The Six O'Clock Watch
Photograph by Marcello Del Pozo, Story by Amanda Saint
It was Vera that noticed him first. Well noticed the car. We didn’t know who was in it until we saw him hang his arm out the window, a cigarette dangling from hairy fingers on a chubby hand. The car stood out on our street filled with those tiny smart electric ones. Or whatever the latest fad is for automobiles. I can’t keep up. His car was one of those big old American ones you’d see the likes of Jimmy Dean and Elvis driving in the old films. I liked Elvis but could never see why everyone went so mad over the other one. Anyway, I’m getting distracted. I do that. Always have done.
We’d just finished our dinner and Vera was taking her plate into the kitchen for Petra, she’s our carer, to stack in the dishwasher. Me, I say I pay enough to live at Lake View Rest Home to let someone else clear up after me. I did it for Gerry for enough years so it’s my turn now. Not that I need looking after, you know. I just got a bit lonely after Gerry died so moved in here for the company.
Anyway, I did it again, didn’t I? Sorry.
‘Iris. Will you look at this car? I lost my virginity in one just like it.’ Vera called from the kitchen.
She didn’t of course but she likes to be bawdy. Thinks it’s funny. But I find it just lowers the tone a bit. I’ve always tried to raise it myself. But I oohed and aahed at the car and laughed at her joke. Then didn’t think about it again. Until the next week when it was parked in the same spot. The cigarette glowing inside this time as the rain was lashing down. I didn’t give it much thought. Figured he was probably waiting to pick up one of our neighbours. But then the car was there more and more often, and nobody ever went and got in it. And he never got out and went in anybody’s house. It started to give me the creeps.
But Vera thought it was a fun game to make up reasons why he was out there. First up, she said it was because he had a crush on someone and couldn’t find the courage to approach them. Then he was a scientist, an ornithologist, tracking urban birds by counting the ones that flew around in our street. Later still he became a private detective staking out a neighbour.
Then Petra joined in and it got more sinister. I think it must be because she’s Slavic. They’ve lived through some terrible things where she comes from. She’s told me awful things about that Balkan War. Seems we didn’t learn our lesson after World War Two at all. Especially with what you see on the news nowadays in those Middle Eastern countries. Dropping bombs on people using them drones. Like it was a computer game.
Oops, sorry. Off I went again. Petra said he was a stalker. Dangerous as he’d been out there so long waiting for his prey. A hitman working for local drug gangs and there was going to be a shoot-out. A loan shark, he was going to break someone’s legs.
Meanwhile, he sat out there in that big green car oblivious to the tales they were telling about him. But the longer it went on, the surer I got. I knew he was looking for me. My past, the one that I hadn’t even told Gerry about, had finally come to find me. I’d never thought it would. Well, I say never but I used to expect it every day. Then when nothing happened, I pushed it to the back of my mind. Figured that was that and it was over and done with. I never expected it now, after all these years.
I didn’t say anything to Vera and Petra about it. Maybe if I just carried on as normal, he’d go away. I mean he’d been turning up for months but never taking the next step and coming to confront me. Maybe he never would. But I started to get paranoid. Even when the car wasn’t there I kept thinking I could feel his eyes following me around. Every time I went near a window, I felt watched. When I went for my morning walk to get the paper I kept spinning round as if I thought I’d catch him right behind me. But there was never anybody there.
He only came in the evening. Always arrived around six o’clock. Sat and chain smoked in the dark. He was always still there when I went to bed and always gone when I got up in the morning. One night I tried to stay up to see what time he left. But I nodded off in the chair and woke up with a terrible stiff neck that took days to get better. It was starting to drive me mad. I was going to have to go out there.
In the end though it was Petra that did. She went right up to the car and knocked on the window and he completely ignored her. Vera and I couldn’t believe our eyes. He just acted like she wasn’t there at all until she gave up and came back inside.
But the next day he came to the door. Petra answered while Vera and I listened from the kitchen.
He cleared his throat twice then said: ‘I want to speak to Iris Marie Allerton.’
My full name. Maiden name. It was him.
‘Who are you, what do you want?’ Petra said.
But I came up behind her and pulled the door wider. ‘It’s okay, Petra. He’s looking for me.’
He stepped forwards and smiled. Tears welled in his big brown eyes that were identical to mine. He reached out, took my hand and I gasped as we touched for the first time in fifty-five very long years.
Amanda Saint is a novelist and short story writer. She founded and runs Retreat West, providing creative writing competitions and courses, and in 2017 launched Retreat West Books indie press. Her debut novel, As If I Were A River, was a NetGalley Top 10 Book of the Month and a Book Magnet Blog Top 20 Book of 2016. Her new novel, Remember Tomorrow, is coming in 2019. Her short stories have been widely published and been long and shortlisted for, and won, various prizes. You can find her here - @saintlywriter
Marcelo Del Pozo has covered a multitude of national and international events for Reuters. In the field of sports, he has covered four Olympic Games (Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016), in addition to the soccer world cups of South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014. In Spain he has provided extensive coverage of the economic crisis with both financial and human reportage, as well as scores of coverage and exhibitions on culture, social issues and festivals in Andalusia. See more of his work and follow him here - @marcelo.del.pozo