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August Heat

Julie's ending:

He sat there waiting, just waiting for his time to come. He pulled the pocket watch from his father out of his pocket. The watch was very old, and it was prone to stopping and starting or to ticking erratically. He had meant to get it fixed, but could never find the time. The time on the watch now read 11:57.

"Any minute now," he said to Charles, but Charles didn’t hear him.

A few breathtaking minutes later, James again looked at his watch, praying it would be after midnight. By some miracle, it was 12:00 on the button. There was no curse! James got up from his chair in a state of great excitement and walked over to Charles.

"Thank you so much, Charles. I shall be going now," he announced.

"Don’t you think you should stay here for the night, just in case? I don’t want anything to happen."

James could tell that Charles really wanted him to stay.

"No, no, I wouldn’t want to wear out my welcome. After all, you have already been too kind to me."

With that, he was out the door before Charles could slip in another word.

After James left, Charles looked at his own watch. His watch indicated that it was only ten of twelve. Charles tried to yell to James, but he was long gone, and Charles was definitely not in good enough shape to chase after him.

As James walked homeward, he began to think. He planned all of the exciting, fun, outrageous things he was going to do in the future.

"Maybe," he thought, "I could enter a new occupation: writing, carpentry, engineering—anything but being an artist.

Thinking about a possible future as an engineer, he noticed that all of the equipment that five men had earlier been using to build the new tram system was now gone.

"Hmm, they must be finished," he muttered to himself. "How delightful it will be to have a tram system that runs all the time," he thought. "Then people can go wherever they want, whenever they want." After that, he never gave it another thought.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he got these weird sounds in his head. There was a flash of light and then there was pounding, fierce pounding. It got faster and faster, then harder and harder. It was like hot metal crushing his skull into little pieces. James couldn’t stand the brutal pain. His eyes bulged so far open they burned as though they were flaming. As he stared in horror, all he saw was the bright light coming from the tracks beside him. Whatever it was wasn’t stopping.

The next day the police were everywhere. Charles saw them and walked down to the tram tracks to see what was going on.

He went over to a policeman. "What is going on here?" he inquired politely.

"Well, a little before midnight, the tram hit a man. The poor guy died on impact. It was really gruesome. We can’t even identify the victim," the bobby answered.

The awful truth dawned upon Charles: James must be the victim! When James had left his house last night, Charles’s watch had read only 11:49. Now it read 10:27. He walked over to the body, reached down into the pocket, and pulled out the victim’s watch. It read 10:37. It was ten minutes fast. It was he, James, who had left Charles’s house when it was already midnight by his own watch. After drawing his sad conclusion, Charles sighed.

Freeze, don’t move!" shouted a man from behind Charles.

By the way he said it, Charles could tell he had a gun. The man came up to Charles and put handcuffs around his wrists.

"What in the Lord’s name is going on?" Charles asked, puzzled.

"I am arresting you for the attempted robbery of a corpse," the bobby yelled. "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be used against you in a court of law. Do you understand?"

"I wasn’t robbing him," Charles protested.

"I saw you try to take that antique watch out of his pocket. Don’t try to deny it. Now, watch your head."

He squeezed Charles into the paddy wagon, and they rode off.

Shocked, Charles tried to explain to the officer what had really happened. The policeman seemed to ease up a little.

"Hey, buddy, you’ll have to tell that to the judge. I’d say if you’re lucky, you’ll get a minimum of two years."

The rest of the ride to the police station was completely silent.

Six months later, Charles went to court, only to hear the judge sentence him to three years of imprisonment and a hundred pound fine. I guess he never thought his worst nightmare would come true.

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