Be it a Knife
“I’ve got a knife!” said my sister.
She pointed the knife at me.
“Thanks,” I said. I took the rusty blade.
She gave it to me because I’d said to her, “I need to get this package of ravioli open. Do you have scissors?” And she hadn’t had scissors.
I held her knife in my hand. We were making dinner in her first apartment, her kitchenwares from the thrift store. I thought of my own kitchen. Stainless steel, copper-core pots and pans, hanging from pegs. High-carbon knives sharpened on diamond whetstones. Measuring cups so heavy-bottomed you could maim with them. My sister had this ancient chef’s knife, a glass baking dish, a thin aluminum pot, a warped omelet pan, and a rubber scraper she kept calling a spatula. Her kitchen the size of a bathroom. When we were both in there, in her kitchen, together, we were almost kissing.
I thought of my husband, at home with his glass of scotch, pan-frying chicken nuggets in our wedding cookware. I ripped open the package. Frozen raviolis clattered onto the counter.
“Thanks for coming over,” my sister said, winking, scooping the ravioli from the counter to the pot. “I missed you.”I lit a cigarette from the burner. The paper at the tip curled with gray, then took flame. I blew it out. I sucked on it. I thought about her thin hair igniting from her hairspray. “I missed you, too.”
“Aren’t these gas stoves great?” she asked.I thought of the six-burner range my husband bought me. I looked at the setting of my diamond ring. “Remember to check the oven before you go to sleep. Invest in one of those gas detectors,” I tell her. “Gas can be dangerous.” I looked at her skinny tank top and her denim work shirt. I looked at her jeans. They had pasta sauce on them, on the thigh.
“Where’s Mick tonight?” I asked her.“Away. Working,” she said, licking hot sauce from a spoon. “He’s supposed to get off before midnight, but you never know. The bar gets busy around the holidays.” I leaned my butt against the countertop, smoking my cigarette. She placed a hand at the nape of my neck, fingering where my heavy hair collected into a ponytail. “I thought you quit.”
“I did,” I said, “most of the time. I’m slumming it tonight.”
“What’s wrong with my apartment?” she asked, gripping the corkscrew in her other hand. She let go of me. She reached for the bottle of wine.
“Nothing,” I said. “I love it. It’s so manageable.” I turned to wipe the counters. I scrubbed the grout between the tiles. Coffee grounds clung to the paper towel. I thought of the smooth countertops at my house, the seamless sink.
“So you’re good for something,” she said, nodding toward my scrubbing hand, my bright ring, as she opened the wine gracelessly, clutching it between her knees and pulling up. She punched herself in the face when the cork released.
“Ow!” she said. She grabbed my glass, bourbon and ice, and put it to her cheekbone.She poured wine into a mug with her other fist. She took it to her mouth.
“Look at us go,” I said. “Here we both are!” I took my drink from her. “Cheers!” I exclaimed. Hers to mine. We drank. I brushed her bangs behind her ear with my fingertips. I kissed my sister softly on the cheek.“There’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing,” my sister proclaimed. “This is a perfectly fine New Year’s Eve dinner.” She waved her hand about the kitchen, over the foaming pot, toward the dinner rolls still icy in their freezer bag, the salad greens. “I got that salad you like.” It was bagged spinach.
“You should let me cook for you sometime,” I said to my sister. She gulped from her wine mug.
The pot hissed, its ravioli-water boiling over from its tiny vessel. “Shit,” hissed my sister.She grabbed the pot from the stove — so unnecessary, always this way with her — and twirled it to the sink. “Shit!” Water sloshed from the pot onto her bare, black-bottomed foot when she dropped the pot against the porcelain. She slid to the floor. I slid to the floor. I put my arm around her, cradled her hair, put her ear against my cheek as she wrapped a spotted damp towel around her scarlet foot.
“It’s just pasta,” I said. “It’s just a foot.” We watched her foot turn purple beneath its towel. We watched a roach emerge from under the stove.
“Give me the knife,” she said.
“It’s just a roach,” I said.
“Give me the knife,” she said.
I held the blade and put the hilt into her hand. “This knife is awful,” I said. “It’s rusty.” She leaned forward in a clumsy way to stab at the roach as it skittered back under the stove.
“It’s New Year’s Eve,” I said. “Let me polish it. I’ll make it like new again.”
“It’s almost midnight,” she said.
“Then I haven’t got much time, have I.” I stood up to slice a lemon in half and squeezed its juice all over the cutting edge. I scattered salt on the blade and scrubbed it. I rinsed. “See?” I turned the knife in the light so it glinted. I looked at the clock on the microwave.
“Let me see,” she said from the floor. I handed her the shining knife. She pulled her last cigarette from the pack in her denim shirt-pocket. “Watch this.”
“Ten,” I said. “Nine.”
She laid the cigarette against the floor and pinched it with her thumb and forefinger.
“Eight,” I said.
With the brilliant knife, she slit the cigarette lengthwise. The two halves fell open cleanly, making two thin trays of tobacco. Like slim little oysters on the half shell.
“Seven,” I said. “Six. Five.”
My sister held one half of the cigarette like a kazoo, and with the other hand, she carefully pushed up from the floor to standing.
“Four,” I said. “Three.”
“I’m going to make a wish,” she said.
“Make a wish!” she said, lifting her half-cigarette to her pursed lips, and blew. In the confetti of the tobacco, she turned on tiptoe with her red foot, grinding.
Rebecca Evanhoe is a native Kansan. She received a B.A. in Chemistry from the University of Kansas, and she is currently a student in the University of Florida’s Program in Creative Writing. Rebecca’s work has appeared in Chemical and Engineering News and NOON.