The Ring

By Michael Cox

It had suddenly appeared on Ted Albany’s desk.

Every morning, as if by habit, he’d take off to his study ostensibly to read his newspaper; but in reality it was to get away from ‘the wife.’ And there it was, the worn red velvet box, just sitting on the ledge beside the envelopes. He looked over his shoulder like somebody who had done something wrong, or perhaps to catch a glimpse of who ever had placed it there. He gingerly picked it up and eased his sixty five year old frame into his easy chair. The box’s spring gave a small squeak as he prised up the lid, as if it hadn’t been opened for a while. Inside sat a golden ring, nestled into the slightly yellowing white satin. He pulled it out. It felt heavy and solid and looked old. There was scroll work on the outside and etched on the inner surface he could just make out the word ‘lucky’. The inside of the lid had the name of a jeweller, embossed in gold print, The Empire Jewellers, London Street, Hamilton. He hid it in a drawer; no point in exciting the wife too much; might be worth a bob or two.

Ted had been given early retirement from the Post Office and in the nineteen sixties re employment didn’t come easily. Their bungalow was freehold and his small Post Office pension together with their old age allowance kept the wolf from the door. His wife Dora’s careful budgeting wasn’t helped much by Ted’s predilection for ‘the gee gees’. When he’d been employed it had been easy to keep this expenditure hidden, but not now. It was a sore point between them.

Each morning he scanned the racing columns for ‘sure things’. He would slip out to the local TAB to place the odd bet. Sometimes he won, but never enough to compensate for the more regular losses. “It’s my bit off fun,” he’d explain to himself, “Bugger her.”

Next opportunity he had to go into Hamilton, he retrieved the red box from the back of the drawer and went to a jewellers shop in London Street. “Empire Jewellers has been taken over twice since that ring was made Sir. They especially manufactured them in the early forties for sweethearts to give their boys as they left for the war front. Known as lucky rings they was; not so lucky for a lot of them lads, not worth a lot of money though. Did you get away Sir?” Ted didn’t enjoy the direction the conversation was heading, thanked them and left. He didn’t like to remember that as a twenty year old he had paid an unscrupulous Doctor twenty quid to give him a false medical report. Home guard was the nearest he got to any action. He’d suppressed these facts even from himself over the last forty years, and the Jeweller’s question had caught him on the raw.

Mind you the war years had done Ted Albany a lot of good. He’d got into the ‘black market.’ Being in the Post Office he’s arranged with a brother of his, stationed at the New Zealand Embassy in Washington in the USA, to send him items that were rapidly becoming unobtainable by womenfolk in New Zealand. Boxes containing such things as black nylons, small bottles of perfume and even small jars of Nescafe coffee were diverted by Ted past the cursory inspection points in the Post Office Customs desk. It helped that they were liberally stamped ‘Diplomatic Corps’. He split the profits with brother.

One of his regular customers was Dora Graham. His trade with this very attractive brunette broadened into the odd meal at a hotel and eventually the bed room. Dora’s husband had gone away with the First Echelon of the New Zealand Force. They were school sweethearts and had married a month before Jack Graham had shipped out for North Africa. He wasn’t a great correspondent, and Ted’s attention and wonderful gifts had seduced Dora.

A week before the battle of El Alamein in 1942, Jack Graham had received a letter from a mate in New Zealand telling him about his wife’s ‘goings on’ with one Ted Albany. His tank and all its’ occupants were blown to smithereens. Death had come as a relief to Jack Graham. The pangs of hatred towards this man who was making love to his wife gnawed at his vitals. He longed to be back in his own country to reclaim her. These disappeared, along with a well read letter, into the western desert sands.

In 1944 Ted and Dora had married. The fact that she was three months pregnant with their only child, a daughter, hadn’t made it easy for her to say no to Ted Albany. The marriage had existed, just.

Ted thought about the ring and pulled it out from its’ hiding place. He tried it on, perfect fit, in fact he immediately experienced a feeling of well being, quite over- whelming. He turned to the racing page and looked for tomorrow’s starters. “That’s strange,” he muttered to himself and looked to the top of the page. The date of the paper was that of tomorrow; instead of the starters he was reading the results of races that hadn’t yet been run. “Must be a misprint,” he thought. He rubbed his eyes and looked again; he had not been mistaken, weird indeed. He checked the next day, down at the TAB, and sure enough they had been correct; he’d had the winners in his hands twenty four hours before the races were run. The following Friday, putting the ring on, he repeated the process, and sure enough, there, in the Saturday paper, were all they winners from Friday’s trots. He places fifty quid on a couple of the outsiders that the paper had listed as winners, and scooped two thousand quid.

He was frustrated that he couldn’t tell anyone and he was even afraid to put the cash into their bank account and opened one of his own. He repeated this sure fire gambling and had soon accumulated over fifty thousand pounds into the account.

“Wow,” he thought to himself,” I wonder if this works with this new Golden Kiwi Lottery.?” The next Saturday he followed the procedure and sure enough there they were, in the Sunday paper, in his hands on Saturday, were the winning ticket numbers for a hundred thousand pound lottery draw. Unfortunately the winning ticket was sold in Auckland, which had far too many outlets for him to visit to buy the winning ticket. The next week the winner was from the South Island, totally frustrating Ted’s plans. The following week he hit the jack pot. The winning ticket had been sold in Cambridge, just down the road. There were only two Golden Kiwi outlets for him to visit that Saturday morning. The first, a barbers shop drew a blank when he ruffled through the ticket books sitting on the counter. He bought one to satisfy the barber and those behind him in the queue, but knew he’d wasted his five bob. The second outlet was a dairy off the main street. He waited in the queue just hoping that ‘the winning ticket hadn’t been sold, His eyes popped wide open when he saw in sitting there in the book of unsold tickets. The proprietor tore it out and took his money. “Good luck mate,” he offered, and Ted carefully put the ticket into his inside pocket; it seemed to burn a hole through the cloth.

If Ted had read that Sunday paper more closely, he would have noticed a small item at the bottom of the same page, which read, ‘Last night a Golden Kiwi winner collapsed and died in his home in Hamilton. Ted Albany, a retired Post Office worker had shouted to his wife Dora, “I’ve won the bloody Golden Kiwi; you little beauty!” He had then dropped dead from a massive coronary.”

On hearing him shout Dora had rushed up to his study. She found Ted, dead as a door nail, on the floor. Later, at the funeral parlour, as she viewed the peaceful body of her ‘dear departed husband’ although distraught, she noticed that he was wearing a gold ring. She had asked the undertaker to remove it for her. As he handed her the ring he also gave her a scrap of paper which had been crunched up in Ted’s fisted hand. She unfolded the Golden Kiwi ticket. Her solicitor said it was hers to keep.

“It’s funny,” she said to her daughter Elizabeth about a month after the funeral, “two things have happened that I can’t understand. Firstly there’s that fifty thousand quid that the lawyers found in a separate bank account; the police looked at it but it looks alright for me to keep it along with the hundred thousand pounds Golden Kiwi winnings. It almost looks as if someone up there was looking out for me. Then there’s that ring. I know it sounds impossible and stupid Elizabeth, but it looks exactly like the Lucky ring I bought for Jack Graham just before he left to go to the war. I’ve had a good look at it and I can faintly make out our initials JG and DG on the inside; I had them engraved there before I gave it to him. Very faint they were; wouldn’t see them if you didn’t know where to look........ But no, it couldn’t be, could it, it’s not possible ...is it??”