The Sharpest Knife

Never mind the bloody footprint track his right boot made for the first few steps.  Nobody is 100% perfect. But truly, he came as close as could be. He believed no one could cut the way he could.
            But he was dissatisfied with the job he’d just done. He wiped the blade on his pajamas. For some reason, it hadn’t been as sharp as he’d thought, hadn’t sliced as smoothly as he’d been used to.
            That new blade sharpener. That kid. It irked him. When he did a job, he was creating a work of art. The clean slice, the one with no resistance as it moved through the flesh, a hot knife through butter, Sherman through Georgia — this was his act of creation.
            This one, however, hmmm. Definitely less enjoyable. Why was there a new knife sharpener? What had happened to the old one?
            He preferred the tried and true. It had been odd to walk into the shop and see a much younger man working the grinding wheel. This juxtaposition of a new face with the old wheel, that struck him as strange. And then the force of his young foot on the pedal. It had made him – HIM – feel uneasy.
            Him? He was the one who made people feel uneasy. When people sensed that he was near, they were paralyzed with fear. And when they saw him coming in the actual flesh, oh how they shook in their shoes, saw their lives pass before their eyes, briefly attempted to renew communication with whomever they believed had created them.
            Dammit. Rather than go home, he made long decisive strides toward the blade sharpener’s shop. Time to talk to the new kid.
            He found the young man hard at the grindstone.
“Hey,” he said, “I just came from a job. The blade didn’t cut cleanly. You fucked up my work, boy.”
            “Oh,” said the young man, looking up from his work. “Sorry about that. I’m still trying to learn the trade.”
            “No kidding. Who you learning from? The Easter Bunny? Where’s the old man who always sharpened my blades?”
            “I’m sorry to say he died. The company didn’t have a journeyman to replace him, so I, a mere apprentice, was placed here.”
            “How’d you get your training then?”
            “Well, YouTube mostly. Every night I make it a point to watch an hour or two about blade sharpening techniques. You would not believe how many different approaches there are.”
            He shook his head, gave the young man a look as though he were pathetic as a carton of Neapolitan ice cream that turns out to contain only vanilla. Where were this kid’s chocolate and strawberry? He shook his head again.
            “You know, it’s you youngsters who are ruining our way of life. Your lack of skill, dedication to your craft, and your reliance on YouTube and Wikipedia for your education.”
            He spat on the ground. “Kid,” he said, “what do think about me maybe doing the blade sharpening world a favor and doing my job on you?”
            The young man, appreciably intimidated by this prospect, began to shake. He shook so much in fact that the knife he was sharpening slid on the wheel and accidentally severed an artery in his neck.
            The man shook his head. “Deplorable,” he said. “And now I suppose we’ll get another green one to sharpen our blades.”
            Leaving the shop after the young man died, he trudged home, still irked about the job he’d done earlier.
            Just as he changed into a fresh set of PJs his cell rang. “Yeah?”
            “You botched the job.” He recognized his shop foreman’s voice.
            “How so?”
            “The guy’s still alive. You didn’t cut him well or deep enough. He was able to call 911. They got him to the hospital in time to save his neck. No pun intended.  You losing your edge, or what?”
            He thought about this for a second. Then, “It’s not me. It’s that new kid who’s doing the sharpening. I knew the cut wasn’t perfect. His throat didn’t open up right. Not smooth. The kid did a lousy job.”
            “It’s just like you to blame someone else,” said the foreman. “Just shift it all on the kid. You disgust me.”
            “Really?” he said. “Oh, by the way, he accidentally killed himself just now when I was talking to him. We need a replacement.”
            “You’re shitting me. We don’t have any replacements. Hey, did you kill him?”
            “No, it was an accident, I swear.”
            “Yeah right. You know what, I don’t believe you. So you guess what?”
            “Since we don’t have any more sharpeners in the chute, I’m going to make you the new guy.”
            “Me? I use the blade, boss, I don’t sharpen it. I don’t know jack about sharpening blades.”           “Well guess what? You’re going to learn how now, you hear me?”
            “But boss, how am I supposed to do that?”
            “You heard of Wikipedia? YouTube? There are plenty of resources on the internet.”
            “Frickin A, boss, not that shit? Why me? Why the hell me?”
            “Complain all you want, but I’m taking you off the line and sticking you with sharpening the blades for all of us. You understand?”
            Silence. Then, “Yeah yeah, boss, but — ”
            The line went dead.
            He fired up his laptop, went to YouTube and picked a blade sharpening video at random. Slowly he realized the video was both interesting and informative. He would miss the frontline work, but he had to admit that changing gears to blade sharpening seemed as if it could be interesting, once he got the hang of it.
            He watched a second video. He had to admit that this had the markings of more and more like a great move.
            But he would miss making the hits. The perfect slice. The arcing spray of blood and its strange rainbow if caught in the light just right. 
            For a moment the thought of jumping unions crossed his mind. There were the Garrote, the Gun, and the Bomb Hit Fairy unions, but Nah, the only true artists were the Knife Hitters.
            In the end, then he stayed put, and with YouTube and earnest practice he eventually became the best knife sharpener the union of Knife Hit fairies had ever known.

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