watch

Countdown

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“This is an exceptional watch,” said the repairman, turning it over in his hands. “Where did you get it?”

“Oh, my great-great-something-or-other made it,” said the customer, unbundling her scarf and shaking the snow out of her hair. “It’s counting down to the end of the world.”

The repairman looked up over his glasses and couldn’t help but laugh. It was a friendly laugh, without a trace of mockery. “Oh really?”

“Yes,” said the owner, searching through her purse, “It’s pretty special to me. Well, to everyone I suppose. I took it out today to see how long we had left, and it had stopped! Naturally I came right over.”

The repairman pulled a drawer of tools out of their case, still smiling. “So… according to your watch, when is the, uh, end coming?”

She extracted a bottle of lotion from her purse. “Well it was supposed to be a few hours ago, but obviously the watch was stopped. So now it will be…” She craned her neck to see the face of the watch in the repairman’s hands. “About two hours after it’s fixed?”

The repairman looked up from his bench. “Are you saying the end of the world is waiting for the watch?”

She looked at him, applying the lotion vigorously. “Right. As I said, it’s very special.”

He smiled again, but a little more slowly. “And you still want me to fix it?”

“Oh yes.” She folded her newly-moisturizer hands on the counter. “I wouldn’t want to keep anyone waiting.”

He frowned, but selected a tool and went to work. It really was a marvelous watch, with old-world craftsmanship written all over it. For a few moments he was able to forget the crazy lady standing in his shop and lose himself in the joy of his craft. Still, he found himself hesitating for just a moment before sliding the last piece home.

He placed it in her hands. “There you go, ma’am, it just needs winding and it should be good as new.”

“Oh thank you! Janet told me you could fix it if anyone could.” She wound the watch, watching with a smile as the second hand began to move. “If I meet anyone with a broken watch in the next two hours, I’ll be sure to send them your way! Although…” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “You should really take the rest of the day off, don’t you think?”

He opened his mouth but didn’t say anything, because what was there to say?

She paid and left, with a ring of the bell and a gust of March air. The repairman looked after her, thinking, then slowly turned his sign to CLOSED and walked out after her, not bothering to lock the door.

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