I call myself a mountain woman. In truth, I was born on the dreary flatlands of Indiana on May 20, 1955. World population was 2.780 billion, Eisenhower was President, unemployment was 5.5%, Cher was nine years old on that day, and you could mail a letter for .03 cents. Luckily, the dinosaurs were gone, and fire had been invented by then. I moved to Tennessee to the foot of The Great Smoky Mountains in 1998, after the death of my son. For some reason, as I crossed the state line, my heart leapt for joy, there was a settling of my soul, and I silently whispered, I’m finally home. Some ancestral link, some pre-historic pull, had led me back to where I was meant to be.
I have been writing since the age of six. I won my first regional poetry contest in second grade. Though it was a school assignment, and I had no choice but to share, for the past fifty-two years I have written for myself and only a chosen few in the past few years. Writing to me is as life sustaining as breathing, as a beating heart. I have written for newspapers, had my own local column, shared stories of my life for my friends to make them laugh, sigh, cry, or more importantly, to think. I wrote puppet shows for our mentally handicapped facility, inspirational short stories for church services, and a series of articles that led to a testimony before the Maryland State Senate and the creation of the bill: Maryland Task Force for Abused, Abandoned, and Neglected Children. As long as it meant I could write, I wrote. I can’t tell you where this passion came from, I can’t tell you one incident that caused me to start writing and not stop. I have no memory of “starting.” I seemed to have always had a pen and paper close at hand.
It was a wonderful day when I got my first word processor, and then I advanced with technology to the computer. My inspiration comes from this busy, messy, disorganized chaos we call Life. I ask a lot of what-ifs. I look into cars next to me at a stop light, and build their life stories. I see an argument between two people, and I watch their gestures, their body language and I ask, what if? I find inspiration in the quiet of a morning, in the blaze of a sunset, in sitting in a busy café, or with my back against a tree, just watching and listening. There is always a story being whispered in the wind.
Last summer, I received a call on my cell phone from an unfamiliar number. I have always feared that someone might be calling for help, (my mind works differently), and so I returned the call to explain they dialed my number by mistake. An older gentleman on the other end was somewhat suspicious at first, but three hours later, we hung up as friends. A very close friendship was born from that wrong number. After hanging up, I asked, “What if?” The Old Man and The Watch was conceived. I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as the characters enjoyed telling their story.