Saturday, May 14, 2011

365 Jobs, Day 134: Boy Scout Pocketknife

Saturday, May 14, 1983

In the garage I open a drawer and am face to face with a mama rat, three babes at her teats. 

For one moment we gape.

Her instincts are faster.  She leaps to the floor
with a flop, babes clinging, dragging.  She’s gone.

In seconds I destroy her home.

Beneath the nest, soaked in life’s liquids, lies my old pocketknife, Official Boy Scout model, now rusted, stinking, filthy.  Wrecked.  

With this knife I whittled wood, punched leather, opened cans, played mumbledepeg, sliced legs off frogs.  (Sorry.)  More recently it's fallen into abuse: cutting insulation batts, trimming asphalt shingles, or just poking wood in search of termites.

My son Jesse wants it.  First grade.

I say, “It’s ruined.”

Jesse says, “I’ll fix it.”

“What will you do with it?”

“Cut things.”

He’s six.  Too young.  “You have scissors to cut.”

“I want it.”

In six years I’ve learned to recognize need.  What is it with boys and knives?  I bought this - drained my life savings - in 1955.  I wanted it.  My parents had doubts.  I needed it.  I was eight years old. 

“It’s yours, son.”

He scrubs it with steel wool and oil.

I demonstrate the whetstone, how to hold, fold.  The blade is pitted, black, but sharp.  A six-year-old with a bulging pocket, a need fulfilled, an edge that can kill.  A gift from a father … and a rat.

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