• • •
A Folding Knife
“What the hell is that thing?”
The vendor, whose attention was held by little more than the dead leaves floating by on the chilly autumn wind, turns to face a chunky young man with a confused twinkle in his eyes. The chunky young man looks to be no more than thirteen years old; he wears a snapback backwards so the snap is in the front, what was once a perfectly good tee-shirt until he chopped the sleeves off with dull scissors and split the sides about a dick’s length from the bottom hem, a raggedy pair of jean shorts with cigarette boxes stuffed into the front pockets, and black flip-flops with bands which dip between his third and fourth toes.
“I’m not sure,” the vendor mumbles to himself, “but I believe it’s learned how to communicate.”
“What?” growls the boy, a miserable chap known to himself as Chester the Jester and others as the smelly kid. “How can a knife communicate? Are you yankin’ me here, Mister?”
The vendor blinks once, then looks around. The parking lot is empty, utterly devoid of objects animate and inanimate alike. When he arrived there were vendors everywhere, food trucks were being scheduled, a live band was setting up on a stage that came in on a truck bed. Bustling bargain hunters and bumbling flea market yo’folk alike were tossing themselves from moving cars to get a head start on this grand communal shopping event not one half-hour ago, but now? Nothing. No various objects of questionable worth and unknowable origin, no frenzied, rabid humans tearing at one anothers’ necks with four-inch press on nails, no labyrinth of white and black plastic tables draped in stained tablecloths and cut plastic bags. Just the vendor and the smelly kid.
Even the vendor’s table is empty. This morning he packed his nephew’s SUV that he borrowed [without consent] with all the shit left over from the good ol’ days back when their family had the lakehouse – see, the vendor’s sister sold the lakehouse because her newly acquired sociopath of a husband heard tell of its value, and the vendor’s sister had kids with the sociopath of a husband, and the kids turned out to be little pricks who think it’s funny to put their uncle’s hand in hot water so he pisses himself when he sleeps four nights out of the week for the past three years and the vendor’s sister doesn’t believe him, she just thinks he’s getting old and has a prostate issue but the issue isn’t his prostate, it’s not my prostate Veronica I swear to you it’s your horrible kids but nobody ever listens… he needs to make money so he can leave town once and for all, so he stole his sister’s and her childrens’ belongings and tried to sell them and they were selling well, it was all moving so well, but now they’re just… gone. Everything is gone except the table and that atrocious knife one of his sisters’ kids bought from a harelipped man living beneath the Atlantic City boardwalk.
“What… what’ve you done? ” begs the vendor, but the smelly kid has no eyes for his lips, no ears for his words. “The knife?” he stammers. “It’s, I mean, it’s…” The vendor pauses and closes his eyes. “I am not yanking you, regardless of what you might mean by that you filthy little mistake. It’s a folding knife.”
The smelly kid gazes the vendor. That wasn’t good enough. The vendor knows it. By the dampness of his feet he knows it well.
“IT-it eh, it’s got rainbow metal bits. The blade is engraved with fire. The belt clip has a skull on it, you see?”
The vendor drops to his knees and takes the knife in his hands as if it were a pool of water, holds it up. Though the knife is raised to the smelly kid’s jagged eyes, he makes no indication that he sees.
“Please Sir, I… I had no idea it was you, I–”
The smelly kid shushes the vendor with a grimy finger.
“Twenty-five!” flies from the vendor’s lips, smelly finger be damned.
“I’ll have the knife, and a conversation with Veronica… if you’ll do fifteen.”
They settle at fifteen. Darkness encroaches from the funky pupils of the smelly kid’s eyes. The vendor is lost, swallowed by the olidity of it all.
The vendor blinks once, then looks around. A flock of dollar-toting ethnic humans draped in blue jeans and black hoodies is approaching from the south. To his right side is an ethnic man selling gift wrapping by the roll and the square, and to his left side is an ethnic man selling sparkling gift bags stuffed to the brim with tissue paper. The vendor, also an ethnic man, stands before a table dreadfully devoid of wares, and behind him is a stack of empty bins. He’s sold out, it seems, even that atrocious knife is gone, and all he has is fifteen dollars.
‘How is this possible?’ he thinks to himself. Then, out loud, “I should have made at least forty…”
“Forty?! ” shouts the slinger of the gift wrap. “I’d be happy to dirty my palms with pocket change, who’s pullin’ forty in this piece?!”
“I must flee,” the vendor bellows softly. “This was a gigantic mistake.”
The other vendors shout, but our vendor doesn’t hear them. The wind is blowing too loud, the greenbacks are too smooth in his hands. He doesn’t even take the table. He kicks the stack of bins over on his way to the van. Not once does he look back. The smelly kid might be there if he does.
The drive was supposed to be short, but then the vendor made it to Veronica’s house. That’s when the drive became long.
Chester the Jester
The vendor and his niece and nephew travel across the land in the vendor’s beat-ass SUV. They tour thirty states before selling the car and buying a houseboat. One day the sun rises and their boat is gone. Some say they’re still out there sailing the seven seas, but they’ll never find ol’ Chester the Jester. Veronica and I moved to Idaho, they’ll never fucking suspect it.
This has been the seventeenth story from Highdeas: The Lost Stories from the Seven Earths, a flash fiction anthology hidden in the back of the book Over the River: The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox. Here is everything you need to know about it:
Over the River
The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox
Over the River is the third book in a trilogy called The Fall of the Seven Earths. I’ve also released that trilogy as a single book called The Fall of the Seven Earths. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
The Fall of the Seven Earths
I’ve written a few other books, too. Click here to see the list.
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If you’re there, hypothetical reader, thank you for being there. From this day on, we move forever forward~