A String of Curses

He does not advertise his work.  He clips metal and bends it into ringlets and he whispers his words to gold or silver links.  He crafts his works in the night and in the day they come. The patrons, the clients. He fulfills each request and he hands over their prizes and he has words for them too.  Don’t tell, don’t tell.  But even still, more clients find their way to him all the same.  And he does clip more metal, and he does whisper words in the night.  

His shop is buried beneath a diner, an eatery specializing in sandwiches with cute names.  The smell of bread permeates. At the street is a door with the diner’s name in elaborate swoops and swirls and beside it is a door with a simple sign.  Beyond this door are stairs and at the bottom of these stairs is a door with a sign much like that above.

The lover comes to the jeweler’s doors.  The first door and the door below.  At a window in a foyer she rings a bell and she waits.  She runs her tongue across her teeth where lipstick might run in a smear but it does not and the gesture is fruitless, needless, a tick.  The jeweler steps stoopbacked through a doorway a foot shy of his looming immensity, thin and long of limb.  At the window he leans down and smiles and with the pull of a knob he moves aside a section of glass.  

“Yes?”

“A necklace.”

“A necklace?”

“What would it cost me to have a necklace made.”

The jeweler looks away and he looks back.  

“What is the necklace worth to you?”

She tells the jeweler it depends.  It depends on if he can make just the necklace she wants.  

“And what is it you want?”

“I want people to do what I want.”

“Give an order, they carry it out, yes?”

“Yes.”  

“Not a persuasion or a suggestion but a demand.  A domination.”

“Not those.  A domination, yes.”

“Not a love charm.”

“Anybody can be loved,” she says.

In two days she returns to take possession of her necklace, and the truth of its worth and the price it demands are secrets known only to the two principals.  

The widow comes to the jeweler’s shop.  She says hello with her voice rising and then she says it again.  The jeweler steps under the arch of his doorway and he leans to the window and pulls aside the square of glass.  The widow touches a bundled cloth to her nose and dabs at that place twice, three times. She says to the jeweler that she’d be pleased if he could make her a ring to replace the one given to her by her husband.  The jeweler’s features soften and he says to the widow I understand, I understand.

“No.”

She says to the jeweler that she has come for a ring that repels affection in all its many forms.  She says her husband is not in truth dead but he may as well be. She says he is no longer her husband.  Then she begins to cry.

Two days later the widow is slipping a new loop of white gold onto her ring finger, and as payment for this trinket she leaves behind a wedding band with its stones and engraving, and when she tries to pay further still he says no, he says this will do.  

Oh but she does return.  Weeks go by and they come along, those patrons, those clients, and then she is there at his door, she is one of them again.  The widow enters the little foyer and she hellos and he stoops to step through the inadequate doorway. He holds his hands cupped together at his chest a moment as he looks through the window to where the widow stands.  Then he pulls aside the square of glass and he returns her hello.

There is silence.  Seconds that go on and on.  When she speaks she requests a charm of a different sort.  The jeweler stoops further still.

“Did the ring not work?”

She says the ring worked fine.  His mouth forms the beginnings of another question but she is already speaking, she is saying again that it’s fine, everything’s fine.  

When two days later she returns it is with some reluctance that the jeweler hands over the charm, a gem suspended from a chain, this stark, ugly bauble.  She asks the jeweler his price and he says to the widow in voice solemn that on this day for this item he can ask no price. He touches her hand and nods and looks away until she takes her get and leaves with that talisman from which the wearer finds death.  

The lover returns to the jeweler’s door on that very day.  She rings the bell, and when the jeweler ducks through his doorway she is turning links of that imperious necklace she bought weeks and weeks before, the metal brushing across soft, soft skin.  The jeweler offers a smile.

“Yes?”

The lover gives an ahem, a throat clearing that is not.  She says to the jeweler she cannot love the woman she loves.  She says the love she harbors is repelled.

“You made a ring for her and now I cannot feel what I feel.  You took that from me so I made her do something.”

From her coat she pulls a charm, an ugly, offensive thing, that gem on its chain.  She slaps it on the counter before the jeweler’s window with a thunk.  

“In my madness.  In my grief.”

“That’s not yours,” says the jeweler.

“Open your window, jeweler.”

The jeweler opens his window.

“And I am mad still,” she says.  “My grief is with me still.”

The jeweler is staring with eyes wide at the gem and its chain.

“Jeweler,” says the lover as she pushes the charm nearer him.  “Put this on.”

Craig Rodgers

 

Craig Rodgers is the author of stories that have appeared in Juked, Heart of Farkness, Chicago Literati, Not One of Us, and others. He has an extensive collection of literary rejections folded into the shape of cranes and spends most of his time writing in North Texas.

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