The watch symbolized almost everything that was important in his life. A solid gold, limited edition hand-made at the turn of the century, it had been a gift from his father on his premature deathbed.

The young man was the college's star Greek student, the best in a rigorous field of study. He was writing his senior honors thesis on Sophocles' "Oedipus at Colonnus," and destined after graduation to seek a doctorate from Harvard.

He was a very precise person. The language itself demanded precision and it had shaped his life accordingly. His father's watch was the physical embodiment of the order in his life. He never forgot, after a long evening of deciphering one author or another, to wind it. And it had never stopped or even so much as lagged by a minute or two. He often mused that the watch was more reliable than he, not being subject to human whim.

Such whim was why the rigid discipline that ruled him occasionally gave way to the romantic side of his nature, which showed itself in his dark eyes. Many a lonely night hunched in his carrel, he would stare into the etched gold face of his father's timepiece, and it spurred daydreams of lost people and places, frozen in time.

It was just when his last year in college began its slow progression from winter to spring that he noticed a change. On the long trek up the stairs to his room, he would become breathless and often had to stop from dizziness. These irregularities in his life became more frequent and, then, disturbing. He made an appointment with the small-town doctor.

He was, of course, precisely on time for his examination at 2 o'clock. He observed that the physical took exactly one hour. Afterward, the doctor asked him to wait in his office.

His watch seemed to tick louder than usual in the stillness of the physician's tiny room. Five minutes passed and he heard the doctor call for his nurse. Ten more minutes. It was 3:15 p.m.

The look on the doctor's face was one of concern.

The doctor told him he had a heart murmur.

He lost concentration as the doctor dictated how his life must change, how his future would be affected.

He staggered a bit on the porch of the doctor's office, trying to fix on a line from Euripedes. He stopped and thought of his father.

He looked down at his watch. It said 3:15 p.m.

His watch had stopped.