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108: Seventeen Jewels: Tempus Fugit

For Wednesday, April 17, Day 108 of the Story-a-Day Challenge

By Gerard DiLeoPublished about a month ago Updated about a month ago 3 min read
As time goes by... (Tempus fugit)

We got the seventeen jewels that dictate the rules

And the time to fly, as we're passing by

We just got the time to say hello, and then a fast good-bye

Time winds down. Life runs mechanically. Wear-and-tear--that's life. Like a watch ticking down.

It was more than a metaphor for me.

As a child, I asked every wise man I came across about life and death. Not the meaning of life or is death final (or a new beginning?). I wasn't that profound.

"Explain life," I sometimes asked, sometimes demanded. They each missed my point, opining on the meaning of it all. I didn't want meaning; I wanted nuts-and-bolts. Some live long, some die quick. Why?

Only one wise man knew. He only smiled and handed me something.

"Here," he offered.

"What's this?" I asked, taking a small bag from him. He spoke, finally.

"There are 17 jewels in that bag. Use them wisely."

Like most wise men, he was mysterious; like most profound truths, his came wrapped in an enigma. My life was in this bag.

I met a girl--everything I wanted for my life. I asked her to marry me.

"That'll cost you three jewels," her father said. "One for her, one for you, and one for the marriage." I reached into my little bag and handed him them.

One day she came from the doctor's smiling. "That'll cost you four more jewels," she informed me. "Two for the twins and and two more--one for each to grow on."

I dutifully paid the price but knew I had ten jewels left.

The twins were lovely. I'd never been so happy. Knowing the power of the jewels, we were careful not to squander them capriciously for life's comforts and for luck.

Life was good--until the twins took with grippe. I was hysterical, waiting for the doctor to address their high fevers.

"I can help them," he reported. I was thrilled. Their lives were saved!

"Five apiece," he said solemnly. He meant my jewels, of course. I also knew I'd have none left. Doling them out, I relished my investment--my life for theirs.

I died the richest man in the world.



For Wednesday, April 17, Day 108 of the Story-a-Day Challenge — now well into triple digits!


All pictures are time well spent.


There are currenly three Vocal creators still participating in the Story-a-Day Challenge:

  • L.C. Schäfer, challenge originator
  • Rachel Deeming
  • Gerard DiLeo (myself)




I wrote this because the 17-jewels motif of timekeeping intrigued me, and I wanted to symbolize life's wear-and-tear as we approach death by the wearing down of the jewels of a watch until there are no ticks left! Wear-and-tear, the time we have left, and the relentless ticking away of a watch's and a life's time--to zer0--was a bit of fertile playground for this fable. Hope you enjoy. (It wasn't lost on me that today is the 17th, a day for each jewel!)

For the music-lovers out there...

The quoted lyrics are from The Association's song, "Six Man Band."

For the nerds out there...

Information on the 17-jewel movement of timepieces is from

Of the things uniquely human, such as music, theater, and the other arts, mechanical ingenuity--limited only by the imagination--was no better realized than in the engineering and minitiarization of the small timekeeping machines we kept in our pockets or wore on our wrists. It is truly a science and an expertise requires a lifetime of passionate dedication to it. Time is important, and the intricacies of timepieces underscores that importance. Accuracy is important, also, and the inner workings of clocks and watches have all been engineered with that in mind, even while encased in a artwork of presentation.

Before digital time-keeping, e.g., mobile phones and iWatches, back when watches were mechanical and hand-wound, the high-end fine watches then (and even today) have traditionally used jewels as the bearings for the wheel trains and in the other high-wear parts. Rubies were chosen for their resistance to the wear-and-tear of the moving parts of a mechanical watch.

Nowadays, most manual-wind watches will have a standard complement of 17 jewels, including one impulse jewel in the balance wheel, two pairs of balance staff pivot bearings, and one cap jewel. There were also a pair of jewels for each of the lever pallets, escape pivot bearings, escape wheel pivot bearongs, the fourth wheel pivot bearings, and for the third wheel pivot bearings. A final pair were for the center wheel pivot bearings.

Automatic winding movements and additional functions push the jewel count beyond the standard seventeen. For example, the most complicated wristwatch in the world, the IWC Il Destriero Scafusia, has 76 jewels to run its perpetucal calendar, chronograph, and other functions.

A IWC Il Destriero Scafusia can be yours for $110-230,000.


About the Creator

Gerard DiLeo

Retired, not tired. In Life Phase II: Living and writing from a decommissioned church in Hull, MA. (Phase I was New Orleans and everything that entails. Hippocampus, behave!

[email protected]

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Comments (3)

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  • C. Rommial Butlerabout a month ago

    Well-wrought! To enjoy wasting time as much as we enjoy keeping it is, it seems to me, the open secret to an ecstatic life. Sometimes, as in your story, the most precious thing is with whom we choose to keep wasting time!

  • Rachel Deemingabout a month ago

    Great story and super interesting inspiration. I will look at that link. Just so you know what category of person I am.

  • JBazabout a month ago

    I enjoyed this very much. what he used the jewels for was wonderful and well worth the final pay at the end.

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