by Greg Schipper
People regarded the Fitzhugh family as truly fortunate. Most people knew this family. Not only in their city, but throughout the state. You see, Mr. Thomas Fitzhugh had become a politician in his youth, and now was a retired state senator. His father was a scientist who worked notably on establishing scientific data surrounding evolution. In fact, as far back as you look in the Fitzhugh family, there were professionals of one description or another, including doctors. The Fitzhughâs had one child, and was a âlate-in-lifeâ pregnancy for Mrs. Fitzhugh. Her trusted physicians strongly warned about a mid-forties pregnancy, suggesting she terminate âitâ while there was âstill timeâ. However, Mrs. Fitzhugh was feeling the call to that most honorable profession of Motherhood, albeit late. Her mothering instincts far outweighed the cautions of her doctors, and she was quite right. Her child was robust and healthy, with lots of hair and weighing eight pounds at birth. His name was Gerald.
Gerald was no ordinary child, even from birth. He walked at ten months, he talked early, he was diaper-free by sixteen months; Gerald was an amazing boy. The Fitzhughâs decided then to teach Gerald at home by a hired tutor, and learn he did! Gerald could read at forth grade level when he was five and his teacher proclaimed him to be in the top 1% of children in the advanced nation of America. At age six, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzhugh made the aggressive decision to locate three more teachers for Gerald, insuring that he be molded into the intelligent leader they saw in him. Gerald advanced in learning far above all others. Gerald was praised constantly by family, friends, teachers and even the press, as being intelligent and wise.
The story of Gerald really revolves around the twelfth year of his life. Gerry was very curious concerning science and mechanical things. While Gerryâs friends played video games, he preferred to take things apart, continually inspecting and learning. Thatâs how he filled several spare hours each day. One autumn afternoon, Gerry noticed an artifact in his home that had been âaroundâ all his life. Inside a beautiful mahogany and glass display case hung an exquisite gold pocket watch. This was no ordinary pocket watch. It was a 1928 PATEK PHILIPPE & CO., Swiss made masterpiece. This model is known as the âKingâs Ransomâ and only twelve were made and sold. Currently the Fitzhughâs had it insured for $250,000, but itâs worth was far above that. No wonder too, as Lloydâs of London said it would be âirreplaceableâ. The reason the pocket watch caught the attention of Gerry was, the back was partially glass and he could see wonderfully polished gears along with deep blue and red jewels in its intricate workings. Without asking his parents, Gerry took a sneak look at this marvelous wonder. Carefully removing the watch out of its display case, and bringing it upstairs to his room, was the course of action Gerry thought most wise. Alas he succeeded! Alone in his room he could examine the mechanical wonder of yesteryear. His heart raced as he wound the watch by its stem and the handmade movement began its harmonious progression. The balance wheel started rotating, its lustrous cogs started turning, and the most beautiful sound of âlifeâ began filling Gerryâs ears. The sights and sounds coming from this valuable machine were superb. The whole event was awesome to Gerry, and he counted this as the most exciting moment of his young life. Soon an hour had passed and he knew he had to return the pocket watch to itâs display-cased home. Gerry did it, all without the notice from family or staff.
Now Gerry thoughts were monopolized by the âKingâs Ransomâ. He had no peace all of the next day and night. But, he also had a haunting guilt that arose in his heart from his secret trespass. What was he to do? Gerry decided upon another course of action. This time, he would ask his parents if he could inspect the watch. Gerry, with carefully planned words and timing, presented his request to his Father and Mother during dinner. His parents, who held Gerald in high esteem, decided he had the wisdom, intelligence and maturity to handle, inspect and appreciate the heirloom. This was an extreme joy to Gerry, as now he had the approval of all to fulfill his curiosity.
The next afternoon, Gerry planned his time with the âKingâs Ransomâ carefully. The special magnifying lamp, the velvet pad, the micro screwdriver set, all in place and ready for his venture of investigation. Although it was wonderful, it did not meet the excitement of the previous adventure. But, there arose a black cloud over his love affair with the âKingâs Ransomâ. Inside the watch, with the back removed, under high magnification and a sharp eye, there appeared a small reddish smudge. Gerry thought maybe this was a small but growing area of ârustâ. No, the âKingâs Ransomâ wasnât perfect. It appeared to have a small defect. As days went by, once again Gerryâs thoughts were possessed by the supposed imperfections of the watch. When Gerry felt like he would âburstâ, he asked his parents if he could carefully repair the watch. At first, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzhugh made a strong argument that only the manufacturer was âqualifiedâ to repair the treasured heirloom. But the determination of Gerry was as strong as the âthoughts of imperfectionâ within him. Gerry reminded his parents of the time most recent, when he fixed a lawn mower, after the yard crew had given up. Gerry removed the fiberglass housing, disassembled the air cleaner, and removed the blocking grass and dirt, whereupon the machine was started, purring like new. Indeed, Gerald was amazing.
Gerald presented his case in a most intelligent way. His compelling defense was; âWe donât have much time, the rust is spreading. Get it early, soon it will be too late.â After a time, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzhugh conceded to Gerryâs strong requests for repair. After all, they both held Gerald in high esteem. In the excitement of his victory, Gerald made several hasty decisions that later would be considered foolish errors in judgment. The agent he decided would be best as the ârust arresterâ was an old tin of Three-In-One Oil, missing the fact that the tin itself was now rusty and the viscosity was likened unto pancake syrup. Also, his method of administering the lubricant was the red stemmed can of oil itself. But these, in fact, were not the great error in judgment that Gerry made.
With his teachers gone, and no family about, Gerry began his ârescue missionâ on the blessed and treasured watch. With an excited disposition, he administered a rather large drop of oil to the suspected ârustâ. The brown liquid did an amazing thing; it sunk deep within the glorious movement, and slowed the mechanism greatly. The brilliant âlife beatâ of sound and turning gears was slowed to nearly a deathly halt! The intended remedy had become the poison. Desperation had now set-in on Gerald. His joy was gone, but his confidence was not. He was determined to find a âviable solutionâ. He thought that a good solvent was in order, and scouting about he found a bottle of Isopropyl alcohol. To Gerryâs amazement the alcohol would not mix with the oil. So he shook off the lake of alcohol within the workings of the watch, and went off to locate a better solvent. Returning with a can of Energine, he knew that victory was imminent. He filled the case with the potent solvent, snapped closed the back, and shook the heirloom vigorously for several minutes. Then Gerry expelled liquid and dried the inside of the watch by poking Q-Tips into the delicate insides. Oh yes, just as he had supposed, the suspected ârustâ was now gone. In fact, he declared to his shocked and near-fainting parents that he had successfully eradicated the offending growth, and there never again would be such an attack on the (once) priceless treasure. Mr. and Mrs. Fitzhugh discovered the âhard wayâ that the face of the dial was destroyed by the solvent, and the 50 jeweled movement would never tick again, and the priceless heirloom was reduced to a dead, 18 karat gold case, holding a lifeless, once precious movement. But like Gerald said; at least the ârustâ is gone. Oh yes, Gerald Fitzhugh is amazing.
In time Mr. and Mrs. Fitzhugh forgave their son of his misdeed, and now looked forward to brighter days. Today, Gerald is a student in Harvard Medical School. Let me not forget to mention, heâs at the âtop of his classâ.