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Chef’s Knife photo by Octavian Dan on Unsplash

“I never knew you” is the opening line from Patchwork Quilt, a poignant Gov’t Mule lyric that fit the mood, Warren Haynes’s song mourning Jerry Garcia. Though in my case, I was thinking about my old man.

Chopping veggies and realizing how dull the knives were told me it was time to break out the stone. It had been awhile.

I own very few things of my father’s. I wear his wedding ring mainly because I never knew him and I wasn’t going to stuff it back where I’d found it in the attic–never knew my mother neither when she lived with a man. But I do have my father’s carborundum stone. Complete with its box, tired and oil stained as you’d expect a cardboard box to be eighty years later. The stone’s older than I am. He’d always stored the stone in its box. Damn if I’d have kept it that well protected.

No one uses carborundum stones much anymore in suburban utopia. They cart their dull knife ware to William Sonoma or some other such place for sharpening. Or buy new ones, so I’ve heard. I hate dull knives.

Back when I was a kid, before beginning a sharpening session, I’d apply a few drops of 3-In-One oil to the stone and wipe it gently across the stone with the back of the knife. The stone absorbed oil like beach sand soaks up water. I’d grip the knife to slide it at a close angle against the stone in the direction away from the blade. Ten–twenty times one direction on the rough side of the stone and ten-twenty times in the other direction, then flip the stone to its smooth side and repeat to hone it fine. My boy scout leader taught us scrawny things to put an edge on a knife and we dutifully learned and promptly forgot, except I never did.

It seemed important at ten to be able to perform what manly tasks I could.

Reason I inherited the stone was because, far as I remember, neither of my two sisters, my mother, grandmother, none of those women handled that stone. (Granny may have when I wasn’t looking, but that doesn’t count.) I’d found it in a tool kit of his. I’ve heard it’s hard for a girl to grow up without a father. I’m here to tell you, it’s a bitch for a boy.

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A practicing writer and architect, he is now squandering hours making a mess from writing.

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