Uncle Crispin, who wasn’t really my uncle, and nor was his real name Crispin, used to wear a large blue ring on his left middle finger. He took it off to show me, but only once. I held it and turned it this way and that, frowning, as if I knew precisely what I was doing. The ring was heavy. When I looked up, he was smiling at me. ‘It’s a beautiful piece,’ he said. ‘Don’t you think?’
‘It’s beautiful,’ I said, unable to think of an alternative word. I held it up to the light. ‘What’s it made of?’
‘I commissioned it in Sofia, many years ago,’ he said.
‘It’s so blue,’ I said.
‘The ring holds a secret,’ he said. He leaned in to me. I smelled garlic from the snails he’d eaten for lunch. ‘Contained securely inside,’ he said, ‘is a lethal dose of poison.’
I felt my eyes widen. ‘What kind of poison?’ I said.
‘A liquid, also blue. The deepest blue. But deadly. I instructed the jeweller very closely during the manufacture. It was a long time ago.’ He became thoughtful, and distant, and I fancied that he was imagining himself back in the jeweller’s dark and dusty old workshop. Then, he held out his hand, and I passed the ring over to him, relieved to be free of it. He twisted it back onto his finger. ‘Too serious,’ he said. He tutted several times. ‘Shush myself. I’ve taken us to another realm. Forgive me.’
© Barry Lee Thompson and ‘Stories, by Barry Lee Thompson’, 2013.