It was the fourth watch shop window we stopped at as we headed to the movie. My brother always paused to look at the antique watches. "See that one, that's art deco design, that has the best workings." Each window was filled with old watches that I doubted worked. The windows were designed to be like a chocolate sampler box filled with surprise and precision. "That one," he said, "I need to check that one out."
"We're going to be late. Mom said you would take me to the movie. That means the whole movie." We were heading downtown to a revival house that was playing George Pal's The Time Machine. I had only seen it on our black and white TV when it aired late at night on Channel Nine's Million Dollar Movie. I couldn't wait to see what the Morlocks really looked like, all big and full of Technicolor.
"We're not late, and you've already seen it. You know how it goes. I really need to check out this watch." We went in and the place was tight and crowded. Only a handful of people could get into the shop at any moment. We were the only customers in there, but the guy behind the counter just kept working on some tiny springs coming from a rectangular watch.
After a minute of standing there looking at the man, my brother said, "Excuse me, but I saw the Elgin in the window. The one with the two tone case."
The man looked up and his eyes were small, pushed back way into skull. "Yes, the Elgin, it has the original band, little staining."
"I know, it's amazing. I was hoping to look at it. Check it out. She how much it is."
The man looked at my brother, at his sneakers and blue jeans. He looked at me, bouncing with anxiety. "Yes. It is a lovely watch." He returned his head to the watch he was working on.
We waited another two minutes and fifteen seconds. Then another thirty three seconds. The man kept working on the watch. "I want to look at the Elgin, please." Another twenty eight seconds. "Just because I don't look decked out, I can still be a customer."
Another two minutes and eleven seconds went by and I began hearing the tiny whirs and clicks of the watches surrounding me. "I can wait here all day," my brother said.
I looked up at him. "But the movie."
My brother didn't look at me. He just waited. His standing tall stance quavered and became unsteady. The man behind the counter leaned back and yawned.
In my mind, I began to play the beginning of the movie we were not watching. The lead actor announced to the other men that he had invented a machine that will allow him to travel in time. The men did not believe him. I saw it in beautiful color and swelling orchestration, though I still heard the thousand tick tick ticks of all things denied us. We were still at the watch shop. We were always at the watch shop. Time stopped. Time always does that.
David Macpherson is a writer from Massachusetts.