The Snug Way
When I was a girl with long stringy blonde hair, my father would remove our splinters with his exacto knife. He sat at his drafting table, more moth than pony, surrounded by cigarette smoke andcoffee cans overflowing with pens and pencils, and we held our palms out and he did the job with the most efficient tool he had. I was not at all sure that the cure was better than the disease, and so I tried to hide this particular sliver. But it began to fester and he noticed the thickening as I looped my hair over my ear in between bites of pancake, and soon I was sitting on the wooden stool in front of his table and that industrial-looking blade was headed my way. My father did not drink beer, he smoked pot, and he bought his pot from a magician, a man with a trim gray goatee who made things disappear in the clubs in North Beach when he wasn’t home selling pot. So my father’s hand was steady with blades; he was very focused, and I had no reason not to trust him, as he knew how to do things the proper way. I turned my head, but I peeked back at the piercing of that metal tip into my finger, the digging into the tunnel, the peeling back of the skin, the lifting out of the tiny shaft of wood. The magician also did something unwatchable with thin, sharp metal. One of his tricks, my mother told me, was to spice up razor blades with salt and pepper from little shakers and then chew and swallow them, eventually pulling a string of them, whole, from his simpering mouth. There was no blood on my hand, and none, presumably, on the magician’s face, though I never saw him do this trick. My father slid the splinter into the trash basket and wiped his blade on his pants. I hopped down from the stool and swished out. I tell you all this without an ounce of snide. But there is a buffalo in the room and I have not mastered the ignoring of that enormous, grunting, animal. The magician is dead, because not even magicians know the trick for avoiding the end. My father has turned old; he has had parts replaced, he is swelling and withering at the same time. I have not yet met the man who can step in, who can be trusted to wield, with confidence, these dangerous blades. Some things die out. I say, some things die out.
Frances Lefkowitz is the author of To Have Not, named one of five “Best Memoirs of 2010″ by SheKnows.com. She has been nominated for twice for the Pushcart Prize, once forBest American Essays, and once for the James Beard Award for Food Writing, among other near-awards. She is at home here.