Dad had always looked young for his age. When he died, he looked nowhere near his 87 years. Occasionally Caroline commented on that, or joked about his wandering away during commercials, or other things he hated, like large family get-togethers, and always reappearing at exactly the right moment.
“It's just your imagination.” He would say to her.
When she was small, Caroline thought he had no imagination at all. Always serious, he rarely smiled, except at Mom. After she died, he became even more grim. Caroline looked in on him, even tried to take him from time to time. He would have none of it.
He'd say he was tinkering in his workshop, but it was increasingly difficult getting him to answer the door. Once, against his orders, she used her emergency key to enter. Couldn't find him anywhere.
“I was in the basement,” he claimed. “You search in the half-ass way you do everything.”
She wasn't up for arguing, so she'd let it go. But he was wrong. She'd searched well, going into his workshop for the first time since she was eight, and he's spanked her for touching some piece of equipment. She saw things she didn't understand. Things that made her wonder what the old man was really up to. Things that showed he did have an imagination after all.
As Caroline sorted his things, she found where those missing minutes had gone. Wrapped in a soft, thick cloth, inside a box in his workbench, she found the small blue glass bottle. The simple handwritten label read, “Time”.
She boxed up shelves full of his journals to bring home. She wanted to know how he'd done it, but mostly, she needed to know what in the world to do with it.