It was a mid-west factory town. Most people in town worked at the factory, just as their fathers had. And their fathers before them. And the jewelry store had been there nearly as long as the town. It’s current proprietor had been there for as long as anyone could remember.
Life was good, if solidly working class. The manufacturing wouldn’t desert the town for a couple more decades. Their kids would have to find jobs elsewhere. But, that sad event was still in the future. Unseen and unknown. The factory whistle governed the town. On Monday through Fridays its five o’clock whistle marked the end of the workday and the start of mid-week summer baseball games and Friday night dances. Everyday of the week at noon it marked the lunch hour. More than once the preacher had been interrupted in the middle of a moving spiritual thought by the unofficial end of Sunday morning services.
The jeweler mostly sold simple wedding sets. The occasional string of pearls. And he carried a collection of pocket watches, including some gold ones. The gift of choice for those retiring after putting in their 20 years of service at the factory. The jeweler’s pride and joy though, was a large clock, easily three feet in diameter that he kept in his front window.
His shop, along with the bank and the supermarket were the main shops along the town’s short Main Street. The jeweler’s name was Horacio. No one in town knew that though. Just as they didn’t know a lot about the old man. Everyone called him Stick. But, no one knew why. Even his nickname was a mystery.
Life in a small town follows a fairly predictable routine. And Stick, despite growing up in the town was known by more people than he knew. Still, he was a fixture on Main Street. Most afternoons he could be found outside sweeping imaginary dust off the sidewalk.
The jewelry store opened up promptly at 8:00 am each morning. Most mornings Stick was in the store shortly after 7:00. He had to open up the safe and lay out the rings and bracelets. He kept the the gold watches locked away. He didn’t know many of the folks at the factory. But, he watched them walk by his front window every morning.
In the evening the pattern was reversed. At precisely 5:00pm the factory whistle blew. Stick set his window clock by it. The faceless crowds streamed out of the factor and home to dinners and BBQs. Maybe some would stop off for a drink. Many would pause to glance at the glittering pieces in his window. Maybe they’d come back for an engagement ring, or a 25 year anniversary charm bracelet when the need arose.
At 5:30, Stick would put the trays back in the safe and turn out the lights. It would be waiting for him in the morning. Most of the men streaming past his windows were simply faces in a crowd. But, each morning at precisely 7:30 one man in particular would stop, look up at the big clock in the window, pull out his watch to check them time and then continue on into the factory.
The man was part of Stick’s routine. Still a nameless face in the crowd, but a familiar one. A reassuring presence. Friendly almost. Every morning, like clockwork.
And then one morning, Stick decided to change his routine. He arrived a few minutes early to open up the shop. He laid out the trays of rings and bracelets. Opened the shades and at 7:25 he grabbed his broom and stepped out his front door to the sidewalk. After a few minutes he noticed his unknown friend approaching. Right on schedule he stopped and pulled out his watch.
“Excuse me, sir” Stick offered.
“Yes, can I help you? I’m in a bit of a hurry.”
“I was just wondering. You know, every morning I see you stop and check the clock in my window.”
“Yes.” The man waited on Stick.
Now his question seemed almost juvenile. Why was it any business of his what the man wanted to do with his time? Suddenly, Stick decided it was a mistake to disrupt his routine.
“Nothing. I’m sorry to bother you.”
“No bother.” The man returned his watch to his pocket and turned to head for the factory.
Finding a courage he considered foolhardy, Stick decided he actually did want to satisfy his curiosity after all. “It’s just. . .” The man stopped and turned back.
“Well, I notice that every morning you stop by my window and reset your watch. I was just curious what made you get into that habit.”
“Not really much to it. I’m the foreman at the factory. I’m the one that has to blow the whistle every afternoon at five o’clock. Those men count on me. I want to make sure I’m not even a minute late. So, every morning I double-check my watch with your jeweler’s clock to make sure it’s accurate. ”
Stick was too stunned to say anything as the factory foreman turned and continued on to the factory gates.
Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.
(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved