The ring’s significance, other than jewels including diamonds of more than a few carats, was in its meaning. When John and Jane Buford married some twenty years ago, they had not a penny and no time for a honeymoon. After a hurry-up ceremony before an agreeable pastor, John was whisked away on a train to catch a troop ship headed overseas to fight the Germans in World War II. There being no time to shop for a wedding ring, not to mention John spending his last few dollars on the preacher, he found a metal O-ring off a car or piece of machinery left lying in the street for a wedding ring.
While her husband was overseas Jane, by now a school teacher, bought an inexpensive wedding band and sent him the washer or whatever to remember her by plus acting as a good luck charm. In a way the talisman worked but not as well as the couple hoped.
John was the only survivor of an 88 mm explosion that hit directly on the Higgins landing craft he was in off Omaha Beach during the Normandy invasion. His entire outfit had been killed. He ended up minus an arm plus other wounds including shrapnel next to his heart that could not be safely removed at the time. Later on, scar tissue formed attaching the metal shard to the heart muscle making an operation riskier yet. No one expected him to survive the boat trip back to the USA, much less last through the long convalescence. He proved the doctors wrong, living long enough to become a somewhat successful financial adviser. Because of his injuries, he and Jane had to remain childless. One day as John pivoted to move a lamp off an end-table, the shrapnel took its toll piercing his heart. He collapsed and died on the spot. Perhaps out of intuition or else just well-timing, John had earlier surprised his still young wife with a ring he’d made out of the O-ring he’d carried since the European invasion days. A jeweler had overlaid the metal washer or whatever in gold and added diamonds, sapphires and a blue ruby. The ring fit perfect and he made her promise that if anything happened to him and she remarried, as she was still astonishingly beautiful, that she would always keep the ring to remember him by.
Sure enough, after a year of grieving, Jane tentatively reentered society. She eventually met Boris, a successful political leader in that part of New Jersey. Jane once made the mistake of referring to her husband by the name from a magazine she’d read of “Party Boss” and he became so infuriated she never did that again. When Boris asked her about the unusual ring she always wore on her right index finger, opposite the wedding ring on her left, she explained it as a family heirloom that meant a lot to her and never went further. He continued to ask, however, as if her answer never really satisfied him.
She and Boris had a child they named Willie who oddly enough resembled not Boris, but her late husband John. As a result, Jane fastened all her feelings for her first love on the boy and the unhappier their marriage became the more she mothered Willie. In the meantime Boris took up drinking and at times became more than just obnoxious, but later on he would sober up and repentantly shower Jane and little Joh…or rather Willie I mean, with gifts and toys and such.
As their marriage worsened along with Boris’s honky-tonking, their financial situation turned dire. First Boris was demoted, then he lost work altogether, then he took up gambling trying to make a living—a fool’s errand—and finally lost their bank account, the college savings account, their only remaining car, and even the house. The family had to move to an apartment in a rundown part of town and Jane in lieu of finding a teaching position, cleaned houses. The situation, bad as it was, lasted until the final coup de grâce—the O-ring went missing off a nightstand by Jane’s bed.
Who else could possibly be to blame? Jane demanded to know where Boris pawned the ring, not that she had the means to buy it back, and the worst fight of their marriage ensued. She ended up leaving and finding a one-room flat in a part of town where drive-by shootings were not only common but finding a body out front face-down in the gutter was just part of life.
No sooner had she filed for divorce than she got a call from Willie’s fourth grade teacher expressing concern why her son missed so many classes. Jane explained their move happened unexpectedly and her child would not return to school, but would have to repeat the year at another school.
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Mrs. Breniham, his teacher, expressed. “We will miss him sorely as he’s such a thoughtful child.”
“Thoughtful, you say?” the boy’s mother returned, her interest rising. “I’m glad to hear that. Frankly, this is the first time anyone’s ever called him that. May I ask in what way is he ‘thoughtful’, if you don’t mind me getting personal?”
“Why what he gave to my daughter. She’s also in our class, you know, and his gift was so considerate though a little large, but wonderful nonetheless. Once she gets a little older and grows, she will wear it everywhere, I am sure.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about. Willie has no money to buy anything. Don’t tell me he stole something!”
“Oh, I am sorry. I thought you must have brought it in the first place for him to give to her. I assumed he told you how fond he is of Peggy. Why, the two go everywhere together and sit side-by-side at lunch and in class. It is the darnedest case of puppy love I have ever witnessed. I assumed the gift he gave to her was to remember him after he moved away.”
“Why, the costume jewelry of course. Even though artificial, it must have been very expensive.”
“Describe the item, please.”
“That’s not costume jewelry. That’s my wedding ring from my late husband by a former marriage. The ring means everything to me, not to say being worth a small fortune. I’ll blister little Willie’s britches for this.”
“I would think about that. You see, Peggy has Down syndrome.
Wait! That can’t be all! Where’s the finish? What happens next? That can’t be the end! Did Jane and Boris reconcile as a result? How about the ring? Was it returned or not? Did Willie become a doctor? A philanthropist? Or a Nobel Prize winner? No raconteur worth his salt leaves a story hanging like that! Only a fraud hack!
……Oh, really? And why not? Why must there always be a conclusion or climax or moral or denouement? Who made that rule? Life’s not like that, is it? Is life full of happy endings? I should say not! The reverse is more like it.