“The Mission,” by Joy Williams

A Mr. Hill was doing my paperwork.

“What will you take away from this experience?” he asked me.

I looked at him, a little wildly, I guess.

“What do you think you will learn from the incarceration experience?” he said.

“I don’t know,” I said.

Mr. Hill wore a pink shirt and looked tired. His eyes were bloodshot.

“Have you been swimming?” I asked.

“I haven’t been swimming,” he said frankly.

I thought of Mr. Hill doing a strenuous butterfly in a blue cool but overchlorinated pool deep in the earth beneath the Mission.

I had been in jail but a single day and night when they realized they had overlooked the wedding ring on my hand. I wasn’t married anymore but I couldn’t get the ring off. My knuckles were swollen possibly because of the prednisone which I had been taking because I was tired, so tired. It was just a cheap gold band but I made a terrible fuss when they said they’d have to cut it off. Some of the girls had gathered around.

“They’re gonna cut off her wedding ring,” they muttered with amused awe.

I asked for Mr. Hill. He might tell them not to bother, I thought. I was only in for nine days.

But they couldn’t find Mr. Hill or he had in the meanwhile sickened or died, I don’t know.

They were determined to cut off my ring and after several attempts with a variety of implements they did. They took pictures. First the little ring was on my lumpish hand, then the poor broken thing was lying on a baggie into which it would be placed for safe-keeping and future retrieval. I didn’t regret the mangling of the ring as much as the disclosure heard throughout the dorm that I would be there for a mere nine days..

Read more in Little Star Weekly or Little Star #5

Joy Williams is the author of four novels and three books of short stories, including Honored Guest. Her 99 Stories of God was released electronically last year as a Byliner original and featured in Little Star Weekly on June 6.











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