Grannie Mae's Pocket Watch
NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge
Assignment: 1,000 words
Location: A "welcome home" party
Object: A box of raisins
Heirlooms can pass down through a family like blood, and inspire no less loyalty and betrayal.
I thought about blood and betrayal, about loyalty and the dying wishes of a beloved grandmother, on the entire five-hour flight from San Francisco to Indianapolis. Blood was finally returning to blood, and I was going home.
The pocket watch—palm-sized and cast in 12 carats of gold etched in rose and silver—felt solid in my pocket, heavy with the weight of years and long-kept secrets. It had been in the family for five generations, dating all the way back to 1894. Great Grandma Mae kept it with her everywhere she went, all the way up until her death in the winter of 1982, when it promptly disappeared.
That is, when my Mama, Annie, and her sister, Auntie Jo, had decided to steal it for me.
I reached into the inside pocket of my coat and pulled the box out. It was the sort of cardboard box a necklace would come in, or a set of earrings. It had been white, once, but had gone yellow with time and handling. I pulled the lid off and gazed at its contents.
It was a testament to Auntie Jo’s humor (and Mama’s patience) that she had chosen to hide the watch inside an empty box of Sun-Maid raisins, Granny Mae’s favorite.
Auntie Jo told me the family never forgave Granny Mae for allowing that watch to go missing, even though she was six hours blessed and buried by the time they started searching for it. Blame finds a bearer, no matter how unlikely.
Of course, Granny Mae had nothing to do with what happened to the watch, and many would argue that if she had known, she’d have given her blessing.
I wondered what she would think of the box of raisins, if she’d approve of her most cherished possession passing the years inside something so inelegant.
The pocket watch had belonged to Granny Mae’s mother, who had died when she was just six years old. It was no wonder the watch felt so heavy, no matter the stealing.
The stealing. Mama told me about it eight years ago, when she gave me the watch at my welcome home party. I was twenty years old and had just returned from a year abroad, a gift from Grandpa Jack. Up until then, I’d spent every summer with him and Grandma Phyllis at their family home in Sardinia, Indiana.
“You have to understand how much I loved your great grandmother,” Mama told me that day. We sat with Auntie Jo on Grandpa and Grandma’s porch, the sounds of laughter and conversation carrying from the back yard.
“The watch was supposed to go to our cousin, Linda,” Auntie Jo continued where Mama left off. “But Linda was mean to Granny Mae, disrespectful.”
“So, what did you do?” I asked, and they looked at each other. One set of blue eyes met another, and I could see a whole lifetime’s worth of unspoken words pass between them.
“On the day of Granny Mae’s funeral, we went to her house to find a slip to go with the dress she was to be buried in,” Mama’s voice was soft. “We started talking about the watch—”
“It made me so angry that Granny Mae had left that watch to Linda in her will! You were the one who spent time with her, Annie.” Auntie Jo interrupted, shaking her head and looking at Mama.
“She didn’t leave it to Linda on purpose, Jo, you know that,” Mama gave Auntie Jo a stern look and turned back to me. “You remember Granny Mae had five children, all of them boys. That’s your Grandpa Jack and his brothers. Well, all those boys grew up and got married, started to have children of their own. Nine grandchildren were born among Granny Mae’s boys, and not one of them a girl.”
Auntie Jo jumped in again, laughing, “Granny Mae was fed up! She said she’d leave her pocket watch—her one cherished possession—to the first grandbaby girl born after all those boys.”
“That’s right,” Mama said, smiling. “And that baby girl was Linda. Of course, Granny Mae couldn’t have known Linda would turn out to be so mean. She never would have left it to her by choice.”
“But the will was drawn up ages ago, and Granny Mae never felt right changing it,” said Auntie Jo.
Mama nodded. “So, that day at Granny Mae’s house, we made a decision. We wouldn’t steal it for us. We’d steal it for you.”
“After the will was read, our aunties and uncles tore that house apart,” Auntie Jo said, looking away. “It was a terrible thing.”
“It was,” Mama was quiet for a minute before she continued. “We wanted the watch to go to someone who had loved Granny Mae, or would have loved her, given the chance. You had just been born the year before. A baby girl, just like Granny Mae wanted.”
“Of course, we had to wait and see what kind of person you would turn out to be. If you’d be worthy,” Auntie Jo said, her eyes twinkling.
“And you are, Allison,” Mama took both of my hands and pulled them into her lap. “Granny Mae would have adored you. I know she would have wanted you to have it.”
I’d gone off to college shortly after the welcome home party and hadn’t been back to Indiana since. Now Grandpa Jack was sick, and the house pulled me back. The watch pulled me back. I knew he’d want to see it again before he passed.
As the taxi pulled up to the house, I read the note Auntie Jo had put inside the box with the watch:
To Whom It May Concern: This box is to be given to my sister, Annie. Please do not open the inner box. Annie will explain.
Annie – today – I do believe we were right.
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