40 minutes stories · Short Stories

The Stopped Watch – Debbie Liebenberg (40 minute story)

Note: This story was created in 40 minutes in one of our writing sessions. The story is based on the following writing prompts: The words ‘blind in one eye’, an object (a stopped watch) and the song ‘Summertime – Ella Fitzgerald.’

The Stopped Watch by Debbie Liebenberg

An old man gazes out of a window as his grandson searches for a connection.

“Grandpa, your watch stopped working, here let me…”

“I know it stopped,” the old man barked as he snapped his wrist out of his grandson’s compassion.

“Oh, I, I thought you didn’t realize because…”

“BECAUSE I’M BLIND IN ONE EYE! Don’t be daft boy. I was born with this blindness.”

“Then why the stopped watch grandpa?”

“It’s a reminder Johnny, a reminder of when my life stopped.”

The young man sensed sorrow but he couldn’t let the opportunity to connect go by, “what happened?” he asked.

The old man interrupted his daydream with a sigh. As he closed his eyes he turned his face towards his grandson and began.

“It was 1945, summertime, and the living was easy. I was back home after months in the trenches. Our squad had been sent home for supplies and secrets. The war had been excruciating and it wasn’t over. I knew I would have to go back into battle soon and I didn’t expect to return. So many had died son. So much blood. The children…”

The old man seemed to crumple as he recalled the memories but then his spine shot up as he remembered…

“I decided to go out one night, enjoy the music as if it would be the last time I could. I went to the jazz club down at the docks and Ella was singing that night. My god was she beautiful. Her ebony hair mimicked her waving body as her voice bellowed beyond the borders. Her eyes glistened with enough hope and happiness for the both of us. Every man in that room wanted to be with her, and every woman wanted to be her. As she swayed and swooned her way through the crowd, the spotlight guarded her personal space, until suddenly, I was in the spotlight too. Ella put her feather boa around my neck as she sang the final words, “hush, little baby…don’t you cry.”

Good thing the spotlight turned away at that moment, because all of everything overwhelmed me at once and cry is exactly what I began to do. No one but the most noticeable girl in the room noticed. And she understood. She wiped my tears away, kissed my forehead and told me to wait for her at the back entrance at 9:00.

That was the last time I looked at my watch:8:25

As the moment passed I imagined our life together. I would run away from the war and we could soak up the summertime in love, in happiness…but then, “Sergeant Wilson!” the commander’s voice shattered my dream instantly. “They’ve launched a surprise attack. We need to leave at once.”

And just like that grandson, my life stopped, just as my little stopped watch and became nothing more than emptiness in a hard shell.


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