Alfie

For as long as Alfie could remember he checked his watch every 14 minutes to make sure it had not

stopped.

As he poured his chocolate covered cereal to the exact three quarter level, which he had marked with

a small chisel taken from his Dad’s workshop in the pale green bowl, he wondered what life would be

like if 14 minutes passed without a glance to his watch.

Alfie was a quiet yet curious boy, red freckles dotted his dimpled face. His hair was thick and frequently stuck up in various directions from the previous night’s sleep.

Walking the dog was one of Alfie’s favourite thing to do on Saturdays. Ralph was his companion, a

polka dot collie, with brown oversized paws and crimped ears with an inquisitive nature, just like Alfie.

Alfie enjoyed talking to Ralph and found comfort in the thought that Ralph agreed with the majority

of his observations and ideas.

This particular Saturday Alfie walked Ralph through the meadows close to his family house. The trees

were turning orange in the Autumn air and it was noticeably fresher than it had been the previous

Saturday. He presumed Ralph was also finding it cooler.

He glanced at his watch, all was as it should be and he made a note of the time – 10:47.

That morning he had told his Mam he would continue to the bakery to pick up some warm bread for

the family lunch, as he did most Saturdays.

Howell the bakery owner stood tall in the bakery doorway, towering above all customers. He was a

large, friendly man with a large round belly. He often had an espresso in hand and always a smile on

his face.

“Alfie!!”

“Ralph!!!”

“Good morning Howell,” Alfie replied with a smile. Alfie always smiled when he first encountered

Howell.

Ralph frantically wagged his tail and when close enough lept high in the air towards Howell nearly

knocking his coffee cup to the ground.

Alfie began to examine the pastries and freshly baked bread in the bakery window. The window had

a red frame which was newly painted from the week before. The smell of fresh bread swept from the

bakery and Alfie began to feel his belly rumble. His attention now turned to the white glazed danishes

on the far right hand side of the display. The glaze zigzagged across the danishes.

Just when Alfie felt nothing could be more important than a warm glazed danish, he noticed a new

person behind the counter. She stared at the large oven; her gaze fixed on the contents.

“Amelia!” Howell called.

She had short dark hair, brown eyes with tanned skin.

Amelia turned to see what the fuss was all about.

“This is my good friend Alfie and his dog Ralph.”

Alfie stood, silent in a frozen type state. He wondered why words hadn’t come out of his mouth. His

brain was trying to speak but no words arrived. Ralph also seemed to turn silent, glancing upwards

towards Alfie with his ears pricked up and then turned to Amelia with a slanted head. He was also

confused as to why Alfie had not spoken to or greeted this new human.

“Hello Alfie,” Amelia exclaimed in an accent Alfie had never been greeted with previously.

Alfie still wordless, raised his hand awkwardly to say hi, he wondered if his cheeks were as red as they felt, the autumn chill in the air had long since vanished.

As Alfie began to remove his wool hat, he hoped his hair looked less messy than usual.

As he approached the counter he fumbled around for his money in the deep pockets of his brown

thick lined cords.

“Hi Amelia,” Alfie said with a slight croak in his voice. “Nice to meet you.”

“What would you like today?” Amelia asked, her gaze now fixed on Alfie and not the warm brownies

in the oven.

“Alfie always buys four warm French baguettes for his family on a Saturday!” Howell shouted from

the doorway. Alfie nodded to Amelia in agreement.

“I’d also like a glazed danish today if that’s okay Amelia.” He felt his shyness ease as he said these

words left his mouth.

“Sure Alfie,” Amelia replied with a smile.

Alfie had never noticed a girl’s smile as much before as Amelia handed him a large brown paper bag

filled with the baguettes and a separate smaller brown bag with the danish inside. He noticed the

French baguettes smelt better today than they had on any Saturdays before this.

Alfie glanced to his watch, all seemed fine.

“Okay thanks, see you again soon Alfie,” Amelia said as Alfie turned from the counter.

Alfie was unsure how to respond but with a heightened confidence replied, “Thanks Amelia, see you

soon, nice to meet you!”

Howell had noticed the encounter and as Alfie walked out the doorway, he gave Alfie a smile and a

tap on the shoulder.

“Maybe we’ll see you sooner than next Saturday Alfie,” Howell said with a broader smile.

Alfie laughed shyly and dared not to turn to see if Amelia was looking on.

It was usually as Alfie was heading for home on his walks when he would think of his Dad. A watch

maker by trade he was a tall, slim man with a dark thick moustache. It was only recently that Alfie had

begun to wonder and question a world which didn’t include his Dad. A world which seemed a lesser

one.

“Time Alfie, cherish it and use it wisely,” are the words which Alfie always remembered from his Dad.

Alfie loved spending hours in his Dad’s workshop, especially at weekends when school didn’t cut short his visits. He would look on as his Dad built a watch, meticulously organising the individual parts on his workbench. Alfie would watch hoping for his Dad to ask Alfie to lend a hand, even if it were just to clean or grease a dial or casing. Alfie was fixated by the process, how his Dad’s mind worked and the patience he showed in the assembly of the individual watch components.

“This watch will help someone navigate their way through life Alfie,” his father would say. “It will be a companion.” Alfie loved the image of a person wearing one of his Dad’s watches and often made up

characters in his mind and their adventures whilst wearing the watch.

Alfie missed his Dad every day, mainly his voice, which always put Alfie at ease. At night he would

close his eyes and hear his Dad telling stories, sometimes it felt like he was sitting there on the side of

the bed beside Alfie.

“Get to sleep Alfie, big day tomorrow,” his Dad’s voice would often say.

----

Alfie arrived at the bakery door. It was a sunny day and he wondered how obvious it would look to

Amelia that he had returned to see her again. On his walk to the bakery, he spoke to Ralph asking

whether he thought this was a good idea. “Dad would reckon so” he thought. The pace of their walk

seemed brisker than most days.

Alfie stepped into the bakery and was delighted to see that Amelia stood behind the counter. She

smiled at Alfie as he arrived, she looked taller today.

“Hi Alfie!” I hoped you would visit again soon, she said.

Alfie was immediately at ease after hearing her words. Amelia asked would Alfie like to try the

cinnamon buns which had just been baked that morning. He nodded with an affirmative smile.

Howell arrived from the back of the bakery, which was not visible from the shop floor. Alfie imagined

this area was full of ovens and workspaces, a bit like his Dad’s workshop.

“Alfie my friend”...“Please please, go out to the sun with Amelia, she needs a break,” as he handed

them 2 large cinnamon buns wrapped in brown paper.

Amelia and Alfie sat on the wooden bench across the street with Ralph looking from beneath their

feet and begging for some cinnamon bun scraps. Alfie couldn’t help but to give him a corner.

Alfie felt as if he hardly spoke, Amelia spoke of her home place, the orchard beside their house where

she would go and pick apples for the tarts she would make and sell to the local cafe. It was apparent

that she was in love with baking and the different textures and smells it brought. Alfie listened like he

had never done before, his stomach had never felt as it was, it wasn’t rumbling, it felt like it was

dancing around with a nervous excitement. Amelia was so passionate as she spoke.

As they finished their cinnamon buns Amelia smiled.

“Same time again tomorrow Alfie?”

“I’d love that Amelia,” he responded, not trying to hide his smile or excitement.

Alfie turned to walk for home, the bright sun shone in his eyes. He glanced downwards and didn’t

notice his watch. As he returned home with Ralph, he filled his water bowl. Then in an instant he

realised he hadn’t checked his watch since arriving at the bakery over two hours ago. All was still okay in the world; it was better than okay.

“Thanks Dad,” Alfie whispered.

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