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The Tadpole and The Watch

Smoke snakes into the air from the cigarette resting in the ashtray.  Half-filled moving-boxes clutter the room.  I take a sip of my drink, place the glass on the desk among circular cocktail-glass stains.  I can hear the murmurs through the door of people who came to pay their respects.

I loosen my tie and lean back in his chair, running my fingers around the edges of the bezel of his watch that is clasped to my wrist, feeling the grooves under my fingertips.  I remember my father saying – “One of the ways you can tell if it’s a fake Rolex is if the secondhand ticks, Mark.  The second hand should run smoothly.”

This desk and watch are what is left of my father.  I run my hand over the cool wooden surface of the desk and look underneath where I used to play with my toys while my father worked.  I would crash my toys into his feet, he never seemed to mind, or he at least didn’t show it.  He would occasionally reach down to rub my hair.  I would look up, briefly, and see the watch.  As far back as I can remember my father wore this watch.  I always marveled at it.  It was a grownup’s watch, made of stainless steel, it looked heavy and important. 

I liked to play with the folding clasp.  It amused me how the watch would drop free from his wrist and dangle.  I would ask my father annoying questions about the watch: “What is a Submariner?” – “What does the crown mean?” – “How do you make it glow in the dark?”  I don’t remember any of the answers he gave, it doesn’t matter, I suppose.

Much later in life I would learn of the prestige associated with wearing a Rolex.  It’s absurd, if you think about it, how a clunk of metal filled with tiny wheels, springs, screws and levers could mean so much to strangers.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy when a hot chick compliments the watch as much as the next horny guy, but that’s not what makes this watch special.  This watch has a story.

I unbuckle the folding clasp, place the watch on the desk.

When I asked my father where he got the Rolex, he said, “It was a graduation gift from the Navy.  They used to give this to trainees when they graduated SEAL training.”

My father was a first-generation Navy SEAL, a frogman.  He and his SEAL brothers-in-arms started it all in the 60’s, before anyone knew what “it” was, decades before the cool Navy SEAL movies and books.  Their testing ground…Vietnam. 

As a kid I was his little tadpole, he liked to call me.  I went on to follow in his footsteps and became a frogman as well; however, I did not get a Rolex when I graduated SEAL training.  I got a G-Shock from the Navy.  The Navy had dispensed with the graduation-Rolex by the time I went through.  People thinking you were cool would have to suffice.

My father and other family members and friends attended my graduation.  After the ceremony, my father embraced me, told me how proud he was.  He then unclasped his watch and handed it to me and said, “Welcome to the club.”

My mother enters the room and asks, “Mark, are you going to be much longer?  Guests are asking about you, they want to pay their respects.”

“I’ll be out in fifteen.”

I tighten my tie, put my watch back on, begin closing the boxes…


By: Mark Salisbury



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