The Ring by Rebecca Hurst

She gave her ring to the river on the day a certain anniversary crept round again. The ring was gold, bright as her hair. She pitched it high into the air and the river swallowed it: glock.

The river carried the ring for a while, puzzling it against rocks, the muddy bank, a rotting wooden quay where a fisherman sat, dangling his line into the silty, wandering water. Beneath the quay a fish was swimming along with its mouth open and it swallowed the ring absentmindedly. The gold gleam was lost in a deeper darkness.

The ring gave the fish a stomachache. It saw a hook, a worm, near the cloudy surface of the water, and forgot it knew better, bit down hard. The fisherman sliced the fish open, found the ring, tested the gold between his crooked teeth, and tied it in a knot in his handkerchief.

The next day the fisherman gave the ring to his lover. Her hair was red gold. She had a freckled nose and had just that moment nicked her thumb peeling potatoes. (She was making chips to go with the fish.) She was surprised how glad she was (felt her heart would explode with joy) when the fisherman pressed the ring into her hand.

“It’s nothing,” he said. “The river gave it to me.”

She tossed the chips into the deep fat fryer, and the oil hissed like a flock of angry geese: it’s nothing. When she slid the ring onto her finger it fitted perfectly, lying snug in a shallow groove above the second knuckle.

The chips were just right: crisp, golden, and perfectly seasoned. But to punish the fisherman she overcooked the fish. Later she tossed the skin and the potato peel into the river.

That night a fish swam back and forth in the silty, wandering water beneath the woman’s house. It sang to her in a voice that was crisp and golden. She had never heard anything so beautiful. The song filled her head, flooded her room, the house, poured through the deserted streets and out into the surrounding fields and water meadows.

At last, in the darkest hour, just before daybreak, the woman left her bed and walked down to the riverbank. The tide was flooding in, the river as high as she had ever seen it. There was the thumbprint of a moon above the rooftops. Hitching up her skirt, the ring glinting on her finger, the woman waded into the cool water, let the river hold her, and then let it sweep her away.

Rebecca Hurst is a doctoral student at the University of Manchester’s Centre for New Writing, where her research focuses on Russian and Soviet literary fairy tales. As well as writing fiction and poetry, she is a dedicated doodler whose work often combines words and images. Her writing has appeared in SWAMP and Cricket Magazine, and has been broadcast on NPR.

The thing she floats away on is opera. Specifically, the opening bars of Dvořák’s “Rusalka” played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra at Glyndebourne in Sussex. Sitting in the front row of the stalls during a rehearsal, she remembers a wave of music crashing over her head, pouring past her seat, and flooding the house with sound.

ArtPriscilla Boatwright is an illustrator and writer working in San Antonio. She is fascinated with myth, magic, and the connections between cultural identity and art. Priscilla received her BFA in illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. See more of her artwork at http://cargocollective.com/boatart.

Back to Issue 5: Things that Float

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