About the AuthorStace Budzko has been published or is forthcoming in Fiction Attic Press Anthology, Southeast Review, Inch, The Journal of Compressed Arts, Blip, Quiddity, Versal, Bridport Prize Anthology, Upstreet, Necessary Fiction, Prime Number, Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction, Press 53, PANK, Hobart, elimae, The Los Angeles Review, Night Train, The Collagist, Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Flash Fiction, Flash Fiction Forward, Brevity & Echo and elsewhere. The screen adaptations of his stories, “How to Set a House on Fire,” “North End, 2010” and “Why I Don’t Keep a Daily Planner” have garnered numerous honors and awards as well as art and festival showcases. At present, he teaches and coordinates The Creative Writers Workshop at Emerson College.
After Jim, my uncle, threatened to cut my thumb off because it was always in my mouth, I thanked him. I said thanks for the knife, Jim, and then listened to him talk.
It was my 7th birthday and he had just given me his prized KA-BAR from his time in Vietnam. Under nightlight of my room, notches ran down the shaft in a perfect, secret line. I could see my father down the hall in the kitchen too. He was off from his shift at Wonder Bread and working on a new can of beer. Between cigarettes he was fixing the dial on our radio looking for the oldies station he used to dance to with my mother—before she went crazy, and before Jim, his younger brother, moved into our basement.
Jim went on to tell me how he was changed, how he was done with blades.
First, he explained how he used a knife to cut around his hand on paper. He said this happened early, around my age, and each year he did the same to follow the growth of his fingers. At twelve, and wanting to know how things worked on the inside, he skinned rabbits. His mother, my grandmother, used the pelts to line leather gloves, which she exchanged for his piano lessons. Next, without diploma, he enlisted to strum guitar in boom-boom huts using the blunt edge for a slide to play to his fellow soldiers. Of course there were fights. One night he had a disagreement with a man in an alley. It seems the nightclub owner was light with the front door gate. As he puts it, the guy had his mitt in the jar. So Jim gave him a close shave. But when he showed me the scar under his wrist, the one running up the center bone, I had to ask what does that mean. When I did he brought his arm up close and told me to get a good long look. “That’s beauty,” he said. What Jim remembered was how easy it was. How easy it was to see the lines in his palm, relieved in color.
At the time I refused to look away. Without thinking, I waved the knife. My father was now shimmying by himself to Canned Heat in slow rhythm as Jim pulled down his sleeve. Back and forth I diced the air like I understood the two of them perfectly. Like I could feel my family history for the first time.