Dating : Cutting Through

h2>Dating : Cutting Through

Kenneth Muir

Kindness comes in many forms.

My grandfather and I were hanging around when the man came to the door to sell the knives. Except for the fact that he had a lazy eye, he was a pretty normal looking man of around thirty years old.

“What’re you selling?” my grandfather asked him.

“These are the best knives in the world,” the man said. “You want to take a look at them?”

That’s what he wanted. He was trying to sell some fancy set of knives.

“Come in,” my grandfather said. “You want a cup of coffee?”

My grandfather had a coffee cup filled with vodka. But he didn’t tell the man that.

“I’ll take a cup,” the knife man said.

“What’ya take in it?” said my grandfather.

“Black is fine,” said the knife man. “I don’t want to be any trouble.”

“No trouble at all,” said my grandfather. “Tell me what you want in it. If you want cream, just say cream. Sugar, just say so.”

“Alright,” said the knife man. “Cream, then.”

My grandfather led him to the kitchen and poured a cup and added the cream. The man took the cup and we all sat down around the table.

The knife man had a roll with him. It was a fancy sort of leather job with straps that fed through brass-looking clasps.

“Mind if I start?” the knife man asked.

“That’s what you’re here for,” said my grandfather. He sipped from his cup.

I watched the knife man unbuckle the roll. It was an old thing, cracked and brown. He had it fastened up real good and it took him a minute to unstrap it all. When he had it all undone he unrolled it on the table my grandfather had made.

“You mind if I use the toilet before I start?” the knife man said.

“Your dime,” said my grandfather. “It’s down the hall on the left.”

The knife man got up and went down the hall. I could hear him fumbling with the doorknob. Then I could hear him urinating into the bowl. I could tell he had lifted the seat first because I hear the clicking noise the seat made when it was lifted and pushed back against the toilet tank. He ran the water into the sink and then came back.

“Thanks,” he said. “Sorry for that.”

“That’s alright,” said my grandfather. “Let’s get started.”

The knife man had a routine. He was a real salesman. He started off by talking about the company he worked for and about how they had been in business for a hundred years.

“It’s still owned by the family,” he said.

Then, “What’ya think about this one?” he said. He held up a real beauty of a knife. The handle was nice wood, something dark and exotic looking. The blade was silver and had little teeth running along one side.

“That’s a beauty,” said my grandfather. I saw him take a big sip from his cup. The man turned his coffee cup around so he could grab the little handle on the side more easily and took a big sip himself. I think he could tell that my grandfather didn’t have coffee in his cup, but he didn’t say anything and neither did I.

“Sure it is,” said the man. “Let me show you how well it can work.”

The man pulled out a tomato. I couldn’t for the life of me tell where he got it from. Maybe he’d had it in a pocket or something. But sure enough, there it was. A real beauty, too, big and ripe and red. He took out another knife and demonstrated how difficult it was to cut a tomato with a regular knife.

“Most people don’t realize how tough it is to cut a tomato,” he said. I was watching his eye now. I mean, I was watching the lazy one. I was trying to make eye contact but I didn’t know exactly where to look. So, I just looked back at the tomato.

“This is just a regular type knife like what you’d get at the supermarket,” the knife man was saying.

He was still trying to saw away at the skin of the tomato. It was sad how little the knife would cut. I wondered if he had dulled the blade or something. I looked over at my grandfather and he was still holding his coffee cup and about to go in for another big sip.

“That’s a common problem,” my grandfather said.

“Bet your bottom dollar it is,” the knife man said. “Now you take our knife,” he said, “it’s completely different. It’ll cut through easy every time. Here, give it a try.”

He held the knife out to me with one hand and he was holding the blade, offering me the handle. In his other hand he was offering me the tomato. I looked over at my grandfather and he was still just sitting there with his coffee cup and sipping away.

“Go ahead,” my grandfather said. “Take them. Let’s see what you can do.”

I took the knife first and then the tomato. I set the tomato down on the table that my grandfather had made and got ready to cut in.

“Hold up a minute,” my grandfather said. “You’ll scratch the hell out of the table.”

He got up and went to the other side of the kitchen and pulled out a little cutting board that slid out from the set of knives we had in a wooden block holder. Then he came back and lifted the tomato and set the cutting board down with the tomato back on top.

“There. That’s better. Now you’re ready to go. Let’s see what you can do,” he said again.

I sliced and sawed that tomato into about a thousand pieces. The whole time I was doing this my grandfather was looking on with a big smile on his face, like this was the greatest thing he’d ever seen. I looked up when I was finished and the knife man had the same kind of expression on his face. I was looking at his good eye and trying to focus there. It seemed like the polite thing to do.

“See what I told you,” the knife man was saying, “These knives’ll cut through anything.”

“I can see that,” my grandfather said.

“Don’t believe me?” said the knife man. “I can tell that maybe you’re a bit skeptical. That’s a sign of intelligence.” He was looking right at me with his good eye. I was still sitting there with the knife in my hand.

“Here. Hand me back the knife,” knife man said.

I handed him back the knife and watched him wipe the blade with a little cloth he took from one of his pockets.

“Now watch this,” the knife man said.

He took a little strip of copper from his pocket and put it on the table. Then he asked if he could use the cutting board. I started pushing it over to him, but my grandfather jumped in again.

“Wait a minute. I’ll save that tomato, if you don’t mind,” said my grandfather.

“Don’t mind at all,” said the knife man. “I was just going to toss it anyway. Picked it up just this morning just for this.”

“Can’t see wasting food,” said my grandfather.

My grandfather put the tomato away and washed up the cutting board and came back. He handed the cutting board to the knife man.

“Thanks. Now, watch this,” said the knife man.

He took the copper strip and held it tightly between two of his fingers. Then he started sawing away at it and it wasn’t long before it was cut in two. It was actually pretty impressive.

“Very good,” my grandfather said. “What else do you have?”

“I could tell you were a man of discerning tastes,” said the knife man.

He and my grandfather seemed to be having a good time.

“I’m going to get another cup. You want one?” said my grandfather.

He held up his empty cup.

“Well, I don’t want to be any trouble,” the knife man said.

“No trouble at all,” said my grandfather. “How about some of the high test stuff?”

My grandfather was on the other side of the kitchen again and was pulling out a bottle from the cabinet. He held it up so the knife man could see the label.

“I really shouldn’t,” the knife man was saying. “But what the hell. Sure.”

My grandfather poured two cups and returned to the table. He set one cup down for himself and another for the knife man. They both clinked their cups together and drank.

“Let me show you this,” the knife man said.

He took a pair of funny looking scissors from the roll out case and some pennies from his pocket.

Then he cut right through the pennies. It was something. Each penny fell down on the table in two pieces after he cut them. He must have cut through eight or nine pennies.

My grandfather slammed his hand down on the table.

“By god,” my grandfather said, “I’m sold. How much for the whole set?”

The knife man was a bit surprised. He looked out the window that was behind me. I turned around to see what was there, but there was nothing. Just the grass and the maple tree and the neighbor’s yard.

“Let me see. For the whole set, it’d be a hundred and fifty dollars. Plus tax.”

“We’ll take it,” my grandfather said.

“Very good. I’ll go get you a new set from my car,” the man said.

My grandfather waited until the man was outside and then he got up and went across the room and got a coffee can from a cabinet. That’s where he kept his money. He took out the money and put the can back and came back to the table and sat back down. The front door opened and the man came back in with a nice looking box.

“You want me to open it up for you so you can check them out?” the man said.

“No. That won’t be necessary,” my grandfather said.

He gave the man the money. It was a lot of money. The man took it and put it right away into his pocket without counting it. Then he said goodbye and left the house.

When my mother came home, my grandfather and I were sitting at the table and he was telling me stories. She saw the box on the counter and looked over at him.

“Where did this come from?” she said.

“A man came here today. I bought those knives from him. He was a salesman,” my grandfather said.

“But we already have a set of knives,” my mother said. “Why did you go and buy another set?”

My grandfather just sipped from his cup and looked at my mother. After about a minute she just walked away.

“It was my money,” he said. “Those are mine.”

I think I knew what he was getting at.

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