Issue 35, Final Fringe

Ringlet

by Russell Hehn Issue 28 10.24.2011

“What’s on your mind, Dolly?” he’d asked, finally.

“Nothing,” she said.  “I just love you, Sherman.”

“I love you too,” he said.  “You’d better write me while I’m gone.”

And then they said goodbye.  She wrote, but he never read the letters, and he never replied.  It scared him to death to think what she might have said.  He lost the letters just before facing off with the Baron, and they may very well still be in a shoebox in Scotland somewhere.

“What’s on your mind, Amelia?” asked Mason now.

She seemed to be thinking, or listening.  “It’s hard to tell these days, ever since my little ringlet showed up.  My head’s not my own, it seems.  It’s like I’m listening to a million radio stations at once up here, and I can’t tune in on any of ‘em.”

“There’s nothing good playing anyway,” said Mason.

“You sure are taking this well, Macie.  If I were in your shoes—finding me like this and all—I believe I would have gone loony by now.”

Mason laughed one great big Ha.  “Some things you just accept,” he said.  “There’s no use getting in an uproar about it.  It is what it is.”

“I think so also,” said Amelia.  “I tried taking this thing off at first.  Nearly cut my finger in two.”  She displayed a tender scab midway across her index finger.  “So, I figure I’ll just have to live with it.”

“Did it hurt?”

“About like a paper cut.”

“Hmm…”

Nothing was said for quite some time.  The pair stood on the beach, looking into the horizon, back to the Americas and beyond, enjoying the company.  The boys in the plane had gotten into the cigar stash and were using stones as poker chips.  Monty was faring poorly, apparently, as heard in his verbal languishing.  Mason knew they had to leave soon, and he knew Amelia wasn’t coming along.  That was just fine.  He’d rather not be known as The Man Who Found Amelia Earhart.  That seemed weighty.

“There is one thing, Macie,” said Amelia, abruptly.  “Came through on the airwaves a couple days ago, I think.  I can’t remember when.  Maybe this morning.  Anyway, your name came up.”

“That’s why my ears were burning,” smirked Mason.

“You’re such a card!  Are you being flirtatious with me?”

Mason, blushing, “Not at all.”

“I’m flattered, Sherman.  You make a girl feel special.”

Mason might have continued flirting too, under different circumstances.  But something was bothering him.  “Who was talking about me?” he asked.

“Oh, that’s impossible to say.  Could’ve been anybody.  Might have been nobody.  Who knows.”

“Who knows…”

“There’s a man’s been sending you some pretty bad juju for quite some time, Macie.  I thought you should know.”

“Juju?”

“Juju.  We say that in Kansas.  They say it in Connecticut too, I think.  I heard a Connectican say it once.  It means bad energy.  Ill will.  That sort of thing.”

“Mumbo jumbo?”

“Something like that, I suppose.”

“I don’t know what I could have done to deserve that.”

“Oh, I think you probably do.”

“What are you saying?” offended.

“I’m not saying anything yet.  I’m just saying you probably do know, you’re just being stubborn and myopic, Macie.  Don’t be so defensive.”

Mason, mercurial, “Well, who is it, Amelia?  Who’s sending me bad juju?”

“It’s all so vague and garbled.  I can’t be as specific as all that.  But he’ll be in Florida on Wednesday.  On the beach.  Place called Holly Hill, around five o’clock, if you want to make amends.”

Mason went slack-jawed because he believed her.  “How do you know that?”

“Those monks.  Those Astronomer Monks.  They pop in and out up here.  That’s how you found me, I reckon.  They’ve got all kinds of gadgets and anointed spyglasses for these sorts of things.”

“But you don’t know who?” he yelped, losing every bit of his until-then cool and collected demeanor.  He might as well have dropped to his knees.

“I don’t know, Macie!  Some guy!  Some man who’s upset with you.  You must have some idea who it is.  I doubt you’d even know his name if I told you—if I even knew his name.  Which I don’t.”

“What do I do?” he pleaded, his tone being of such despair that the boys stopped their poker game just long enough to gawk at Mason’s broken edifice.

“I think you should go to Holly Hill on Wednesday.  You could use a vacation anyway.”

Mason was in disbelief.  Not exactly disbelief, for he knew this was true and that she was right, but he’d reached the point of knowing a truth, which is often met with disbelief.

“You’ll never see Dolly again if you don’t, Macie.  She’ll never meet you in Point Loma like she said she would, because she can’t.”

“Is she dead?  She’s dead, isn’t she.”

“No, she’s alive and well.  But this juju’s really throwing a kink in that little plan you two had.  You’re hexed, Macie.  I don’t know what you did to deserve it, or if you even deserve it at all, but it’s there.  You should go.  It couldn’t hurt.”

“I should go,” he said.  Whatever stoicism had been there before had been replaced by obvious contemplation, a state of mind that Mason sought daily to avoid.  “We’re losing daylight.”

Amelia was not surprised, though she did appear saddened, but only for an instant.  “It was fun while it lasted, Captain Mason.  Would you like your jacket back?”

“No,” he said.  “Florida’s a little too warm for a jacket.”

“Thank you,” she said, running her hands along the sleeves.  “Say hello to Noonie for me, if you see him.”

“I will,” said Mason.  “It was nice to meet you, Amelia.”

“And you, Sherman.”

Redbone fired up the prop, Cuffs put away the cards, and Mason took the wheel.  They’d have to hurry if he was going to make his train in the morning.

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Russell Hehn

Russell Hehn

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Russell Hehn is a teacher and landscaper in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  Some of his other work can be seen in Barcelona Review, Interrobang?! and Pindeldyboz.