Pulling Knives

00small16781648By Attila Zønn



It was Grace’s request to be wheeled in front of the tall arched window in the reception area on sunny mornings so she could see the world shining outside. Her arms were in constant motion, throwing insect-like shadows on the oak strip floor as she pulled knives from all parts of her body,  her voice in conversation with the air.

“And Reginald—he was Mumma’s brother. He died in the war. Juno Beach. They said he made it to shore then was cut in half. Mumma cried and cried that she missed her little brother. It was just the two of them you know. Mumma was five years older, and after Uncle Reginald passed, their family was never the same again. It was incomplete. Mumma used to say there was an important part missing. Mumma used to say a family was like a living thing travelling through time and space. When parts of it went wrong, it lost its way. She used to say when Buddy and I used to fight, that she didn’t understand how brother and sister or mother and daughter or father and son could ever hate each other. We were the same kind and lucky to have each other and should put away our differences. ‘Getting along,’ she would say with tears in her eyes, ‘Is much more fun than fighting.’

“I found Buddy on the doorstep one February morning. There was blood everywhere, and a large knife lay on the snow beside him. He was as naked as when he was born. He’d become such a sad young boy. He wanted to be with God so much. He missed Daddy so much. The police said he went all the way to the park and sat on a bench, and there he cut his wrists with that knife, but then he must have panicked, and came running home—there was a trail—but by that time he’d lost so much blood he didn’t have the strength to knock and died right on the doorstep. That did Mumma in. At the funeral, she cried up to the sky that it wasn’t fair that this gentle family should be punished so much. I felt then what Mumma must have felt when Uncle Reginald died. I felt guilty.  I was still alive. It wasn’t my fault, but there is such a weight on me some days. My husband left me. Do you see my children here? They call me crazy. I know I’m not pulling real knives, but it feels good to pull them out and hear the wounds close.”


Copyright©Atilla Zønn 2018

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