The Things We Treasure

July 19, 2012
Clarence clasped a shiny object between two dirty fingers. It was the most precious thing that he possessed. It seemed out of place in the grimy city that clanged and banged and vibrated night and day without ceasing. Everything was loud; everything was dirty.
Brick buildings, all exactly the same, rose up like the Berlin Wall in Germany. One side—the side in which he was captive—represented slavery. It embodied oppression and everything that was wrong in this world. The other side, if one could reach it, was freedom.
Clarence pulled his sandy flat cap low as was his habit and drew his pocket watch out of his pocket, flipping it open with the fluid motion of one who has done so so many times that he does not even think about the action anymore.
He wasn’t looking at the time. He already knew the time. It was the faded black and white photograph on the upper side of the watch in which he was interested.
It was signed in looping handwriting, “Annabelle.” He had had her sign it so that he could convince the guys at the factory that she really was his. “Ay! What a lucky fellah!” they had all shouted while pounding him on the back in congratulation when he had first shown them. “How in ages did yah manage that one?” He smiled to himself wryly. How indeed.
He closed the pocket watch and slid it back into his brown overalls, still clutching in his other hand the small object. It was a ring.
It wasn’t particularly striking, but it was important. It, too, represented freedom. Sometime soon, maybe tonight even, he would propose to Annabelle with it, and she would say yes, and together they would leave this city forever. They would start a farm and have horses and grow something or the other. Maybe wheat, or corn, or potatoes even. He didn’t really care what exactly. All that mattered was that he could make an honest living and leave the engines and the machines and noise far behind.
Clarence crossed to the other side of the street as he passed the factory that formerly had been his place of employment. He eyed it uneasily, almost as if he were afraid that at any moment arms would fly out and drag him back into it if he stepped too close.
Black smoke billowed from the rusted chimneys and floated lazily above the city, pondering whether it would rise and disappear into the sky or fall back down to the city in a choking curtain of synthetic fog.
Clarence had worked night and day for more than two years at that prison. He’d hated it. Every morning at first light he had rolled out of bed, dragged himself to work, and not returned until night was fast closing in. He’d paid his dues; he’s served his time.
The only thing that had kept him going was the measly pay that he received at the end of each week.
He saved as much of it as he could manage in a glass jar. The fitting title, “wedding ring,” had been scrawled on the side.
Clarence hid it safely away so that when the time came, Annabelle would be surprised. He wanted so badly, just once, to give her something nice.
The jar had filled up ever so slowly, but he kept stuffing all that he could into it. Someday, he had known, it would contain the amount that he needed.
That day had been yesterday.
The moment he discovered he had saved enough, Clarence had stormed into his boss’s office and announced very adamantly that this factory was going to have to find someone else to oppress.
“Don’t burn your bridges,” his late mother had always told him, but he didn’t care. Just this once, it didn’t matter. He could set fire to all of his bridges if he wanted to. He could set fire to the entire city! Soon he would leave everything behind.
Large drops of rain began to fall from the sky. Clarence flipped open his pocket watch and glanced at the picture. He quickly shut it and hid it in his pocket again lest the rain damage the photograph.
He shut his eyes, and for a moment he was no longer in that dirty city with its indistinguishable brick buildings and mud-spattered streets. He was in an open field- his open field- giving thanks for the rainfall that watered his crops.
He held his arms up to the sky and whooped joyfully. Rain water ran down his face and into his eyes, and with his free hand he pushed his wet hair out of his eyes.
People passing gave him odd looks, quickening their pace as they walked by. They probably thought that he was insane. He didn’t care. All that mattered was the tiny object in his hand. Soon he would be free.
Then the unthinkable happened.
The ring slipped out of his grasp and bounce twice down his raised arm. It landed on the cuff of his shirt and bounded off, spinning slowly as it dropped towards the ground. His desperate grab at it only managed to knock it further away from him. It landed with a ting of metal colliding with concrete. One foot, then two feet- Clarence watched helplessly as it slowly rolled towards an open sewer grate in the street.
It slowed and fell over with a rattle similar to the way a coin clatters after you spin it and it is dying out.
It lay precariously on the edge of the abyss. Clarence breathed a sigh of relief. Then, the ring shook and almost as if it had consciously decided to jump, it tipped and fell down the grate. A damp plop told Clarence of its fate.

And so on the happiest day of his life, he was wet and penniless and jobless and he had no ring. But it still was the greatest day of his life, because ring or no ring, he proposed, offering a tiny string which he tied around Annabelle’s finger to take the place of the shiny ring he’d worked so long to lose.
Of course, she said yes, and the next week, Clarence packed everything that he owned, moved out of the city, and started a farm which was not particularly successful.
That is, it was not particularly successful if you count success in the form of dollars or possessions. But thankfully, Clarence didn’t. “Money can be burned,” he would say with a laugh, “and possessions have a bad habit of getting lost in drains.” He was happy and Annabelle was happy, and when everything is said and done, that was all that mattered really.

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This article has 18 comments. Post your own now!

Snowflakes said...
Oct. 29, 2012 at 5:21 am
This was a really nice story :) I loved it. I found the bit with the drain pretty tense haha. 
I like how you didn't make it all sloppy at the end by saying 'and they lived happily ever after' or whatever, instead you basically stated that they were going to manage with what they got.
I really liked it :) good work! 
GGLovesLife said...
Oct. 22, 2012 at 8:27 am
Really good! :) Nice job!! I think it might be a good idea to sepreate the paragraphs a little, but awesome otherwise. :D
Atl.Braves03 replied...
Oct. 22, 2012 at 9:09 pm
I actually did, but somehow when I submitted it they all got bunched together
Davidson This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 16, 2012 at 10:37 pm
I like the way you actually incorperate symbolism into this story, as well as the way you repeat things that are recurring themes, thats neat. I feel like though It's unneccesary to go and explain what the metaphores and symbols mean, like you did at the beginning with the buildings. Good piece though
AnthonyDavidHall said...
Oct. 14, 2012 at 8:16 am
Your writing style isn't bad. Go back and remove unnecessary sentences, though.
2nd Draft = 1st Draft - 10%
Atl.Braves03 replied...
Oct. 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm
Thanks for the feedback. Could I ask what sentences you though were unnecessary?
PaRaNoRmAl627 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 13, 2012 at 7:51 pm
I really liked your writing style a lot, and like everyone else said, I liked the moral. I just feel like it came on a little too suddenly. Clarence was sooo thrilled to have bought this ring, and then all of a sudden he was like mehh no biggie :P It's a really great concept, and I really enjoyed reading it though. Definitely keep writing!!
KenyaLove41 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 13, 2012 at 3:06 pm
i liked the story and how you presented the moral of the story in a unique and creative way(: nicely done.
guardianofthestars This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 2, 2012 at 9:28 pm
I love your moral!!! And I loved your story! I enjoyed every bit of it!!! :)
Courage-and-Honor said...
Sept. 27, 2012 at 7:08 pm
I like the point the story gives...alot of people seem caught up on looks these days.
elites5 said...
Sept. 27, 2012 at 12:46 am
Really good and super cute! I loved how you shared a powerful message in your story without truly stating it in the story. It kept me wanting to read more. Keep writing! :)
BlueSunset said...
Sept. 26, 2012 at 5:10 am
I liked it a lot, very well written and it had a lovely ending. You write in a soft yet powerful way that drags the reader to read more of the story. Well done and keep it up xx
KnitsandPurls said...
Aug. 20, 2012 at 9:09 pm
Lovely. Like Waffuleez, I am not a romantic story person, but this was something more than that. I was so dissapointed when Clarence lost the ring. Also, thank you for the happy ending.
Allicat001 said...
Aug. 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm
One of the best stories I've read on TI!  I loved how Clarence finally lived to have a happy life, a hopeful life.  And the story was very well written throughout as well.  Definitely a 5/5!
KateyKat said...
Aug. 19, 2012 at 10:24 pm
I love the moral of the story, and some of the parts really creep up on you. Every step of the way I was entranced! Keep up the good work!   ;D
FlameSeeker373 said...
Jul. 29, 2012 at 7:50 pm
That was cute, sweet, and short. I loved it. It shows that all the things that we fuss about( wedding rings, wedding dresses, ect.) are just objects and what really counts is your love for a person. A two thumbs up from me! :)
marchbutterfly said...
Jul. 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm
OK, so the story was so good. It was so descriptive and suspense. It had me on my toes especially at the end when Clarence loses the ring. Anyway this story definitely kept me engrossed and entertain as well as it had a very likable and dynamic main character. All in all, job well done. :)
Waffuleez said...
Jul. 27, 2012 at 2:11 pm
I was so worried that Clarence wouldn't have a ring to propose with!! Seriously, I was on the edge of my seat...erm...bed. But anyway, I really liked this! And you should cherish that comment; keep it in a pretty little box. I never usually enjoy any stories with romance. But this was really cute and sweet. Good job :)
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