Failure, Clock, Wagon

A short story incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

He tapped it a couple more times. The hands stayed frozen at 3:15. AM or PM? He couldn’t remember the last time he looked at his watch. The old grandfather in the corner of the room struck snake eyes. The dings of the clock’s bells conjured up a memory. A train station, a whistle, some bags he hadn’t packed but carried for someone else. Someone he used to know.

She didn’t even look out of the window as the engine yanked the cars forward and away from him.

The grandfather stopped its whining. He check his watch out of habit one more time then slid it off his wrist. Another thing he thought he could count on gone.

Sitting in his chair, letting the momentum of its rock jostle up more thoughts, he looked at the wagon through a window. It was parked in front of the porch. The mare in his barn, really a shed, hadn’t been on a ride in a while.

Rocking the chair forward and pushing off his feet, he stood. Too quickly. Little stars danced around his head, just outside his vision. She’d asked him once if he was happy and the only thing he could say was that happiness were like fire flies in the eyes, you could only see them if you didn’t try.

Cinching up his belt, he grabbed the bit by the front door. The night was cool, bright with stars and the light of the moon. No breeze, just the world holding it’s breath. He took the three steps down to the yard one leg at a time, listening the groans of his tired knees. He’d learned to stop holding his breath a long time ago, she wasn’t coming back.

The latch to the barn door was cracking and splintering. He grabbed it carefully and lifted, swinging the big door open in the same motion. The mare pawed at the ground and snorted. He smiled.

“Atta girl.”

She trotted past him and out into the yard. He patted her back and fit the bit in her mouth. He hitched her to the wagon and pulled himself up onto the seat. Yes, a night ride always did him good. For fifty-some years, it was the only time he saw the stars.

With a click of his mouth and gentle tug of the reins, they moved toward the old dusty road, rutted from nightly rides. The wheels creaked and he bounced in his seat but with one hand gripping the reins and the other stroking his beard, he was content.

Content to think about his short comings. Maybe if he had wound it religiously. Maybe if he had carefully dusted its face. Maybe if he had taken it apart once a while for a good cleaning, the watch would still work. Maybe if he had just paid more attention to it, the hands would still be faithful to him.

Or maybe if he had paid more attention to her…

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