A New Knife

A New Knife

A Story by B.G. Clark

An older married man remembers an incident from his youth.


            When Harold Larue finished eating dinner he felt an overwhelming contentedness like never before.  His wife Sheila of thirty-five years had always prepared the best meals, lovingly and without any hint of inconvenience.  Tonight’s pork roast and garlic mashed potatoes with glazed carrots filled and expanded his stomach.  Now a couple of years into his retirement, Harold had the freedom to devote his attention to his wife as well as their vegetable garden, from which tonight’s fresh carrots had grown.  His thoughts turned to his children, now grown and gone away.  They were successful people, one a bank manager, the other a geology professor, both working and living in New York state.  He reflected fondly, lost in the memories that tonight’s mood had engendered.   

            “Harold.  Harold, I’m talking to you.  Do you want anymore roast before I put it in the fridge?”

            “Um, No.  Thanks dear.  It was delicious though.  I’m really stuffed.”

            “So I guess that means no more potato or carrots either then?”

            “Nope, I’m stuffed like a Christmas stocking.”

            “Alright then.  Would you do up those dishes in the sink?  My wrists have been aching so bad lately.  The aspirin I took didn’t seem to do a thing.  I’m gonna go up and fold some laundry and put on my nightgown.  Oh, and I hope you saved a little room for some apple pie.  That pie’s been sitting in the fridge for at least two days now.  We’re gonna have to eat it before it goes bad.  It’ll be such a waste if we don’t.”

            As Sheila’s voice diminished up their long spiral staircase, Harold sat in his dining table chair a few more moments, clearing his mind.  He took the remaining sip of merlot from his glass and exhaled comfortably.  Outside, he could hear the wind humming against the large windowpanes.  He got up from his chair and walked into the living room adjacent to the kitchen, and stared out through a large window into the night.  The pitch blackness, he thought, seemed to stare back at him and he shuddered unexpectedly.  He glanced at the kitchen bar and remembered to wash the dishes. 

            The tiled kitchen was spacious.  Stainless steel appliances shone under the powerful track lighting.  Halfway through washing, Harold rinsed the dish soap off a few paisley patterned plates and drained the right sink to see all the utensils at the bottom.  He reached down as the sink was gurgling and picked up a unique paring knife.  It had what appeared to be an ivory handle with little specks of dark red that looked like tiny dried drops of blood.  The blade was rounded at the end and it had tiny serrations that stopped midway up from the bottom of the blade.  Once again Harold stared out the window into the blackness of night.  Still holding the knife, he vanished from the kitchen.  He was now twenty-one years old, riding in a fast moving Cadillac on a lonesome black highway through the northern Nevada desert.

            It didn’t take long to get to the ranch.  When the Cadillac pulled into the newly paved miniature lot Harold noticed an ominous lamp post in the middle.  Its light flickered erratically, casting off a luminous dimness that seemed to shroud the air.  Stevie jumped out of the car first, looking like a caffeinated rabbit ready to mate.  Harold sat in the passenger side a few moments, collecting himself.  He had never done anything like this before.  He wondered how he would feel after it happened.  Stevie yelled for him to get out of the car. 

            The two young men approached the main wooden building.  Its frame made from logs, looked like it should have been in some forested place, a hunting lodge perhaps, anywhere but there in that deserted pit of sanded isolation.  They walked up to the main door and a large bearded man with a gold loop earring stopped them and asked for identification.  He smelled of dried locker-room sweat and excrement.  He looked at their ID cards and made a wincing smile followed by a directional nod.  Stevie couldn’t hide his anticipation.  It was etched on his face, embellished by his glowing eyes.  Harold’s stomach was a soundless accordion.  He began to sweat when they entered. 

            Inside there were cushioned sofas and chairs, everything ornate and gaudy.  It smelled of cheap whiskey and tobacco.  The sweaty fecal smell followed them in.  Harold thought he was going to vomit.  To their left there was a long wooden bar and behind it, a lonely balding bartender with a thick black mustache.  He was polishing the lacquered mahogany with fierce intensity.  His eyes rose from the shine and he smiled at the young men, revealing years of built-up yellowing plaque. 

            “You boys new to the ranch?”

            “Yes, yes, sir,” Stevie said, still beaming.  

            “Well, come on in, have a seat at the bar.  We’re just getting’ started here tonight.  You boys’re a little early,” the bartender said grinning.

            Harold tensed up and stood back languidly.  Stevie glanced and flashed him an impatient look.  Harold responded submissively, walking to the bar behind Stevie.  They sat down on corner stools, both looking like neophytes, anomalies in another world.  Stevie perused the display of bottles lined up seven shelves high.  Not recognizing a single liquor, he asked for the first drink that came to mind, a bloody mary. 

            “Sorry bub, we ain’t particularly fond of tomato juice ‘round here.”

            “Well, do you have rum?  I’ll take a rum and coke if you got it,” Stevie said.

            “Rum? Shiiat.  That’s for them dick gaggers down in Vegiis.”

            “Well, seeing as though I’m not a dick gagger, what would you suggest?”

            “The only thing a man ought ta drink ---whiskey, Irish whisky.”

            “Alright then, two shots please.”

            “What’s a matter with your friend anyway,” said the bartender, through his dandelion colored teeth. 

            “Nothing’s wrong with me.  I’m just tired from the drive,” said Harold. 

            “Well you betta get with it bub, cuz the girls here will eatchu up and spitcha out, or so I’m told.”

            The bartender tee-heed as he poured the shots.  The young men had just downed the first shot, when a slimy thin-wisp of a man with a gray suit approached them from behind.  He was sweating unnaturally. 

            “Hello fellas,” the man said extending his sweaty palm.

            “I’m Francis Downing, the manager of the place, but you can call me Frank.”

            Stevie and Harold reciprocated, introduced themselves, and offered the man a drink.

            “Nah, not on the job fellas, but I thank you nonetheless.  The girls’ll be ready in a little while.  For now just relax, have a few more drinks, and if there’s anything you need, just give me a holler.”

            “Thanks,” Stevie and Harold said simultaneously.

            They watched the man disappear behind a red curtain in back of the bar.  The bartender, all the while, stared at the young men, holding a disturbing grin on his face. 

            “This place is really f*****g strange,” said Harold.

            “I know, isn’t it cool,” Stevie said eying a giant painting of two nude voluptuous women embracing each other over a hotbed of coals with flames closing in on them from the sides. 

            Harold felt uneasy.  He ordered three more shots to help himself relax.  Stevie was relishing every strange sensation.  He looked at every oddity with a gleam of wonderment.  The two sat quietly for some time.  It was already going on eleven-thirty and Harold began to wonder why the place was still empty. 

            “Hey, don’t you think it’s kinda strange that there aren’t any other guys here?” said Harold.

            “Yeah, well not many people know about this place, and besides it’s a Wednesday night.  Just relax man, go with the flow.  We’re gonna have the time of our lives here tonight.  I can feel it.”

            Twenty minutes passed and Harold had consumed seven shots of whiskey.  He was feeling the effects.  His anticipation had increased and his eyes weren’t steady.  They darted from the bar, to the large beamed ceiling, to Stevie, who seemed more patient than before, and back again to his shot glass.  Then the little slimy man reappeared from behind the bar.  He had a delighted look on his unusually small sweaty face.

            “Okay, now fellas,” he began.

            “We’re going to try something a little different tonight.  I can assure you that we have the finest women here at the ranch.  Selected by yours truly.  Each one of them are waiting in their rooms to start the night.  I’d like you both to pick a room number from this box here.”

            As the little man spoke he held a rose colored box in front of him.  He gave it a few shakes and small folded papers swished around inside.  The corners of Stevie’s mouth rose slightly toward the overhead lighting.  Harold’s head swished like the papers in the box.  Stevie was the first to choose. 

            “Lucky number seven.  Which way do I go?”

            “It’s up the stairs to your right,” said the little man. 

           Harold, drunkenly repeated Stevie.  He reached in the box and pulled out a small folded paper.  He opened it.  A scribbled number three with a star next to it slowly revealed itself. 

            “Number three.  But what’s this star?” Harold asked.

            “Oh, you got the new girl.  This is her first night at the ranch.  Let me assure you, she’s magnificent,” said the little man.

            “Magnificent, that’s kind of an exaggerated description, don’t you think?

            “Let’s just say she’ll do pretty much anything to prove herself.”

            “Come on buddy, just go with it.  Let’s get this night goin’”

            The little man proceeded to escort Harold and Stevie up a gradual and sweeping wooden staircase.  The second floor balcony was a long hallway containing a string of rooms with a gold plated number on each dark wooden door.  Harold’s thoughts were scattered.  He thought about school, how the arid summers of northern Nevada made his skin taut and dry .  He thought about his mom and dad at home in New York on the farm, cleaning the dairy barn and haying in the ubiquitous moist heat.  Then he looked at Stevie whose face looked more like a jack o’ lantern than a man.  He thought he would be sick.  They parted and Stevie went into room number seven discreetly, giving Harold a excited wink before closing the door gently behind him.

            The little man walked with Harold a few more feet toward the end of the hallway.  They stopped at door number three and Harold began to feel more uneasy.  The little man looked up into Harold’s face and grinned.

            “You seem a bit nervous.  First time with a woman?”

            “No, it’s not that.  It’s just uh, I’ve never done anything like this before.”

            “Like what? Paying for it?”

            “No, I mean, yeah I guess so.”

            “You guess?  Which is it yes or no?”


            “Well, you don’t have to worry son.  It’s her first time too.”

            The little man motioned with his hand for Harold to enter the room.  Harold turned the knob slowly and opened the door with quiet desperation.  He could feel mucous accumulate in his throat as he stepped through a wall of dry heat.  He heard the door shut behind him and the little man’s footsteps trail off down the hallway. 

            Inside the dimness of the room he saw a large white bed decorated with small blue pillows.  The room was carpeted and it felt soft under his feet.  He heard a faint rustling sound coming from behind a closed door.  He didn’t know whether to announce his presence or just wait.  He took his shoes off in the doorway with care.  Then he heard her from behind the closed door.

            “Is that you?”

            He didn’t know how to respond.  He felt wrong and displaced.  He kept quiet.

            “Are you there?” the muffled voice asked.

            The door inside the room cracked open and Harold saw the dark outline of a face pressed against the cracked opening.  He stood there silently next to the entryway.  He could hear her loud breaths against the door casing.       

            “Yes, I was brought here by the manager.  I can wait.”

            “No, come on in and make yourself comfortable.  I’ll be out in a minute.”

            Harold, smooth and demure, felt the softness of the carpet as he walked to the bed.  He laid down resting his back against the dark wooden headboard, consumed by the dimness.  He heard movement from behind the cracked door and then the sound of it opening gently.  A silhouetted figure approached, slim and rather tall.  He could feel his pulse rise and his forehead perspire.  He wondered if he should say something.  Still wondering he grew more silent, except for his open-mouthed breaths, which fragranced the air with the pungency of ingestive whiskey.  The figure moved closer to the foot of the bed and brushed its fingers along the comforter stitching and stopped in front of Harold’s feet.

            “My name’s Tess,” the young woman said. 

            Harold studied the outline of her body, moving his eyes to her shadowed face.  She was beautiful. 

            “You don’t have to tell me your name.  It’s oka….”


            “Well, Harold, are you as nervous as I am?”

            “I’m, uh, new to this whole thing,” he said with a nervous chuckle.

            “There’s a first time for everything.  And a last too.”

            “I suppose so.”

            “Why don’t you give me about five minutes and then come on into the bathroom and join me for a nice hot bath?”


            When she closed the door behind herself, Harold let out a sigh.  He felt like an inflated balloon, full of anticipation, guilt, and worry.  He could sense his former self waiting for him back at school and then at home, eating Sunday dinner with his family, sharing stories and talking about small-town life.  His thoughts turned to his dead yellow lab Trudy, who died in the old horse barn at home one night while he was away at school.  He wished he could have said goodbye. 

More than five minutes had passed and Harold felt an uneasy stillness save for the loud rush of running water coming from the bathroom.  He lifted himself off the bed and crept upright toward the cracked bathroom door.  The bright light from the inside beamed out through the crack.  Steam billowed into the dry air.  Harold took a step back and thought about knocking.  The water continued to gush from the faucet and the carpet near the door began to feel wet and hot under his feet. 

He entered with a horrific cry.  The young woman, fully dressed, had clenched the sides of the bathtub with blood soaked hands as the bathwater poured over her bloody motionless body.  Diluted blood spilled over from the tub, staining Harold’s pant legs.  An ivory handled knife, shiny, yet fogged by the steam stuck out of her neck in a gaping punctured gash. 

When Sheila appeared downstairs and walked from the dining room into the kitchen she saw her husband staring out through the window into the night. 

“You want some of the apple pie, don’t you?  Why don’t you get it out and cut us a couple slices.  You can use that great new knife I bought a couple days ago.  It’ll cut through anything.”





© 2010 B.G. Clark

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Added on May 8, 2010
Last Updated on May 8, 2010


B.G. Clark
B.G. Clark

Busan, South Korea

For now I'm just writing for myself. I like to write stories that reveal, even if it's just a glimmer, the heaviness of human existence, however tragic and/or uplifting. Remembering that it's all mo.. more..

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