by Regan Calmer
One sunny day on a farm in the hills above Montreux I kicked a glittery clump of dirt and picked it up. Further down the pasture into the trees I came to a stream and knelt, submerging the clump in the cold, running water. The clay and caked mica melted away to reveal a beautiful, finely wrought pin. At its center a very large ruby was cut into a gorgeous, barrel-chested heart, set in a thick belt of eighteen-carat gold. A half-inch wreath of intricately woven rose-gold and platinum threads was braided around the setting, and welded to the back, like curtain pulleys back-stage, was the simple mechanism: A long, thin, hinged gold pin that clasped into a hammered hatch and attached the fascinating emblem to the undoubtedly beautiful breast of the woman for whom it had been made. The sounds of the Swiss forest swelled, suddenly, around me, like the strings in an overheated Wagnerian overture, and the ruby was illuminated by a beam of sunlight. Peering deep into the center of the gem I saw, hovering marooned like a freshly formed planet in a bit of ersatz outer-space, a three dimensional image of universal harmony. My own heart jumped as I imagined the lover who had lost the precious jewel, running through the pasture to the consummation of a breathless tryst. I put the pin in the pocket of my blue jeans and continued down stream.
The woods urged me forward, their roots breaking up through thudding compost, propelling me from tree to tree. Pushed onto the prancing stones of the stream, I skipped, delighted, along the dappled sunlight of life. Twenty other explorations of this wood among three farms had discovered a dell; the secret, sacred place I shared that summer with another. As the water flowed further the forest thickened into a furious bramble that forced trespassers to turn back, or muster their courage and continue, thoroughly discouraged, bent in an accursed, thorn-picking crouch. Just when one was utterly trapped and confounded, the briar broke open on the verdant relief of the dell, which we had nicknamed Delft. The forest floor leveled off and paused for a small, swirling pond, replete with strange russet lily pads and myriad tenuous reflections of the delicate surround. The limited landscape contained a curious infinity; here all of nature was encapsulated in a fantastic snapshot - a ruddy landing, or porch along a little shore, melting up into a textured carpet of vibrant, crenellated fern, which faded into a mossy sofa, fitting throne for the fallen Eve, or a nude Europa. The bed was canopied by a tender confusion of wisteria, slip beneath the giant skirts of the ancient willow that held the glade in its embrace. Now and then her winnowing branches parted in the breeze to reveal scudding white clouds and startling clear blue sky.
Excited, I scrambled up and reclined in my accustomed position on the natural chaise lounge. A moment later Dee came crashing flushed and cursing through the thicket, picking burrs from the sleeves of her pink button-down dress shirt. She glared, enraged, enchanting, and stormed up to lie beside me. She unbuttoned her sleeve impatiently and pulled back the cotton fabric to reveal the long scratch she’d gotten from a nasty prickle, a thin red line along her downy forearm.
“Son of a bitch!” I wet my finger and ran it slick up the cut. She winced and pulled her arm away.
“Shit!” Her wide eyes flashed laughing at me under classy black bangs, and she flipped her hair back for that first, fresh kiss we always shared there among the shimmering leaves. When we broke I reached into my pocket and handed her the pin. She stared at it incredulously.
“What the hell is this?” Dee was smart, snappy, problematic. While she studied the brooch I studied her. She was just sixteen, the only daughter of corporate executives who rented the neighboring farm. We had found each other wandering one day and the rest was wonderful mystery. She always dressed too well for the excursion, with white socks and black loafers, blue jeans and a black alligator belt with a polished silver buckle. She was busty but narrow-hipped, with a fair complexion, thin lips, black eyebrows and fine, aristocratic features. She knew I worshipped the dumb luck that had dropped her throbbing into my eager hands. She could tell the pin was precious and authentic, but definitely not brand new.
“You bought it for me?” This with the wry, intelligent sarcasm of a girl who always got what she wanted.
“Of course not, I found it in the mud and washed it off in the stream. Isn’t it cool?”
“Yeah.” She was not impressed. “It’s really weird.”
“If you look carefully into the center of the stone you can see a symbol of universal harmony.” She giggled, pretended to look, then handed the brooch back.
“Pin it on me.” So I did, fumbling with the thin fabric of her shirt. She pretended it was ticklish and bucked and shied, prolonging the anxious chore. “Careful, don’t stick me! You’re such a stupid poet, Garner, I could never go out with a sap like you. But we have had a damned good time this summer, haven’t we? How’s it look?” She leaned back and posed, batting her black eyes like a belle, impatient to get on with our delightful, protracted ritual. The brooch hung there awkward and absolutely awful looking, the worse for the clumsiness with which I’d attached it to her shirt.
“It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen.”
“And you, sir, are an absolute ass.” She began slowly to unbutton the shirt, looking me dead in the eye.
About the author:
Regan Calmer is a married father of three, living in Queens, NY, who has his wet snout out the car window snapping at the fresh breezes of the literary e-zines. (Seven Seas, Opium and Prose Toad).