The Pocket-Knife Calamity

An Essay By Edith // 8/13/2007

Note: Based on a true story.

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It was a hot summer Saturday evening in the year 2007 on the 2’nd of July, and the house felt hot and sticky as my older sister and I stayed home together waiting for our parents and brother to return from their errands. We both sat at the dining-room table, pencil in hand, and quad paper in front of us. I was going through the dreadful business of skimming over fractions and fixing them, writing and rewriting the problems; Moira was preparing me for the math section of my C.A.T. exam. I was so tired. The long hand on the old analog clock seemed to move slower than ever. It was five nineteen p.m., and it seemed as if even ten minutes were to pass by it would not yet turn five twenty. I glanced at our white and tan Irish Foxhound/Golden Retriever on the floor, who was curled up in a big white ball in the corner, sleeping. How I wanted to do that now just like he did, more than anything at the moment, but time told me not to… and so did my sister. Though, now that I look back, what I really wanted to do was hop in a pool and stay in it all day until it was dark and the moon was out, and I would go back in the house and watch a movie. But that wasn’t going to happen, at least, not that day. That day was all planned out – with plans I didn’t even know about at the time! Yes, the sun was out beaming on the houses and trees. Yes, the town pool was open and it was glittering blue and clear, nice and cold and quite inviting. Yes, it would get hotter even later on in the day. And yes, I was stuck at home for who-knows how long, going over fractions, a prisoner to the math book… But that was okay. I began thinking of how thankful I should be, and the more I thought on that, the less annoyed I felt. I was very close to smashing the math book against the window, to watch it fly into the backyard and land somewhere in one of the holes Falkor had dug. But I didn’t do it that time. I sat there glued to my seat, elbows on the table, fingers tapping my forehead, pencil in my mouth, and a big black blur of numbers in front of me. School. I repeated to myself. Concentration. I just kept on saying it, over and over again. Finally I got everything straight and clear, and I turned the page over to the next lesson.
Five twenty-six p.m., and the doorbell rang. They were back! At last my parents and my brother arrived, brown packages in hand. Today was not a food or clothes kind of shopping. It was a house shopping; lights, paint, molding, doorknobs, locks, shower-hooks, scrub-brushes, tiles, outlets. Ah, yep, we hadn’t had those in a long time, and finally we could straighten up the place a bit. I was happy about that. We could make the house neater looking again, and scrub floors and shine them. Finally we got a scrub-brush and a shower-hook! I was very excited. But, then, I did not expect what was coming.
“Theresa,” My dad approached me with a small brown package in his left hand. “You’ve worked very hard this past month, and you’ve done well in your studies.” He then handed it to me, and I opened it. Inside was a box. A small grey, rectangular box, and in the bottom left corner in capital (but small) white letters it wrote: VICTORINOX.
I stared. Could this be what I thought it was? Could this be the one thing I’ve always wanted, so I could work with it and keep it in my jean pockets and go out with it? Yes. I slid the cover off, and there lie a shiny pocket-knife in its case. It was a red pocket-knife, too. One that I’ve always wanted. Red and shiny – the real kinds of pocket-knives. A MacGyver pocket-knife, a dad pocket-knife, smart peoples pocket-knife. Red and shiny, with all sorts of tools attached to it. I was speechless. What could I tell my dad? Just a “Thank you so much, dad!” and then hug him? Bah. That would be so typical and cliché – and for some reason it wouldn’t show how much I was really grateful to him. Nevertheless, after a minute or two of staring at it with an open mouth and widened eyes, I decided to go the usual route… I was at a loss for better ideas on how to thank him.
“Thank you so much, dad!” And I leaped out of my chair and hugged him tightly. He smiled and seemed to know how thankful I was.
“Well, you are very welcome, T.” And he patted me on the head and walked back in the basement to do more work.

Wow. A real, live, sharp, red, pocket-knife I held in my hand and pressed my thumb against its smoothness.
“Look, Moira! A pocket-knife!” I exclaimed.
“That is a beauty!” She replied and held her hand out to hold it. I gave it to her and she laughed, “Yikes. Theresa – holding a real pocket-knife. That’s scary.” I slapped her arm kindly and jokingly. I could handle a pocket-knife! After all, MacGyver did – and look at all the traps he got out of with it! Dad does, and my friend does, and he’s only two months older than I am.
Moira handed the pocket-knife back to me, and we both sat back down to continue our studies.
“Isn’t it cool, T?” Gregory cried and ran to me, “I helped dad pick it out. You can work around the house with it now, you can help with fishing stuff, you can open cans, you can take splinters out, you can fix lights and wiring, you can do a ton of things with it!”
I laughed, “I know. Thank you for helping dad pick it out, G. Now I really do feel smarter.” I joked, and held the pocket-knife up so it could shine and reflect the window and light.
“Are you gonna check what kind of tools there are? And how they work?” Gregory asked me.
“Yeah, lemme see that for a moment, if you don’t mind, Theresa, I could help you figure out what is what.” Moira said. Well I was all for that, so I handed the knife to her and she took the little folded piece of paper (rules and instructions and warnings) and opened it. “Letsee now, you’ve got a long blade, small blade, can opener, screwdriver, and here is a combination tool – it’s a… uh… bottle opener and wire stripper. Then here’s a reamer, metal file, key ring, tweezers, toothpick, and I think that’s it. Sweet, T! That’s awesome!” She said and then placed it on the table.
“This is splendiferous!!” I gave a corny grin I just couldn't keep back any longer. I was so happy.

Soon the call of my mom and Moira telling me to finish up homework interrupted my excited mood and brought me back to the studying kind. I must finish these problems. I told myself over and over and over again. So I put the knife down in front of me and left it for a while, every-now-and-then glancing up at it to make sure it was real, and still there.

Finally I couldn’t take it any longer. I couldn’t concentrate. I had to just hold my pocket-knife in my palm. I had to feel it – I felt so… so grownup, you could say. MacGyver had a pocket-knife, just like this one, and the first thing that came to my mind was when MacGyver saved himself with the knife – his red knife, just like mine! He and his grandpa, Harry, were being chased by these men – these killers, and they used their pocket-knives to cut branches and poisonous plants. If they hadn't had their pocket-knives, the TV series wouldn't go on, and there'd be no more MacGyver, 'cause he'd'a gotten killed! Imagine that!! So, I sat there and stared at the smooth object in my hand. I felt it. And then I realized how stupid it was of me to feel this way… I was grownup. I’ve been mature, but this made me feel even more so. I couldn’t help but take out the long blade again, and gently – very gently, at that – run my fingers across the side of its silver looking sharp blade. So I did. I stuck my short fingernails into the little handle in the blade, and I pulled it out. It was a strong and sturdy blade, I could tell that, because I had a heck of a time lifting it out from where it lies inside.




The pain… oh… oh the pain was terrible and excruciating! What was that? Did I hear someone scream? The voice sounds familiar, but the words don’t make sense…
“Aw dang. Mom, she’s bleeding! She’s bleeding! Her finger is bleeding.”
Wow. Who’s bleeding? Can I help? Perhaps find a band-aid?
“T! T!”
Tea who?
“T, – get to the bathroom sink and hurry,”
Who? Me?
“Uh-oh.” I whispered. I looked down at my forefinger and, to my most utterly surprised brain, I found it slit open and bleeding. Yeah. To the bathroom was right. I didn’t even feel my legs stand or move, but before I knew it I had lead myself into the bathroom and was furiously running cold water down my index finger. There was blood on the bathroom tiles and the sink… Where is that light-switch?? I panicked. This was not the sort of way I wanted to show my appreciation to dad. I felt awful. I felt sick. I wished I had never even tried to open the knife. For some reason, the thought of MacGyver got me angry, and I wondered why he never got cut.
– What was that? I heard footsteps… they were coming from downstairs, and reaching their way up. DAD!! He’s coming up! If he sees my cut – I – I don’t know what I’ll do! I feel so bad! But it was too late. Dad was walking down the hallway whistling the tune “Whiskey and Tobacco” as he always does when he was in a good mood. But I knew that mood would be changed, and no more whistling would I hear. He came to a stop at the sight of me leaning desperately over the sink with a pained appearance. But his expression didn’t seem to change.
“Cut yerself, did ye?” He laughed. Laughing. How could he laugh at a time like this? I felt sick to my stomach, and I could see the color straining from my face as I looked desperately at the mirror, as if that person reflecting my own self would help me! I knew from the very first time I got my first small splinter; I would never have made a good nurse.
I tried to act brave. No frowning, no shaking, no sitting, no nervousness. Just act normal. “Will I need stitches?” I said in a happy voice, which I soon realized was much too happy and corny for the occasion. Knowing that, I quickly changed my facial expression to at least a little dull. Then it would look like I was in pain – but still brave, even though the sight of the spurting blood and the feel of it all over my hand made my stomach churn and my body quiver. And I’m the one who could take a leg amputation in Horatio Hornblower or an arm amputation in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Dad had been right after all. I had gone completely nuts.
“Heck, naw, you won’t need stitches. Come on, hold it tight with this towel and count to three hundred and fifty while I run downstairs and finish a few tiles. I’ll come right back up. I promise.”
Three hundred fifty!? I almost fell back into the bathtub. Was he serious?
“I’m dead serious!” He said as if he had read my thoughts.
I grumbled. “…Please don’t say that.”
“Sorry. I meant to say: ‘I mean it.’ My apologies.” So I let out a huge sigh, gripped my towel-covered finger so tight I felt it turn cold, wet, and numb, closed my eyes, grumbled some words, and counted to three hundred fifty.




One hundred two…

One hundred twenty…

One hundred fifty…

Two hundred five…

Two hundred ten…

Two hundred thirty-eight…

Two hundred fifty-seven…

Three hundred three…

Three hundred nineteen…

Three hundred forty-one…

“Three hundred and fifty.” I gasped in pain. I had to sit down. I had tunnel vision. My head spun. My arms shook. My legs felt week. Did I even have an index finger anymore? I must have because I was still clutching to something even as I seated myself at the edge of the tub.


Dad was returning. I let out a sigh of relief. I felt safe when he was with me.
“Ah, so how’s it feeling?” He asked, still with that tone as if nothing had happened.
“It doesn’t feel like anything, ‘cept numb and throbbing – other than that, I c-can’t feel much of it.” What a difference in our voices! I needed to get a grip of myself. I thought I was brave and grownup. To be honest, I knew I wasn’t so brave. Sure I didn’t complain, but inside I feared the needle and thread and…
Okay. Theresa, just zip it and don’t even think about that. You’re fine. He’s pulling out the band-aids now. The small one too, that’s a good sign. No – wait – he’s pulling for the bigger one now. Well it’s not that much bigger. Woah! No! Now it’s the large square shaped band-aid! My heart thumped.
“You sure I won’t need stitches?” I asked again, this time I didn’t care if he heard the fear in my voice. I was, in fact, frightened, but it didn’t bother me if he knew it or not now. All I wanted was the most aggravating, annoying, blood, throbbing, piercing pain to go away in my forefinger.
“Sure, T. You won’t need stitches. It’s deep, but it only deepened sideways. You cut it so it’s like a cap now. That’s why there’s a lot of blood. If you actually dug down, then you would need stitches. But the blade just wanted to know his owner, so he only decided to cut a long slit sideways. You’re fine. Just don’t stick your finger in the cake icing for twenty-four hours, if not less. That would be sorta messy, dontchya think?” He gently wrapped the long band-aid ‘round my finger. I felt like a robot. Or a pirate. Only instead of a wooden leg it was a wooden finger. Or, at least, that’s how it felt.
“Yessir.” I mumbled, still embarrassed. So he did trust me to keep the knife after all?
“Well when you’re done changing your clothes, wait for me in your room and I’ll give you some ‘Safe Rules’ around that Pocket Knife o’ yours.” He chuckled, then gave a disgusted glance at my shirt and caprise which were covered in blood. I did look a bit like Mister Blakeney.

The first thing I did was run to the dining room table and grab my pocket-knife. I realized that I did not hold a grudge against it, as one might usually, but I felt extraordinarily grateful to it. It did feel like it really belonged to me now. I walked back into my room and changed, still clutching what was once blood-stained blade and pocket knife. Minutes passed that hot and sweaty July day as I unlocked my bedroom door and waited for dad to return. I was in clean clothes now, and the only bloodstains you could see were those upon my finger and ugly band-aid.
So, I sat in my desk chair, swung around a few times, and played some Brad Paisley on the computer. Country music always cheered me up. I looked at the bold alarm clock glowing on my bookshelf. It was six o’clock p.m. Gosh, time went by fast when you’re busy hacking yourself to pieces with new knives…!
Soon enough, I heard dad’s footsteps in the hallway again, and he entered through my doorway, with his usually kind and crooked smile. “Now let me start with the most important rule, Theresa,” He took the pocket-knife from me and pulled out its largest blade, “this blade – as with all the others – you never put your fingers around it and shut it, like this…” And he showed me an example of the way not to close the big blade. I cringed at the thought of getting my fingers chopped off. Painful stuff… I don’t recommend trying it any time. “What you do is lay your palm out straight and flat, like this, and then lean the BACK part of the blade against your palm (the dull side) and press it shut, like so.” And he showed me then, as well. It looked like it felt so much better and that awful feeling of fear sort of disappeared.
“May I try?” I asked.
“Of course.” He handed me the knife. I opened it the way he showed me – that is to gently grab the little dent or, small hook on the front side of the blade, then pull out – but watch your fingers so as to not poke them and cut them again. Then I laid my palm out stretched just like he said, leaned the dull side against it, and … pressed.
Nothing happened. Press. I tried again, yet still, nothing happened. My hand was too weak.
“Hmph… gee, that’s odd. I guess my hands are sorta tougher than yours are, eh?” But I only sighed in reply. “Oh come on, Theresa, it’s not a matter of life and death… unless you’re very careless, then it’s just a matter of thread and needle.”
Argh. Why did he have to say such things at such moments? He sure had a talent for tickin’ ya off when your stomach feels like its got butterflies in it.
“Well, your arms, fingers and wrists are very strong from playing the piano. I think it’s just the angle you’re pressing the knife in.”
Perhaps he was right. Though whichever one it was, I was starting to feel angry at myself for not being able to do anything right with the knife dad had bought me minutes ago.
I tried again. It wasn’t shutting. My hand just didn’t have the muscle to press the blade back into place. Maybe if I switched hands. I had been using my right hand – which had the cut forefinger – to press the blade with, and my left hand to hole the pocket-knife. I decided to switch, even though my left hand had always been practically useless to me. It was always a very weak hand indeed; I couldn’t do anything with it, except play the piano. Yes… I am a righty, and probably always will be…
I tried this same thing again with the other hand, which I am most ashamed to say, turned out worse. I did not cut myself, but boy did I whack my left hand against that old desk of mine. I could tell that dad was certainly enjoying this little ‘show’ or ‘demonstration’ I was putting on, but heck, I knew I was not feeling the greatest that day.
I switched hands to my original position again.
Again. And again. And again I tried.
Press. Press. Press. Dad was starting to laugh! And I couldn’t help but grin. I was such a little girl at times. Press. Press. Snap. YES! I shut it.
“Practice that, okay?” Dad said in a satisfied voice.
“Yessir.” I said happily. I wasn’t so bad after all.
So dad left the room, and I sat there with the A.C. blowing in my face, and I practiced for about twenty-five minutes. Then dad called me from the patio outside. He had been barbequing steak, and I assumed he wanted me to run and get a spatula or a plate to put the steaks on.
“Yo! T!” I heard him call out.
“Comin’!” I shouted from my room, and ran across the house to the back door, almost tripping on my way, which lead to mom hollering from the kitchen “Theresa don’t run!!”
“Yeah, dad?”
“Oh – I’ve got this pack of shower hooks I wanted to open and set up upstairs before dinner. Could you be so kind as to open it?” Dad pointed to the thick plastic package on the patio table. Open that?? That’s crazy! That was a very tightly sealed package! How was I to open it? The only thing that could open that would be a very sharp knife!
“That’s right!” Dad said, as if he had read my thoughts. I would use my knife for the very first time, on something that wasn’t my own body…
I felt sick to my stomach again. What if I cut another part of my hand? What if I dented the shower hooks while attempting to cut through the strong plastic? What if I got it open but cut myself on the plastic? What if I dented the table? What if – what if – what if – what if I just quit thinking so pessimistically and opened the dang thing, hey?
I pulled the biggest blade out from the pocket knife. I picked up the package, and held it firmly. I gently pressed the sharp edge of the blade against the sides of the plastic package. I then started sliding my way down, slowly, but surely, down the entire package, and around. Then I slipped it ‘round the corners and pulled off the plastic. Then I took the blade, laid it against my straight palm, pressed gently, and snapped it in.
“Thank you, Theresa.” Said my dad with his typical Irish smile. “Good job.”


fun read!

What a fun read! I like how it centers around the classic "if you fall off your horse you have to get back on" theme... You're a very talented writer. What's a CAT exam though?

Anonymous | Mon, 08/20/2007


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