In the drawer lay an array of broken watches. Everything from an old fashioned Casio sports watch to a chunky leather strapped thing with a face as big as a digestive biscuit. They were all broken in the same way, cracks splintered across each face like an intricate spider’s web, thin fractured lines spreading out in all directions.
His favourite was a delicate gold ladies’ watch with a stretchy band instead of a strap. He often took this one out and stared at it, turning it over in his big, meaty hands. Wondering how they’d made the band stretchable, so it could be worn like a bracelet. He’d tried it on himself, but the band wouldn’t stretch wide enough to pull over his knuckles. He hated his hands; the knuckles like pebbles worn smooth by a river, the skin tough and wrinkled like an old work boot. He banged the drawer shut and ambled out of the kitchen. Enough now.
He’d been collecting the watches for a long time. Years. He couldn’t remember how many. The Casio had come from a hitchhiker he’d picked up in a lay-by off the M3. The watch wasn’t old fashioned then. He remembered noticing it as the kid plonked his little rucksack into the foot well. He noticed it because it was on his right wrist. That’s unusual, he’d said to the kid. The kid had misunderstood. Oh no, these are all the rage now, mate. He’d said. He’d called him mate, and for a moment that had made him happy, but then he realised it wasn’t really a term of endearment, just a throwaway phrase. Mate. Pal. Geez. Son. It was the last one that grated the most.
No one called him Son any more. He was no longer someone’s son. He remembered the startled look on the kid’s face when he pulled into the lorry parking bay. The look turned to fear, then nothing, once he’d squeezed the life out of him. His big meaty hands round his neck. Afterwards, he carefully removed the watch from his wrist. He turned it over in his big meaty hands, curious at the mechanism. Numbers glowed out at him and he suddenly felt afraid. He squeezed the watch tight, until his pebbly knuckles glowed white, until eventually: time stopped. He drove the kid home and took him down to the basement, sat him in the corner. Then he’d gone back upstairs and thrown the watch into one of the kitchen drawers. It had been empty then, except for the delicate gold ladies’ watch with the stretchy bracelet band. His mother had loved that watch. Thank you, she’d said. Son.
The day she died, he’d carefully removed the watch from her limp, wasted wrist. He cried as it fell to the floor, his big meaty hands too clumsy to hold it. The face had smashed to pieces. Cracks splintered across it like an intricate spider’s web.