The diamond flush

"Why don't you wear this ring?" Betsy Boey asked her husband, Mike, as she went through their jewelry box. "Your father wore it every day."

So Mike Boey began wearing the ring once worn by his father, Bob, who ran B&B Hardware in Napoleon, Michigan, for 61 years.

One day Mike came in from mowing the lawn, and Betsy feared they'd be late for a dinner engagement. "Why don't you just jump in the shower, quick?" she said, and Mike obliged, though he almost never took showers, preferring a bath instead.

When they returned home, Mike's unkempt towel, on the bathroom counter, caught Betsy's attention. She shook it out to hang when — kerplunk — something flew into the toilet.

The lid to a small spray bottle, Betsy decided. Not wanting to clog the drain, she reached down and blindly felt the little object hidden in an underwater recess. But it eluded her as she managed only to push it beyond her touch.

She made a dam with her fingers and flushed the toilet, hoping propulsion would usher the wayward item into her custody. Alas, it did not. Plink, plink, plink, the whatnot sounded as it raced down the drain.

The next morning, Mike was preparing to meet friends for coffee at Big Boy in nearby Brooklyn, Michigan — a regular thing Betsy calls the Liar's Club. "I can't find my ring," he told her.

Betsy Boey, who through a series of innocent events had succeeded in flushing her late father-in-law's $4,000 diamond ring down the toilet, was suddenly just sick. "I know exactly where it is," she managed to utter.

She called upon their daughter's ex, a plumber, who removed the toilet to the front yard to flush its nether regions with a garden hose, then took apart the plumbing all the way to the basement wall. No ring.

She phoned plumber after plumber to ask if they had a little camera that might snake her pipes. None did. Many referred her to Danny Moore of South Central Sanitation in Napoleon, who was sympathetic but not hopeful. He knew his 80-gallon-a-minute sludge pump would suck the glove right off your hand.

"We'll try," he told her, but as he was too busy to get to it at that moment, and as the Boeys were preparing to winter in Florida, the matter of the lost ring was left unfinished — disastrously so, in Betsy's estimation — until one day the following summer.

"This isn't working," said Marty Keyser of Danny Moore's South Central Sanitation crew, as he stood in the Boeys' septic tank with a garden hose, watering down the six-inch-deep sludge, which they euphemistically called "black gold."

One wouldn't normally get down into a septic tank — not even a professional — but the tanks of homes around Little Wolf Lake were being put out of service, filled with sand, as the homes were connected to municipal sewer lines. So the crew had caved in the top of the Boeys' tank with a backhoe, as they had done with so many others, enabling them bodily access.

Chris Pohl, another crew member, put on his big yellow boots and eased himself down with Marty as Danny's nephew Tony, the third man on the crew, watched from above.

Pohl began shoveling the fragrant sludge onto a tilted slab of broken concrete, and Marty watered down each deposit. Several shovelfuls later, Pohl felt his shovel hit something — probably a stone, he thought. But as he emptied his shovel onto the slab and went for more, the tiniest glint caught his eye.

He reached down, stuck a finger into the sludge and brought it up wearing the very diamond ring Bob Boey wore all those years, and his son after him.

Their exclamations shall not be repeated here, but as they rinsed the ring and Pohl raised it up to give Betsy, who was looking on, they could hardly believe. No one, of course, was happier than Betsy, who gave each of the fellows a hundred-dollar thank-you when she returned to earth.

A version of this story originally appeared in
The Exponent, Brooklyn, Michigan.


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