The old man gazed affectionately at the young boy asleep in his bed. It had been a special time, as always. The child had delighted in the tale the man had shared with him. It had ignited his imagination, just like a good story should. The man had written it himself many moons ago, and this added greatly to the pleasure of telling.
He sighed - it was two in the morning and the boy needed his sleep. The man stood up slowly with the worn effort of old age, and whispered his goodbyes. Then he placed his timepiece back into its pocket, being careful to avoid chinking the gold chain, and departed.
The boy gradually awoke from his sleep, and as his thoughts began to cluster, he started to remember snippets of the story his old friend had told him during the night. He chuckled to himself as he recalled one of the funny bits, extinguishing his tiredness in the process. It was time to get ready for school.
He had never told his parents about the old man, as they had agreed to keep their talks secret. “After all, they probably wouldn’t understand” said the old man. This suited the boy, as he so looked forward to the weekly visits, and new stories that would unfold. And like most children, he loved owning a secret.
The stories his old friend told were mainly about the way things were ‘back then’, as the old man called it. Wealthy gentlemen, poor people, rogues and street urchins (his favourite). He used words the boy had never heard before, and explained what they meant with great joy.
“Words are wonderful things” said the old man. “You can chew a good word, enjoy it’s flavour, and let it loose in your mind to wreak havoc with your imagination. There’s nothing quite like a grand word”
“I’d like to be a writer like you when I grow up” said the boy, and this brought a big smile to his old friend’s face as he nodded sagely.
The boy was fascinated by his friend’s appearance. His white hair that never seemed to behave itself. His dark rumpled suit and matching waistcoat, out of which hung a timepiece on a chain. The boy loved the word ‘timepiece’, it sounded so old fashioned.
One time the boy had been allowed to hold the timepiece. It felt magical to the touch, and on turning the watch over he saw that it had the initials J.B. on the back.
“They’re the same initials as my name” said the boy curiously. “That they are, that they are” said his friend.
Over time the old man’s visits became less and less, until one day they stopped altogether. The boy waited expectantly for weeks and weeks, but his old friend never returned.
Years laters the boy became a man, and the man became a writer. His works were frequently published and his adoring readers devoured his books with gusto. Even the literary critics were relatively complimentary. His stories seemed to give so much pleasure to adults and children alike. This warmed him inside and he felt fulfilled.
His memories of the old man who sat at the end of his bed had faded over time, and were eventually relegated to dreams. That was until a package arrived for him one day, his address written by hand in elegant script. It was a timepiece with the letters J.B. on the back.
The old man looked down upon the sleeping child with a smile of satisfaction. He so loved sharing his stories and seeing the joy on the little one’s face.
One night in particular, an affectionate warmth spread through his being when he had let the child hold the timepiece (he had always loved that word). Especially when the child realised he had the same initials as those inscribed on the back.
With a smile, the old man remembered when he had said the very same thing to his old friend.