Happy Thursday, everybody – hope the week’s been treating you right.
We’ll just get right to it and not waste your time today, mostly because I don’t have anything funny to say- eh, that’s not true, actually. Recently, I watched a kid pee all over the front of his mom’s car just outside a busy cafe window, and besides the little dude’s equally little brother, I was the only witness. So…that was…it was pretty funny (I just… it feels weird mentioning that I watched a kid pee).
MOVING ON NOW.
The prompt for today is another one from the splendiferous Mr. Bacchus again and is (more or less verbatim) as follows: “You’re approached by a stranger on the street. He walks up to you briskly, hands you a package, and departs just as quickly. You open it to see an old fashioned pocket watch. The moment you touch it… [Must include magic.]”
You want magical shit? Let’s get to some magical shit.
You know how these go, but if you’re just joining us, the gist is I have thirty minutes to scrap together something we can all look at and say, “Huh, funny.” I set a timer and it goes off when it goes off. If I finish in time, great; if not, I either eat some pumpkins and add time or it ends abruptly and hilariously unsatisfying. So let’s get to it.
Starting time in 3…
[Note: Hey everybody, Future Evan here. Post is all done and I just did a brief re-read before publishing it and want to say, to add to the experience, try reading the following story in your grandfather’s voice. Okay, peace out. Enjoy.]
Old and Gray
I don’t know that why, of all the details, the thing I remember first about the day after I met you were the clouds. They were those ones, big and fluffy, but look almost like water stains on a backdrop. The edges are just a little too hard, and the light hits them like…well, just differently than you’d expect them to look. The best part also was that they weren’t dark. There wasn’t the threat of rain. They just felt there to be pleasant.
I was walking down Phelps road, on my way to Central Park Library. I think I was going to return a cookbook I’d checked out, something with old, Polish recipes – not important. But do you remember the side of town the library was on? It was a block over from the tracks and the train station. I always liked that because while most people complained about the train, I liked hearing it. It made the town’s usual quiet feel a bit busier, a bit more lively.
Anyway, I was just watching the clouds and listening to the train when that guy bumped into me, remember? He was dressed in an old-timey trench coat and hat, like he’d just stepped out of a 1920’s noir film. It was doubly weird, because we were the only two people on that sidewalk, so it wasn’t like it was a bustling crowd. We could have both been distracted, but something about the shove felt deliberate, I mean, other than the parcel he put in my hand.
It was like something out of those old C.I.A.-era spy movies where two agents make a pass, except I didn’t know I was one of the agents. I turned around to explain to the guy that I didn’t want to be involved in any of his shenanigans, but when I turned around he was gone. Just about immediately, I forgot all about returning that Polish cookbook.
I took a left on Lewis and went to the park, sat on a bench, and stared at the box in front of me. It wasn’t ticking. When I shook it, I could feel the packing fluff inside, and whatever it was wasn’t very heavy. All I knew is that I didn’t want to end up on a news story. Ultimately, curiosity (same stuff that killed The Cat, I know) got the better of me and I opened the box. Inside was a silver pocket watch on a thin chain.
Not what I expected, and still no ticking.
I clicked the little latch and opened it to the face of the watch. The hands weren’t moving and it looked like it was set to about two forty-five. I checked my own watch just to be sure and saw the time was about six o’clock. I looked for a little dial or key hole to wind it, but it was solid all around, save for the lid’s clasp. That’s when I noticed the engraving on the inside of the cover:
“Guide thine path hence forth,
so hands are held in the north.”
At first, I was cripplingly confused. “Hands held in the north?” Was I supposed to go somewhere, or was this a code of some kind? Was I supposed to wait six hours until the watch counted midday or midnight? Or wind it to be that way? But it wasn’t working and there was no way to wind it. And the time was off anyway. I had a ton of questions and no answers…
Until I started walking.
I started walking just to mull over this mysterious puzzle. I had nothing better to do that day – and come to think of it, I think I forgot the cookbook on the park bench. Oops. I started walking north on Copper just to amuse myself and looked at the watch.
After a few minutes of this, I knew the only thing further in that direction before the highway out to Coalton was a farm supply store. So I looped back down Main, and after a few minutes, I noticed something: the hands on the watch had moved. Both had moved up a little closer.
I really can’t say what the heck it was, but I started walking faster. I followed Main until the hands stopped, and soon they started getting farther apart. I turned down Spruce and they began closing in again. It was acting like a compass, or a metal detector, except I had no idea what I was supposed to be detecting. All I knew was that I wanted to know where this led.
I followed the signals from the hands of the watch, having them frustratingly grow near and then part several times. But eventually…ah well, you know this part.
I was standing at the fountain in Juliard and so were you. I’d spent all afternoon walking, so the sun was setting against the day’s strange clouds and I’m sure I looked a mess, but you were beautiful. You were in that red and white sundress, had that ribbon you always liked to wear, and you were just finished making a wish off a penny you flipped in the water. When you saw me, you smiled and said, “Hey, stranger,” since we’d met the day before at your shop.
You’ve called me crazy a thousand times for this, but I really did have that pocket watch. I put it in my pocket for just a second to shake your hand, and when I reached for it again, it was gone.
But I don’t care if you ever believed me, about the watch, about the mysterious man in the coat, or my goose chase all over town. Because whether you believed in the watch or not, we still had a lifetime together. We didn’t just hold hands in the north, because we went to so many places, but what really mattered was who I was with – even when we were old and gray.
I never got to give you flowers, because of course my wife had to be a florist and you don’t approach Midas with a gift of gold. But now, here on the family plot, I finally can.
I love you, honey, and I miss you already.
The Take: Well…you know what? Yeah, we went over time, but I don’t really care this time. Official time came in at 46 minutes, 16 over challenge-time, so I nommed down on some pumpkins (“Cheater-cheater, pumpkin-” you get it) and kept going. I would have called it out mid-post like that one time, but while that had been funny, it didn’t feel as right to interrupt this one. It wasn’t planned to take such a sentimental turn, but, well, that’s how these things go. Originally, when the stuff with the train started, I figured I might make the magical element have something to do with making it explode or fly, but ultimately – as you can tell – took it in a more subtle direction.