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Mrs. Daley had been waiting twenty-five years for a diamond ring from her husband. She was a quiet, humble woman who didn’t ask for that much, though lately she found herself agitated and often yelling at Mr. Daley. She was human, after all, and wanted a few tokens of love and appreciation. He blamed her hormones. Mr. Daley had proposed to her right after the war started, when he’d gotten a terrible draft number. To save money he’d planned to ask her to marry him in his own living room rather than go out but realized his father could have come in and disturbed them. Plus, whenever she visited, he noticed how filthy the place was. He couldn’t propose at her house because her parents were always around, her mother making him dinner and sandwiches, especially BLTs, his favorite. And God knew he needed all the food he could get. It was embarrassing that he weighed less than the 118pound girl he hoped to marry. With night school and his job washing glassware in a chemical company, he never seemed to find time to eat. So they were sitting in the back of a bar they went to occasionally on Mount Auburn Street, each drinking a nickel beer. It was better proposing here, after all. You can’t kneel when you’re sitting in a booth, and the thought of kneeling did make Mike Daley feel a little silly. He expected to be shipped out right after his medical, and he desperately wanted to marry Joan Kathleen McCormick Mrs. Daley’s Diamond Ring before he went. Mike reached into his pocket for the ring he’d bought her. It caught on a loose thread of the lining. She had to help him get it out. The salesman said he should buy the box, but it cost extra, and he didn’t see the point of paying for something she’d never use. Engagement rings were kept on at all times. At least that’s what the girl in the shop told him. Although quite shy and very pleased at his proposal, the future Mrs. Daley was not so overcome by the romance of the moment that she couldn’t ask, “What kind of stone is this?” No one in her Italian family had much money, but all the women had some kind of diamond engagement ring, even if it was mixed with amethysts or garnets or other semi-precious stones. Rings were often passed down from older generations, but Joan didn’t think, given the squalor Mike lived in, that anyone in his family had anything to pass down. Mr. Daley smarted at her question. Lately he’d noticed nice-looking rings on her mother and her aunts, who visited frequently. His family rarely had callers. And no one had engagement rings. “It’s a zircon.” He looked down, his lips full, as they were back then when he was young and when Joan kissed them often. His slicked hair fell over his face, which he quickly combed back with his fingers. Mike

Crack the Spine - Issue 95

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