I could tell from the look on his face that he couldn’t fix it. He held it between his blackened fingers, turning it this way and that.

“This,” he said, “is junk. Not worth repairing.”

I swallowed. “But my father gave this to me. He said it had been his father’s. It’s an heirloom.”

“Nonsense,” said the old man. “Cheap Chinese junk. Come here.” He crooked the finger at me. “Behind the counter.”

He picked up a small caseless watch from the work table, handed it to me along with an oversized magnifying glass.

“Look at this one. This is a Hamilton. Made in Pennsylvania in the 1930s. You see the quality? That ring on the outside, it’s called the balance. You see the center?”

“The ruby thing?”

“It’s a jewel. Not a ruby, but similar. Fine watches use jewels at the axis because they don’t wear out. You see how precisely everything fits together? How it moves? This is a beautiful thing. This is a—what did you call it?—an heirloom.

He handed my watch to me. “Now look at this one.”

The gears were plastic painted to seem like gold, the movement wobbly and uncertain. It looked sloppy and cheap.

“How much did this watch cost, you think?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Twenty dollars. Maybe less. That it ever kept time is a miracle.”

My eyes stung. “My father told me something different.”

The old man’s eyes were kind and oddly hard.

“Fathers,” he said.



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