The Pocket Watch
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I went shopping with my aunt Fiona not really in the market to buy anything, but it was a novelty after covid and lockdown. Both myself and Fiona would be considered curvy or voluptuous, to put it politely. We went into Pennies and could find nothing that fit, but just the act of getting out was reward in itself, it also meant that we had more money in our pockets, which in these uncertain times is very sensible of us.
Fiona is a nurse by trade and is the youngest of twelve kids. That meant we’re quite close in age. Some think when you say aunt, you mean Bridie down the road with the purple rinse. No, not our Fiona, she’s hip and with the times, as the kids would say.
On our way back to the car, devoid of baggage, we saw a street that we funnily had never noticed before. We looked at each other and Fiona’s right eyebrow rose, ‘shall we?’ she asked. I’m at the stage in my life where I have literally nothing to lose so I answered, ‘after you!’
The street was so narrow that we had to walk in single file. In the corner of my eye, I saw a shop that looked quirky and interesting, a trait we share. I pointed it out to her and the dream catchers and crystals in the window looked interesting. We adjusted our masks and went in to have a browse.
The shop mirrored the street in width. It wasn’t until we entered that we realised it was an antique shop. It had everything and anything you wouldn’t be looking for, but you’d get because it was so unconventional. I felt like a bull in a China shop afraid I’d knock something over or break something and I could see it in her eyes that she was thinking the same thing. We decided to navigate the tiny, jam packed space by going up one isle and down the other, using just our eyes. We are like that with each other, sort of telepathic.
There was rows and rows of shelves on each of the walls that went from floor to ceiling full of everything and anything you could imagine. There were African artifacts, masks, fertility statues, and holistic medicine paraphernalia on one side, dream catchers and small figurines on the other. In the middle of the shop was a glass case with pocket watches and jewellery in it. Fiona’s wife, Lorraine, was big into watches. She loved to buy broken watches and restore them to their former glory.
‘What do you think?’ I asked with my eyes as Fiona glanced in my direction. She looked quizzical, as if she didn’t know what I was talking about, so I pointed to the pocket watches. She got really excited as it was around the same time as their wedding anniversary, and I had heard Fiona say that she was looking out for that special gift.
‘Can I help you ladies?’ a voice from the corner boomed, breaking the silence. We both jumped out of our skins as a small elderly man, who blended into the décor perfectly spoke with a foreign accent. Neither of us had noticed him sitting on his stool in the corner of the shop. He was eighty if he was a day.
‘Hello,’ we said in unison. Our voices echoing the bizarreness of the shop. ‘Can I look at the pocket watches?’ Fiona asked. He got off his stool and was even smaller than he looked at first glance. He was a five-foot two-inch man of slight build with a bathrobe closed tightly around him. He didn’t look like he was going anywhere fast as he shuffled over to the display case in his slippers. He opened his robe and had what looked like pyjamas on, as if he was ready for bed. He had a lanyard full of keys that looked to weigh just as much as he did around his neck. It took him a few attempts but finally found the right key and opened the glass door.
‘Is it for anyone in particular?’ he wondered aloud. ‘My wife,’ Fiona answered. He was taken aback and stopped what he was doing momentarily as he processed that information. He would have been of the generation who were homophobic. He addressed me next asking, ‘is there any criteria you are looking for? Make? Model?’ I could feel him grimace under his mask, but after all, any business is good business. ‘Oh no,’ I politely corrected him ‘I’m her niece,’. He thought I was Fiona’s wife. ‘Oh,’ he muttered, ‘right,’ and rolled his eyes.
Offended by his mannerism Fiona asked, ‘is there something wrong?’ defensively. My own blood was starting to boil and was glad she had said it and not me. ‘It’s not God’s way is all’ he said curtly. Fiona held up her hands in disgust and said ‘sorry, not interested!’
We walked back out of the antique shop as we entered, in single file and just about made it out the door when Fiona suddenly took off her mask and vomited in the street. I rushed to her aid. With no tissue in sight, I reached into my pocket and luckily found a spare mask which I handed to her so she could wipe her mouth. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever been more insulted!’ she said with tears running down her pale opaque cheeks. I put my hand on her shoulder and she pulled me into her arms.
‘Oh, sorry,’ she said after a few minutes. I was just glad I was there, and she didn’t have to deal with that homophobe on her own. ‘I’m sorry,’ I replied with tears in my eyes. I’ve never in all my life seen Fiona show her feelings like that, yet I was very proud of her that she stood up for herself. When she was ready, she let me go and put her mask back on. We hurried back to the car where we were able to take our masks off and breath deep breaths, blood boiling in both of our veins. She apologised once again when I admitted that I was about to say something, she just got there first.
We decided to never go down that street ever again and put some music on and sang our troubles away. It was a simple release of adrenaline, but it worked.
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The vaulted mind, locked, key
The vaulted mind, locked, key lost and unable to see another's view is a difficult thing to be confronted with and I am so sorry your aunt and you had to have that experieince, but it was a comfort and support for you to be with her. And maybe that's why his store is on an unmarked, narrow street, much like his mind, and he lives in pyjamas, as he goes nowhere and learns nothing. This is an effective story and moved from a happy wonder to a sreeching halt and I didnt see that outcome, this is so well written. Thank you for sharing this.
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Fascinating. I've wondered about buying clothes in Covid can you still fit them first? Sounds like could be mission. Do they wash everything again? Pennies? Woolies? Terribly embarassing the story one on homophobia depends on whose who and what what. People feel threatened very easily.
Doesn't sound like a good idea just wandering down a narrow deserted street or ally in a strange city. Sounds very dangerous.
Very well written great story! && Nolan
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