The Watch

November 2011

Sean Carter- sixteen-year-old jazz musician

Grandfather- distinguished older man

 

(New Orleans cemetery.  A mausoleum is on one side of the stage.  GRANDFATHER and SEAN enter from the opposite side.)

SEAN

You tricked me!

GRANDFATHER

I asked you to come for a ride.  I never said where we’d end up.

SEAN

I could be home practicing for the audition right now!  You have no idea how much I have to do for that!

GRANDFATHER

You’re not the only Carter with the music gene.  I know how much effort it takes.

SEAN

My entire music career is riding on this!

GRANDFATHER

Keep your voice down.

SEAN

Mom couldn’t even make me come to the funeral.  What makes you think I want to be here now?

GRANDFATHER

I know you don’t.

SEAN

This was Mom’s idea, wasn’t it?

GRANDFATHER

No.  Your father’s.

                        (Beat.)

SEAN

You’re wasting your time.  I’m just going to be rehearsing the songs in my head while you talk.

GRANDFATHER

Walk with me.

                        (They walk over to the grave monument where SEAN’s father is buried. SEAN is reluctant to follow.)

Your father left one thing undone before he passed away.

                        (Takes out a golden pocket watch and holds it up by the chain.)

SEAN

Dad’s pocket watch?

GRANDFATHER

It’s been in our family for years.

SEAN

Yeah, he told me.

GRANDFATHER

Not everything.

                        (Contemplates watch for a beat.)

I remember when I told him these stories.  It’s a crime he died so young.

                        (Winds watch, and the audience briefly hears it start ticking. GRANDFATHER points to the cover of watch.)

 Do you know what the initials J.W.C. stand for?

SEAN

C is for Carter, right?

GRANDFATHER

James Walter Carter had this watch forged in 1860.  His son, Robert, lost the watch while he was building a house for his future family.  A few years after he finished, a hurricane destroyed the house, but he found the watch in the wreckage.

SEAN

And?

GRANDFATHER

And after he wound the watch, it started ticking again.

SEAN

I don’t see the point.

                        (GRANDFATHER looks at SEAN for a beat.)

GRANDFATHER

There is a point, Sean.  If you let me finish—

SEAN

Dad should be telling me.

GRANDFATHER

Watch your mouth.  That’s why your father wanted me to give it to you later.  He hoped you would mature, but then the cancer treatments stopped working—

SEAN

I don’t want to talk about it! 

GRANDFATHER

 Five months is long enough.

                        (SEAN scowls and looks away. GRANDFATHER sighs.)

Did you know this watch also saw combat?

                       (SEAN ignores him.)

World War I.  Trench warfare.  It saved my grandfather’s life.

                        (SEAN shakes head.)

He slept with the watch in his hand—a comfort habit.  At first he never wound it because the ticking kept him awake, but later the sound became a lullaby.  One night the ticking got louder, and it woke him again.  He went to take a leak, and a minute later a gas bomb landed where he had been sleeping.

SEAN

How could the ticking get louder?

GRANDFATHER

I don’t know.  Some people would say he imagined it, but I think the watch saved him.

SEAN

He probably imagined it.

GRANDFATHER

I prefer faith.

SEAN

You would.

GRANDFATHER

And what’s wrong with that?

SEAN

It’s useless!

GRANDFATHER

Faith is far from useless, son.

SEAN

The hell it is!  How can you say that here of all places?

                        (Beat.)

GRANDFATHER

I see your point.

                        (Beat.)

Will you try to see mine?

SEAN

If you have one.

GRANDFATHER

I told you I do.

                        (Holds up pocket watch again.)

My father passed this on to me when I was eighteen.  I met Louis Armstrong through this watch.

SEAN

                       (For the first time, SEAN looks intrigued.)

Louis Armstrong?

GRANDFATER

Yes, sir.  I had just started working at The Loft in the French Quarter, and part of my job was to help the performers set up and tell them when to go on.  I made sure I wound the watch every night before work, and the first week I had it, Louis Armstrong admired it.

SEAN

Did he touch it?

GRANDFATHER

No.  But I probably would have given it to him if he’d asked.

SEAN

Me, too.

GRANDFATHER

So do you see why this watch is important to our family?

SEAN

Yeah.  Lots of history.

GRANDFATHER

It’s a family monument, and receiving it is a rite of passage for the Carter men.  I can’t pass it onto you until you understand this.

SEAN

I understand.

GRANDFATHER

There’s something else I need to tell you.

SEAN

What?

GRANDFATHER

Your father had specific directions regarding passing it to you.

 

SEAN

I don’t . . . What are they?

GRANDFATHER

I think there’s something inside.  He wouldn’t let me open it before I gave it to you.  Said you had to be the one.

                        (SEAN looks at the watch in GRANDFATHER’s hand for a beat.)

If you’re not ready—

SEAN

I’m ready.

                        (Takes watch and holds it for another beat.  The audience can hear the ticking again as he opens it.)

 

GRANDFATHER

May I ask?

SEAN

It’s a picture of us at the jazz concert a few years ago, before he got sick.

GRANDFATHER

Does that mean anything to you?

(SEAN takes out the picture out to look closer at it.)

SEAN

I had gotten two tickets, but I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, so Dad came instead.  I didn’t think he liked it.

GRANDFATHER

There’s something on the back.

(SEAN turns it over and reads.)

SEAN

“I’m listening to you play.”

(Several beats, then the ticking stops suddenly.  SEAN starts to tremble, and GRANDFATHER comforts him.)

 

GRANDFATHER

Sean—

SEAN

                                    (Hurls the pocket watch at the mausoleum.)

That’s it?  Nothing but a picture inside an old pocket watch?  You think that’s going to make everything better?  It doesn’t!

                                    (Starts throwing rocks at the mausoleum.)

You think you can just leave and say something cheesy like “I’m listening to you—”

GRANDFATHER

                                    (Attempts to stop him from throwing the rocks.)

Sean—

SEAN

What does that even mean?  You can’t listen!  You don’t have ears anymore!

GRANDFATHER

Leave the rocks—

SEAN

I hate you!  Do you hear me?  I hate you!

GRANDFATHER

Sean, stop!

                                    (Struggles to grab a rock out of SEAN’s hand.  SEAN begins to cry.)

Breathe.  Breathe through it.

                                    (A few beats.)

SEAN

I don’t understand . . .

GRANDFATHER

You don’t have to.

SEAN

Why?  Why did he stop fighting?  He gave up after all those months!

GRANDFATHER

Is that why you’re angry?  You think he chose to leave?

SEAN

I don’t know! He was . . . when I saw him that last . . . it was like he had given up!  I needed him, and he didn’t know that! 

GRANDFATHER

But he did, Sean.

SEAN

No!  The last things he said to me were to keep up with the band and do well in school so I could get a music degree one day!  Like I could just keep going with my life, like it didn’t matter!  And that—

GRANDFATHER

He loved you?

                                    (SEAN is overcome for a beat.)

SEAN

How?  How can I be so angry with him?

GRANDFATHER

You’re angry at the loss, not your father, Sean.  When he was first diagnosed, I was angry, too.  I thought it should’ve been me.  He deserved more years with you and your mother.  But more than that, I didn’t think I could stand losing him.

SEAN

How did you stand it?

GRANDFATHER

By believing that I could still help my son by taking care of you and your mother.  I’ll never be okay that he’s gone, but a time comes when you’re ready to push on.

SEAN

I’m never going to get there.

GRANDFATHER

You have to let yourself.

                                    (Beat.)

I’ll be in the car.  Whenever you’re ready.

(Grandfather exits, but SEAN stays a few beats longer.  He walks over to the watch and looks at it.  The watch starts ticking for a beat, then blackout.)