Joe Qualey’s Watch In My Sock Drawer

By Baltimore County Poet Richard Baldwin. Cook


Sugar, you want Joe Qualey’s watch?

Aunt Carrie shouted at me from maybe three feet away.

This was in Charlottesville where she lived with my uncle Dorland.

Carrie always talked like you were hard of hearing, no matter the subject,

no matter, in this case, she was talking about suicide.

I said sure.

She went and got the watch. Fancy. Heavy, pocket watch. 

Handed it to me. 

Handed me her Joe Qualey story. 

Joe Qualey had married my grandmother’s sister, Ethel, in Louisville,

and moved her to New York City where he was a Wall Street roller. 

Now peeps, this was over a century ago.

Joe sat on boards, one after the other. 

I can’t figure out what he did to earn a living.

Maybe, nothing. 

Probably, he got whatever money he had from his father-in-law, James Dorland,

Union Civil War vet, marched and fought under Sherman.

In fourteen named battles, teenage Jimmy was, before he became

James, and a successful businessman in Nashville and Louisville.

Joe Qualey drowned himself in a swimming pool out on Long Island,

leaving Ethel to explain it all to their two young sons. 

This was in the nineteen-twenties.Under the circumstances, easy to see

that Ethel had no interest in the watch.  It probably went into a box, when my

grandmother Blanche, Ethel’s sister, had to go up to New York,

help Ethel deal with things after the death.

Like I said, I did not ask question one.

After about twenty years, I got out Joe Qualey’s watch.

Thought I might try once again, to figure out who Ethyl had married after Joe

and what happened to her boys and their children, 

who would have had about as much interest in Joe Qualey’s watch, 

as they would have in a vial of water from the swimming pool

where Joe drowned himself, 

when the Dorland money wore out.

So, I pulled out the watch. 

It’s not Joe’s. 

Looks like it’s his father-in-law’s. 

Old man Dorland’s money went probably to buy that watch, that he himself wore

that wound up with Ethel after James, her dad died in 1915.

Watch ended up in Charlottesville, where Carrie offered it to me.


The old man’s watch had somehow gotten into my sock drawer

and kicked out Joe’s watch. 

Anyway, that’s what I think.