Deep in the mountains of West Virgina superstition is re-discovered...
|Ellies' grandmother passed away last Easter. She lived to be one hundred and four years old. Ellie inherited her twelve-room farmhouse located in West Virginia, nestled on the north side of Poe’s Belton Mountain. They were in the process of moving into the home, when fate hauntingly came to visit.
Their story begins on a chilly fall day. Ellie and her husband Tommy had just found a gold, antique-ring, centered with a omniscient opal and had a smiling face carved into it. The ring was a family heirloom thought to have been lost, long ago.
“Elli, could ya' come look at this?” Her husband Tommy yelled from the cellar.
Clinging to an antiquated ladder while hollering back, “In a minute! I just need to hang this darn' border while this ladder is still in one piece… if that’s all right with you?”
Ellie shrugged her shoulders and continued to hang the plaid border. She got dirt-cheap from some well-to-do-lady at the local church basement sale.
An hour passed and Ellie heard Tommy stompin’ up the dry-rotted cellar steps. Entering the kitchen, he knelt over and grabbed his knee. Out of breath, he pulled the hand-rolled cigarette from his lips and asked, “Where in the heck have you been? Glad I weren’t dyin’ or somethin’.”
She swore that Tommy was the most impatient man she had ever known. She climbed down the ladder and crumpled up the tattered piece of border.
“My hands are freezing. When are you gonna’ git’ that durn’ furnace fixed?” She asked impatiently.
Tommy was covered with soot, cobwebs and grease, and his face cringed in disgust and defeat. He pulled his hat back, scratched his head and asked, “Why don’t we just git rid of this oversized shack?”
Rubbing her hands together, she pouted her lips and snapped, "This is not some durn’ shack. This is my dag-gone kins’ home!! We Whitehaire’s have been liven' here for at least a hundred or so years. Plus we don’t have no kind of money fur’ another shack.”
Tommy shook his head and realized this was one argument he was not going to win and asked, “Don’t ya wanna know why I was hollerin’ fur ya’? I came upon some things in that ole’ vent-work. They’re probably just junk but I figured that you’d best have a look at em’, so I chucked them in this here ole’ coal bucket.”
He handed her the bucket and she dumped the contents out on the burnt-orange Formica table. She began rooting through an assortment of old coins, bobby pins, marbles and a ring.
“The ring!” Her eyes gleaming as she lifted from the rubble.
Stumped, Tommy came closer to inspect it himself. Reaching for the ring he asked,“Wathcha got there?”
Pulling the ring out of his reach she held it up to the window declaring, “I can’t believe it. This here is the ring I thought I told you bout’. You know… the smiley-face ring my granny held so dear."
Reaching for it again he said, “I don't reckon I recall. Is it worth anythin’? Is it a… ya know a diamond? Come on. Let me git a better look at it.”
She handed the ring to him reluctantly. He looked it over and then threw it on the table. She swept it up and with an old Whitehaire glare Ellie demanded to know, “Whatcha go and do a dang fool-thing like that!”
Tommy pointed his cigarette-stained finger at her and said, “That thing ain’t worth a nickel. I don’t have the time fur' this I need to git back to fixin’ that furnace.”
“You don’t know watcha talking bout’! My granny loved this ring. She said that it was… well, magic.”
He laughed, flung his arms up and sarcastically replied, “Whatcha got there is a worthless old hunk-of-junk.”
She quickly responded, “If yur gonna be a goof, I just wont’ tell ya the story behind it.”
Tommy realized that he was about to be put in the doghouse and said, “I’m sorry, go ahead and tell me bout’ your Grannys’ ring.”
Placing the ring on her finger, she held up her hand and gazed at the ring that smiled back. Then, they both sat down at the kitchen table and she elaborated on the legend of the smiley-faced ring.
“Granny was a religious women ya know. She didn’t tell tales and definitely was opposed to any kind of witchcraft and superstition. But this ring she coveted and swore by all ten of her kids that it protected the family… sanctified by the Lord of course. She claimed whenever somethin’ terrible was bout’ to happen, the ring would turn dark gray and the face would disappear.”
Tommy reached into his flannel coat and pulled out his pack of Buglar. Masterfully, he sprinkled the loose tobacco into a rollin’ paper and before you could blink an eye… he had it rolled and lit.
Elli continued. “She discovered the rings' mystical powers one day when she was mending Pappy’s trousers and listenin’ to the radio box. The sewin’ needle stuck right into her finger--to the bone she claimed, and being worried bout’ an infection and all, she went to the kitchen to git some iodine out of the medicinal box. Upon opening the bottle, she spilled the rust-colored liquid all over her hand. After cleaning up the mess and rinsing her hand clean she realized that the ring had turned gray and the face was gone. She thought the iodine ruined it right-good. Disappointed, she quietly cursed pappy fur tearin’ his trousers anyway. Then … at that very moment, she heard the radio announcer yell, THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN SHOT! PRESIDENT KENNEDY IS DEAD. Respectfully, she reached for her bible and began to pray. She claimed everyday was the Day of Judgment and that day she believed it--being he was the president and all. Later, after she composed herself and got supper on, she noticed the ring was smilin’ once again at her. She claimed for years that ring would warn her of troublin’ times. Why the very day pappy accidentally chopped off his big toe with the wood axe, she told him that the ring was gray and to avoid messin’ in the old barn.”
Tommy pinched out his smoke and shook his head at her again, and sarcastically asked, “Is that ring gray right now? Cause’ this house is gonna be the death of me.”
She turned her back on him and warned, "You’ll see…this ring is real whether you believe it or not. By the way, you’re right… that furnace needs affixin’. It’s colder than a witch’s tit in here. Go on now…git back to work."
She went back to hanging the border and Tommy reluctantly went back down to the cellar. A few hours had passed and the racket he was making ceased. Then there was a quick clicking noise--a vibrating feeling and then a bang. The awful smell of a newly-lit fuel oil furnace billowed up through the vents.
She climbed down off the ladder and stood over the cast iron vent while fervently warming her near-frozen hands. Bending over, she yelled down through the vent, “It’s bout’ time you fixed that thing. I was worried that you might half to sell that tractor of yours to git it fixed proper.”
Tommy did not respond. He loved that tractor. He would rather burn the house down than to part with it.
Stomping back up the steps, he entered the kitchen. She laughed. He was covered in soot. A coalminer was a cleaner sight than him. Again, he reached for his Buglar and plopped down at the kitchen table. He wiped the dirt from his eyes and said, “I’m takin’ a break. How bout’ you?”
Ellie replied, “In a minute. I just want to finish this last wall."
Tommy washed up a bit and then went into the living room. He positioned himself horizontally on the old- musty red velvet couch and it wasn’t long before he was sawing logs. Ellie thought to herself…that man can bring out the worst demon in me sometimes… but I love him still.
After an hour had passed, she began feeling tired and had a dull, aching headache. She figured the smell from the wallpaper glue caused it, so she decided to take a break. She went into the living room and flopped down on Granny’s old wing back chair. Tommy was still out cold and her headache was getting worse. She started to feel sick and became quite dizzy. She tried to wake up Tommy. He was very groggy.
“What’s the matter?” He slurred.
Carefully, she got up from the chair and before she could make it to the couch, she fell. While trying to push herself back up, she noticed that the ring had turned gray and the face was gone. Tommy was weak as a baby but was able to help her up.
She begged, “We gotta git’ out of here…somethin’s wrong. Look at the ring.”
Tommy pulled her towards the front door, not concerned with the ring. They found themselves sitting on the front porch swing. The cold fresh air brought life back into their poisoned bodies.
It was then, Ellies' cousin Bud pulled up in his 1970, half- ton, four-wheel-drive pick-up truck.
He asked, “Why you all sittin’ out in the cold?”
Tommy told him what happened and Bud replied, “I told you, those chimneys' needed cleaned out. Why you could have did yourselves in right good. That carbon-monoxide gas is a killer in these parts. Always remember Tom…Keep your chimney as clean as your boots for Sunday church.”
Tommy and Ellie looked at each other and embraced. He whispered, “God darlin', I'm sorry. From this day on …like your wedding band, that ring will stay on.
!!!Ellies' adventure continues in "Yard Salin"