The boy finds a fishing knife and uses it, treasures it all summer. Easy come, easy go?
This story was also inspired by a writing prompt: “What does a character carry in his pocket?” I hope you enjoy it.
Comments and Likes always welcome.
A Boy and His Knife
The twelve year old boy welcomed his first day of summer vacation. He would start his first job ever the next day. His mom had arranged for the job to keep him occupied.
But today was freedom. His friends were all busy with family activities. The boy rode his bike to a sandy field near his house. He skidded the bike around in the soft earth. He pedaled fast, then braked hard. In one skid he spotted something glinting in the dirt. He retrieved a silver pocket knife. Someone had lost it.
It’s mine now.
The boy tapped the knife against his bike frame to shake out loose sand. He opened it. Measured the blade against his open hand. A four-finger blade.
The boy wiped the knife on his shirt, tucked it into his right front pocket and continued riding his bike.
The next day he showed up early for his new job. Delivery boy for the local meat market, Pat’s Meats. Pat was ready for him.
“Good morning. Before I open the store, I need you to get the sack of sawdust from the back and spread it around all the floors. There’s a rake in the back. Spread the sawdust evenly.”
“Why do you do that?”
“To soak up any blood or scraps that hit the floor. When I’m cutting.”
The boy dragged the sack out to the customer area. He pulled out his pocket knife to cut open the sack. Pat saw what he was doing.
“That knife looks too dull for that.” He handed the boy a pair of scissors.
Later that day, after closing, the boy swept up the sawdust into a garbage can, spread fresh sawdust. While he did that , Pat used a steel brush to scrape the top of his cutting block. The block’s surface was hollowed from months of scraping.
“Good job today,” Pat said. “See you tomorrow.”
The boy’s second day was quiet with only a few deliveries. He watched Pat cut meat, hone his knives continually on a honing rod. The trimmed fat and scraps went into a barrel for pick up by a rendering company.
At the end of the day Pat used a whetstone to sharpen his knives for the following day. Pat stroked his knives across the surface of the whetstone while the boy followed every move.
“Could I sharpen my knife too?” the boy asked Pat.
“Let me see it,” Pat replied. He examined the knife. “All aluminum. A fisherman’s knife. It won’t rust.”
“I found it.”
“Lucky find. It’s a good knife.”
The boy smiled.
“Go in the back and wash it with soap and water, then I can sharpen it for you.”
Pat put the boy’s blade to his whetstone, then showed the boy how to do it himself. “Be careful with it now. It’s very sharp. Good for gutting fish.”
After a week of deliveries and in-store tasks, the boy was ready for a day off. He took his sixteen-foot skiff out in the bay to fish. Bottom fishing for fluke and flounder. He caught a half dozen fish the first day. He carefully sliced and gutted the fish on his boat, dropped the innards overboard for other fish to feed on. He wiped the knife carefully, tucked it in his pocket. At home his mom fried up the fish for their dinner.
The summer passed quickly. The boy worked five days each week, fished the other two.
Every day he patted his pocket dozens of times, feeling for his treasured pocket knife. Every Saturday, after closing, he sharpened the knife on Pat’s whetstone.
As Labor Day approached, the boy took a day off from fishing and wandered the neighborhood on his bike. A feeder road to the highway near his house sloped down to the local streets. The boy left his bike at the bottom of the slope, climbed up halfway to the top. He took out his knife, began tossing it into the ground to see if he could stick it in the dirt. He traced a target in the grass with his fingers, tossed the knife over and over. He speared the target most throws.
This is cool, he thought.
The boy stepped back a few paces, closed his eyes, tossed the knife at the target. He opened his eyes.
The knife was gone.
The boy searched the target area. Nothing. He ran his fingers through the grass and weeds. Still nothing. His search ranged up and down the slope. He found nothing.
For hours the boy searched for the knife. It must have bounced away from the target. He gave up his search when it was time to go home for dinner.
The boy showed up for his last work day at the meat market. He repeatedly felt his empty pocket for the knife.
“You’re very quiet today,” Pat said. “You okay?”
“I lost my knife yesterday.”
“I was tossing it at a target in the ground. I looked away. It just disappeared.”
“First of all, not a good idea. That will dull the blade.”
The boy said nothing.
“You found it, right?”
“I could say, ‘Easy come, easy go,’ but that won’t help you feel better.”
The boy cast his eyes down.
“You lost your knife. That’s a tough break. But look at it this way. You had a good summer with it. You learned to care for it. You fished with it…And you did a good job working here. No knife, but good memories.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
For weeks after school started, the boy reached for his pocket, only to find it empty every time. All through that school year he could still see the knife settled in his hand, feeling the heft of it. Longing for it.