Rings

I met Ruly when she was still called by another name. This was in 2005, when I managed a bookstore. She had a jewelry store upstairs, and came down with a banner that she needed to hang from the air duct several stories above the main floor. I held the banner while she rigged it, and an exchange of maybe fifteen minutes led to my visiting her store for the beautiful silver she carved. Waves, and trees, and moons, and stars. Streaks of resin. Ravens. Owls. Skeletons laughing their way down a river. I loved her work. Started hucking it at a series of girlfriends as though that were romantic.

Who needs a U-Haul when you have hand-carved silver jewelry?

After break ups, I burn everything. But I couldn’t figure out how to burn the silver. Ruly let me use the welder to torch out the resin, flame against the silver to burn it clean. New. By then I was working for her, keeping her books. We’d sit in the studio and talk art as though we were still in graduate school. Reference books everywhere. The tumblers shaking in the background.

I’d already met my wife, and Ruly was the first person I read my vows to. When I’d finished reading, everything was silent, and I thought, “Fuck. They’re terrible.” But that wasn’t the silence. We weren’t even friends yet, Ruly and I. That was still forming. If we were gangsters, you’d have called it an association. The way I dropped in to create order, and she was deep in a spin of chaos.

She’d tell you a candid story of her addiction, but I will tell you that her work got angry — coffins blooming from hearts, holes in everything. She drew skeletons swallowed into the earth. And then all at once she was done. Sober. Resolved to pay for everything.

Sometimes we’d hand guilt back and forth, the way you do when you’re in the middle of a redemption story. Trying to be good when being good seems like such dreary fucking work.

What are you working on?
Myself.
Fun.

I’ve known Ruly for twelve years, and worked for her for seven, and today she gave me a new wedding ring because I outgrew my last one. Yesterday her cat died. She started crying when she was telling me about it. And then I started crying because that’s the fucking worst, man.

“I know you know how this feels,” she said.

Of course I knew. And she knew I knew because we’ve been friends a long time. Long enough for me to see her work become the most astounding hand-made art ever. She’s making me an anchor heart complete with arteries and rigging. It’s funny how the rigging has come full circle. Full heart.

I don’t think we get as many friendships as we expect. The kind that feel like a mitt. As though you can actually see evidence of the ball striking — the wear, the comfort, the aptitude. My wife is covered in Ruly’s jewelry. And I have this small, perfect ring that winds on and on. A loop of pain and joy and love and art and waves of leaves winding round and round and round. She calls it her Growth Ring. Oh yes, sister. Yes.

4 thoughts on “Rings”

  1. “What are you working on?
    Myself.
    Fun.”

    Nice. You’re right, too, of course: we don’t get as many friendships as we expect. I thought, probably, as a child, that they would be infinite. But they are the exact opposite.

    1. I’m reading the Penderwicks series and it’s filled with nostalgia, and idyllic days of soccer and reading and sisterhood. The novels are lovely. I don’t miss being a child, but I miss the world before cell phones.

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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