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The Necklace
He found his mother’s necklace on the kitchen counter. It no longer belonged to his mother. It belonged to the mother of his son—his wife. He’d never seen his wife wear it since it became hers. This was the first time he’d seen it in fact. In fact, he never really saw his mother wear it. He just knew the necklace was formerly hers.

            The chain of the necklace was gold. He wasn’t sure if it was real gold. The necklace had a round, black stone pendant, the bust of a woman embossed, a woman with a masculine nose. Maybe it was just a man with long hair. No, it was a woman, he was sure, but not an attractive one. The chain itself was a series of long straight links with several hinges throughout. Bunched up like it was, the chain looked like the lifeless legs of a crustacean. It was not a nice necklace. He didn’t know much about jewelry, but its origin might have been Caribbean. It was his mother’s necklace, so it had value to him, more value to him than probably to his wife. It was meant for a woman though, so he couldn’t wear it.

            He wanted to know why it was on the kitchen counter, but his wife wasn’t home. The kitchen counter had dirty dishes and several glasses with day-old water. The white tile adjacent to the necklace was stained bright red from a nearby leaky carton of strawberries. The carton should have been refrigerated. The drainage looked like blood. He rescued the necklace and held it. He brought it very close to his face. He let it touch him. It smelled like perfume.

            His wife didn’t wear perfume that often. It was not his wife’s perfume, even if she did wear perfume. He sniffed it again. It was his mother.

            In a drawer he found some Ziploc bags. He put the necklace in a sandwich bag, and sealed it shut. Then, he put that bag in a quart-size bag and sealed that one shut. He opened the larger bag and then the smaller one and took another whiff. He sealed them both shut. He hid the Ziploc bags containing his mother’s necklace in the back of his sock drawer, underneath the holey argyles.

            His wife didn’t notice that the necklace was gone and he didn’t say anything about it. That night in bed though, he wanted to talk about his discovery. He had gone into his closet and visited the necklace, and when he came back to bed, he wanted to talk to her about it but she was already asleep. He needed to talk about it. He called his sister.

            His sister had several pieces of jewelry from their mother. This particular necklace was one that his sister didn’t want, so it was given to his wife. He told his sister about the smell.

            Could it be possible?

            Yes, she said. Mom wore perfume everyday.

            His sister had renewed interest in the necklace. She wanted to see for herself. He asked his sister not to tell his father about the necklace. He had asked her before not to say certain things to their father. Sometimes she listened, sometimes she didn’t. She lived with his father nearby.

            The next day, his father called from the car.

            Are you home? his father asked, and shortly thereafter his father came bearing a tote of mandarins.

            His sister was shorter than him and she didn’t look up at him when he answered the door.

            They dragged the dining room chairs back. His father sat across from him and his sister sat at the far end. The Chambray his father wore was partway unbuttoned. This bothered him.

            Here, these are for you, his father said, pushing the mandarins towards him.

            Thanks, he said, but he had very little interest in mandarins. His father asked his sister if she wanted one and she didn’t, so he grabbed one for himself. The blade of his father’s pocketknife was serrated and the metal handle had a wooden inlay. He watched his father skin the mandarin. When his father bit into the fruit, some of the juice shot out and sprayed him right under the eye. His father didn’t apologize if he did notice, or maybe he didn’t notice.

            He asked them if they wanted water.

            Can we see it? his father asked.

            See it? he said. See what? he said.

            The necklace, his father said.

            What necklace? he lied to his father.

            He looked at his sister.

            Oh, he said. That necklace.

            He fetched and brought the bagged necklace, some of the chain catching light. It didn’t look as dull as it once did. He raised it for them to see like it was a goldfish.

            See? he said.

            Here, his father said sitting, reaching, standing, grabbing.

            His father’s fingers fumbled with the bags.

            What’s going on here? his father said.

            There are two bags, he said.

            Why would you do such a thing? his father said.

            He watched his father lift the open bag and dip the tip of his nose. His father had a perfectly sloped nose. His own had a little crook right at the bridge. His father sat and didn’t say anything for a long time—his blue eyes became a little wet. In his seat, his father turned a little away from them.

            Well, can I smell it? his sister said, but his father kept the necklace there on his lap, right above his crotch.

            Would you mind closing the bag? he asked his father.

            I’d like to have this back, his father said. She was my wife. I think you can understand.

            She was my mother, he said to his father.

            She’s my mom too, his sister said. Let me smell it!

            Then, his wife and son came home.

            Isn’t that my necklace? his wife asked.

            Momma, his one-year-old son said.

            Technically it’s mine, his father said. It belonged to my mother.

            And soon, the necklace belonged to no one. The links were much weaker than anyone had anticipated.

Ashton Politanoff lives in Redondo Beach, California. His fiction has appeared in NOON, Egress, New York Tyrant, and elsewhere.