“Life is complicated. Simplify it.” JSM
I struggle with the exact age when recalling times of my youth.
For example, my bedroom in the childhood home was small. Small enough to warrant my father building stilts to raise it up from the floor; like a bunk bed without a bottom bunk.
Four thick reinforced legs supported it. A ladder was fashioned to the foot of the frame work and my mattress sat within a constructed box. Over the years, I had to be cautious not to smack my head on the ceiling when waking up for the day.
My clothing dresser, bean bag chair, toys, and shoe boxes of Garbage Pail Kids sat beneath the bed in the available space.
I can’t recall if I was eight, nine or even as young as six when he built the elevated bed.
Therefore, on the day I received the present in my preteen years, I’m not sure if I was ten, eleven, twelve. Regardless of the exact age, I was young.
Sitting at the dining room table at my buddy’s house around Christmas, I received a present. A gift I kept concealed from my folks and sister because I never wanted it taken away or messed with; or even used for that matter. No one touched it but me.
Through the holidays and birthdays of my youth, I was accustomed to receiving toys: Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe vehicles, M.A.S.K. figures and Hot Wheels cars.
This present, however, was unique. It was part of a combination set. Being the friend of the family my piece of the set was smaller, and my buddy received it’s larger counterpart.
What was given to me was a knife. I named it my throwing blade. Here is it’s first ever picture.
The coolest part, on a personal level, were my initials engraved in the steel. I always got a kick out of that. Seeing the letters, added to it’s uniqueness. My rough guess is, I’ve been in possession of this knife for at least twenty five years. It accompanied me on the Appalachian Trail hike in high school.
The parts and pieces included a black leather sheath, a cleaning cloth, and a fancy black tassel that dangled from a hole in the handle. The kind of tassel one might see attached to the top of a bookmark. The tassel and cloth has long since disappeared, but I still have the sheath I can attach to a belt if I wish to carry it around.
I taught myself how to throw it, mostly in the woods and the open fields of Maine, and my targets were always large thick trees or cut stumps. I wasn’t very good at it, at first, but when I did hit my mark and make it stick, I always believed I could be good at it. Positive reinforcement. One out of six. Try again. Line up the sight… let’s shoot for two out of six at this distance.
Feeling cocky and overly confident one summer afternoon, I brought the blade to a tournament. A county fair in my local area had a demonstration consisting of hatchet throwing, archery, target practice with knives, and intricate wood carving. A blade exhibition.
I watched a man throw two axes, one from each hand, at side-by-side targets, and before the hatchets struck their individual bulls-eyes, the man also released two throwing daggers.
He fired them from his side, like a cowboy withdrawing his six shooters, and each small blade struck the ax handles where two bulls-eyes were painted on the wood. The crowd hooted, hollered and clapped, and I stuffed my hands in my pockets, whistled a song, and casually strolled away. I can’t compete with that. Best to be an observer for today. Let’s go watch the Paul Bunyan look alike carving a bald eagle from a wooden post with a chainsaw.
I returned to the fields and woods and kept practicing.
Today, I don’t think I could take down a running deer for food, or bring down a bird flying overhead, but I could possibly deter a home invasion or an attacker if I had it close by.
In the present moment though, the blade sits in it’s black box on my bookshelf.
The sturdy wooden box that houses the blade, I’ve named, The Vault. Within the Vault I’ve kept, saved, and stored important knick knacks and trinkets from the years gone by: My class ring, my wedding ring (in case I’m ever desperate for a few bucks), a laminated business card, a five dollar bill from Honduras (given as a gift from a friend in the military) a key, a second key-which I have no recollection of what it unlocks-and a piece of jewelry I found on the ground that I’ve never had inspected from a jeweler. It could possibly be nothing. Tucked under the blade’s velvet bed are two pieces of paper with important phone numbers.
During the days of BizzaroTech, I also included in the Vault a folded up sheet of paper given to me from Bill. “Open it when the time is right,” he once said to me. I ended my relationship with that company, stuffed the paper in the Vault, placed the Vault in a closet and ignored it’s existence, until moving day.
Luckily, it’s one of the few items that were never lost during the multitude of moves. I always found the black box and managed to keep it close by.
From my point of view it’s a treasure, and I will never part with it.
I removed the Vault from the bowels of the filing cabinet during that evening of Island cleaning, but I had yet to open it. With Nancy at the fireplace, digging through the archives of the old life with me, the Vault sat out of eye sight on the floor, nestled within the shadows underneath a nearby shelf. It would be many more days still, before opening it again.
We sat on the hard wood floor and lit a small fire. Starting with old college documents and employment training manuals, we eliminated and erased unnecessary files of my old life. It was a nice moment. Quiet. Peaceful. Serene. Neither of us talked much, but when we did, it was in the form of trivial surface questions. Yes and no answers-then back to minutes of silence and watching the flickering flames.
The piles were slowly condensed and separated by importance. When the fire dwindled down to ash, the items remaining on the floor, and filed away back inside consisted of: financial statements, medical information, my childhood Polaroids, kids drawings and varying notebooks. In a segregated folder I housed my strange sketches, map pieces and doodles. Before she left the house, I returned my dream book back to the top of the shelf and hung up my work certifications.
During the time spent together, we made small talk and chuckled at each others funny quips. We both worked for the same company and discussions were trivial at first. It took some time before we were comfortable discussing topics of our personal life. I invited her back the following day and our second encounter was sitting outside on the porch, and enjoying the warm weather. Shelby took to her quite easy.
Once she left the property after the second visit, I climbed the stairs to the top floor and entered my daughters bedroom. I flicked on the light and chuckled out loud at the color scheme she picked. Of all the available options I give her, she chose this color. Unbelievable. Each wall and the ceiling was painted dark purple. I glanced around the space for dirty clothes, and clutter, adjusted the blankets on her bed then returned to my computer feeling like a million bucks.
I’ve settled into my new digs. Painting walls. Cleaning and unpacking, making this house a home… finally comfortable with guests, making new friends, finding snippets of the old life that make me think and ponder and question.
New Email. What’s this?
The contents of the mailer were succinct and after reading it, my head swam and the nausea returned.
“Sorry to inconvenience you, but the arrangements have changed. You’ll need to be out of there in six days.”
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