like him.”
Geoff looked at his own watch, noticing that the meeting was about to hit into his profits. “Look Joe. That’s all there is. I must go.” He rolled onto his feet and waddled towards the door.
“There’s an inscription on the inside of the strap,” Joe said. “Set the time to travel to the past, but each hour there is worth one year here. What the fuck does that mean?”
“I’m sure it means something. Come on now, run along. No time like the present,” Geoff chortled to himself again. He would have made a great stand-up comic if he could only find his feet.
“He ruined my life you know. I didn’t want to come here, but Chrissy, the wife, wouldn’t stop nagging me until I did. I told her to come instead but she reminded me I can’t breastfeed our Kevin and she didn’t think getting her puppies out in the solicitor’s would be appropriate.” Joe looked around and then at Geoff. “But another tit in here wouldn’t go amiss.”
“Yes, yes, lovely. Let’s move along.” Geoff’s voice was getting higher, almost a squeal, more in line with his true nature.
Joe put the watch on his wrist and stood up, much to Geoff’s delight. “I’ve got a crippling mortgage because he couldn’t help us out. I’ve got a wife who can’t go to work yet because the baby is too young. So she says. Which means I’ve got to do a shitty job forever. My life fucking sucks. Life was so much easier as a teenager. The best time I had was when I lifted the House Cup after we beat Tangerine House at footy. I remember the exact date, it was…” He stopped in mid-sentence. He looked down at his watch, wondering if the watch was special. ‘Set the time to travel to the past’ he repeated in his head. ‘Does this mean time travel?’ A hand shoving into his back pushed away his thoughts.
“Go on, get the fuck out,” Geoff squealed as he was pushing Joe with both hands out of the door. Joe gave Geoff a look of disgust, then raised his hand as though he was going to punch Geoff. Geoff, stumbled backwards and in his fear contributed to the overall stench of the office. Joe smiled at him and walked away.
‘I lifted the Cup on 15th June 1984’ Joe thought to himself. He pulled out the winder of the watch and changed the date to the 14th June 1984 10 am. The start of the football competition. He snapped the winder back in place. Nothing happened. He was still stood in the corridor of the solicitor’s. “Typical fucking Kip.” He turned over his wrist to attempt to unfasten the strap. He felt swimmy, his head began to sway. The rest of his body followed. He lost his balance and fell over.
“Come on Joe. Get up, you’ll be late for kick off,” shouted Kev as he ran past him. Joe could feel a breeze on his neck, then on his legs. He looked down and could see his hairless knobbly knees. He was in shorts. He picked himself up and looked around. He was back at school, in the school fields. There were kids everywhere, running, skipping, laughing and joking. He couldn’t believe it. He was so happy. “Come on Joe!” Kev called again. Joe stared at his watch and saw the date and time was as he set it, but the smaller clock face’s date and time was set to the date and time he was at the solicitor’s. The only thing was it was advancing quickly. Every two rotations of the hour hand, the day would move on. It was like watching the electric meter when you switch the kettle on. He shrugged his shoulders and ran after his best friend Kev.
It was a glorious two days. Joe was in his heaven. He cherished the applause he received as he lifted the Cup. It felt even better than the first time. He passed the Cup to Kev and checked his watch. He was surprised to see how far the smaller clock face had moved on. It had advanced more than forty years. He had had what he came for and decided it was time to go home. He set the clock to the same time and date as it was back in the offices. Nothing happened. He remembered last time he turned his wrist over, but again nothing happened. He took the watch off and re-examined the inscription. He noticed some small text running along the stitching. ‘Hold in the winder to return home.’ Joe placed the watch back on his wrist and pushed in the winder. He felt swimmy again and his head began to sway. The rest of his body followed.
He felt warm and comfortable. He opened his eyes to find he was in a room, lying down in a bed. He could hear movement in the room. “Dad, Dad, he’s opened his eyes.” It was a young girl’s voice, a voice he’d never heard before. ‘Where am I?’ he thought. He tried to move up in his bed but everything ached. His eyes began to gain focus and he could see a little girl standing in the doorway looking down the corridor. He could hear footsteps charging towards the room. A man appeared, pausing before entering. He smiled at Joe and sat beside him in the chair next to the bed.
“Dad, you’re here. It’s so good to see you,” said the man. He was holding Joe’s hand and had love in his eyes. A woman came into the room and stood next to the man’s shoulder.
“Is he lucid this time?” she asked the man.
“I’m not sure. He looks it. Dad, do you know who I am?” said the man.
There was something about him Joe recognised. It was an odd familiarity to have with a stranger. The closer he looked he thought he could see his Chrissy’s eyes. Joe pondered on the fact the man called him ‘Dad’. “Kevin?” Joe said.
“Yes Dad, it’s me. It’s Kevin.” Kevin looked up at the woman. He had tears in his eyes as he laughed with joy. “Oh Dad. I’m so happy to see you.”
“What? What do you mean? Where have I been?” Joe tried to pull himself up but he didn’t have the strength.
“You’ve not been physically anywhere, you’ve just not been with us. You know, in the mind,” said Kevin.
“What are you talking about? How come you’re so old? Where’s your mum?” Joe was getting agitated. He was writhing in his bed. The woman knelt down and took Joe’s hand from Kevin.
“I don’t know if you remember me,” she said, her voice gentle and soothing, “but I’m Cathy. I’m Kevin’s wife.” She smiled the best she could. “I’m sorry to say Chrissy passed away two years ago.”
“No, this can’t be. I was with her a few hours ago. Kevin was just a baby. You’re talking bollocks. Chrissy, CHRISSY!”
“Dad it’s true. You went to her funeral. It was beautiful. Don’t you remember? You cried so much, I was sure you’d remember,” said Kevin.
Joe shook his head, faster and more violent each time. He banged his fists on the bed. “No this can’t be happening.”
Kevin asked Cathy to take the little girl from the room. “I’ll sit with him while he calms down. She doesn’t need to see this.” Cathy agreed and took the little girl to the living room. Joe finally rested in his bed. The salt from his tears stung his eyes.
“She’s really gone. I can’t believe it,” said Joe.
“I’m sorry Dad.” Kevin held Joe’s hand again. Joe turned towards him.
“You’ve grown into a handsome man.” Joe gave Kevin a loving smile. “Your wife looks lovely. Was that your daughter?”
Kevin nodded proudly. “Christine. After Mum. She’s your granddaughter. She’s so smart and funny. You’ll love her.”
“You’re married, you’ve had a child, your mum passed away. What else have I missed?”
Kevin told Joe everything. How Joe became withdrawn after returning from Kip’s probate hearing. How Kevin went to university, how he met Cathy, the wedding, the celebration when he became a father. The successful career, how his mum coped, how his mum died. Events Joe was part of in some way or other but never engaged in.
“I’m so sorry son. I’ve missed so much in life. I became my father. I never wanted to be that man,” Joe said. He remembered the watch. It was still on his wrist. Both watch faces matched the date and time. He took it off and passed it to Kevin. “Take this and destroy it. I don’t want you to make the same mistake your grandfather and I made. Don’t miss out on life son.”
“Okay Dad.” Kevin took the watch and later destroyed it with his dad’s old hammer. Joe spent the rest of the evening in the company of his granddaughter. She was indeed smart and funny. Joe hadn’t laughed so much in a long time, he had never been happier. He passed away that evening. His smile stayed on his face.