Here is Part VII of Poor Valley Witch, the short story I’m writing, warts and all, on this blog. I’m editing as I go and making lots of mistakes! But, hey, it’s a writing experiment. Go here to start at Part I. Here’s Part VI.
“Sacrificed? What the hell does that mean, sacrificed?” Landon gripped Mamaw’s shoulders. She shook her head.
“Nothing. Let me see the ring,” she said, holding out her hand. He gazed at her a moment more, then sat down on the bed next to her and took the ring off. She took it from him and squinted at it, teeth bared in the shrewish expression he remembered from his childhood. It was her concentrating expression, reserved for tricky bits of sewing or the contemplation of broken things. It had always scared him a little bit; the exposed teeth made her look feral.
“There’s the engraving, but that’s not what I’m looking for … See here,” she muttered, turning the ring to look inside. “See the little bump in there? The circle.”
Landon leaned close to see. “Yes.”
“This is the lost wax ring.” The lost wax ring? What the hell did that mean? Was the ring lost, or somehow made of wax? It looked like gold to him.
“I don’t understand, Mamaw.”
“It’s a way to make jewelry. You carve what you want to make out of wax and press it into clay, then bake it to melt out the wax and make a mold. See, you have to leave a little nubbin that sticks out of the clay so it all drains out. And you have to leave little nubbins inside to hold it together while you’re carving the thing.”
“Lost wax,” said Landon, bemused. He didn’t understand what this had to do with anything, but Mamaw seemed calmer talking about it. She seemed more like herself. He wanted to keep that going. “Then what?”
“Yes. Then you melt the gold and push it into the clay mold. With centrifuge.” Her words became a whisper. “Little gold nubbins are left on the ring. From the mold. You have to cut those off.” She caressed the slight bump on the ring with one finger.
“Your mother made this ring,” she said with a finality that startled him. “In college.” Landon’s mother. Mamaw didn’t usually like to speak of her. She lived in Florida now, had gone south for a vacation when he was a kid and never come home again.
“Come with me,” said Mamaw, swinging her legs around to get off the bed.
“You sure that’s a good idea?” Landon put one hand on her arm. “You just fainted!”
She took his hand in hers and patted it with a wan smile, then stood up and walked out of the room. He looked down at his hand. She’d tucked the ring into it. He ran out after her. She was already out the back door, headed to the garden shed. She pulled open the door with a jerk and marched into the gloom. Landon barely made it to the shed before she marched back out, almost colliding with him.
She held a rusted mint tin. “Here.”
“What’s this?” He took the tin from her, still holding the ring in one hand.
“It’s the nubbins,” she said. He opened the rusted lid and looked inside. There were three tiny, misshapen cylinders of gold and a desiccated dead beetle. She closed the lid again and closed his hands around the ring and the mint tin.
“Keep these safe,” she said. “They are more important than you know.”