The Life & Times of the Late Horatio Othni


Whenever little Horatio Othni ran in after the rest of his family sat for dinner, his old man not-too-sternly told him, “Horry, you’ll be late for your own funeral, son.” So Mr. Othni gave Horatio his first wristwatch when he graduated from elementary school. Horatio lost it, or so he told the old man.

When he graduated high school, Horry’s father gave him a self-winding Timex. But Horatio ditched that after incessant, obsessive wrist-twisting, to keep the spring at tip-top tautness just as his dad would, gave him tendonitis. He became assured that time gave you tennis elbow, pain with every other tock at the least. He missed a lot of classes because of that.

Anyhow, the sun told Horry when to wake up, when to go out, when to read beneath the yellow-green willow’s waving leaves by the fountain’s caressing rainbow spray. So did the bell in the clock tower, whose songs became his friends. “She’s monotonous, but the old girl plays them well, like a dinner bell” he’d say, closing his notebook and heading to lunch. And so it went. Horatio never needed to see time, to find it, to become yoked to it. “After all,” he would tell his father, his friends and professors, “I’ve got all of you to remind me.” But he lost some of them like old watches, too.

When Horatio left college, he decided to become a writer until he ran out of pencils, and because he could set his own hours, which weren’t really hours, but passages of sun across sky, of words beneath his hand, of food between his lips, of breaths followed by more breaths until he gently offered his last.

When Mr. Othni found Horatio at his boy’s desk, stub of a pencil in hand, paper beneath his smiling face, he read the final exhalation of a timeless life and grinned beneath his paternal tick-tock tears that fell like the seconds, minutes, hours his son never cared to know. It read, “Last pencil. Time to go, I guess.”

Two sun passages later, as the funeral procession began to pull away from the mortuary, Horatio’s father placed his hand upon the lead driver’s shoulder and told him to wait. “How long, sir? We gotta be there before 9:00,” the driver asked, checking his watch. Three blocks away, church bells pealed over the rooftops…ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-dong, followed by single rings…six, seven, eight, nine…

Horatio’s father squinted up and observed how the morning sun barely trudged upward toward what would never be 12:00 again. He gently massaged the circle of pale skin on his left wrist. “Oh, just a little longer. We had a deal.”

Super-quick (maybe) free-write first draft about that which has ruled too much of my life, and probably yours. How long did this take to write? Just as long as it took.

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