When she saw what I had done, my mother peered through the bars of her bony fingers and wailed. It was as if I had killed and pinned a giant rat to the kitchen table and peeled back petals of warm furred skin to peer inside, to see what gave it breath. Yet I had done none of these things.
It was just an old watch that no longer ticked. The winder, worn smooth by a lifetime of twisting between thumb and forefinger, no longer turned. The hour and minute hands no longer drifted across the jaundiced face, from number to number, as they had once done in the Ypres mud. And the thread vein second hand no longer lurched from second to second like Papa used to lurch from bar to bar, tunic open, singing so loud his voice drowned out the distant thunder.
The cogs, the springs, the levers and the screws, laid out in geometric rows, on the white table cloth - kept only for guests and Sundays - were still Papa's watch, only now they looked beautiful. But still my mother wailed. Even when she ran from the kitchen, black skirts billowing like a galleon in a storm, the sound of her wailing remained.
'Papa's watch. Papa's watch. Papa's watch.'