Liminal

by | Jan 9, 2021 | January 2021 Writing | 7 comments

It’s the pocket knife that I bought on a whim during a summer gig in college. It’s clustered on a low table with a pen, some bits and bobs of receipts and lint, and whatever other minutiae came out of the jean pocket that had housed it.  It has plenty of stories to tell, though most of them wouldn’t be all that interesting.

But it is nosed up against a notepad, sun-bleached, battered, and ink-stained with doodles, scribblings, and the abstract shapes one makes while waiting on hold with the IRS. just visible beyond the folded, muted steel of the folded knife are phone numbers jotted in margins, lists of to-dos, and one start of a story.

A whole seven words made it onto the paper before being crossed out.

The coffee cup sits stage left, hot and steaming, making a mockery of the chill in the air while one fat, orange Tabby-Cat holds vigil on the corner, staring with golden-eyed lethargy at an empty spot on the ceiling. 

The air is quiet, small noises giving the silence texture.

A drip in the sink.

The bass note of a water pipe in the old walls. 

A life reduced. 

The knife slides home into a pocket. Years and years of hard use have burnished the blade and frame, making them flash silver in the cold light. 

Leoinine eyes flicker, and the king leaps from his throne, hitting the floor with a thud and a low grunt. 

Paper rustles as pages are turned quickly, each small sound tearing onto the silence of the moment. The pen scratches out a new list – for a new day.

The coffee steam makes its way into lungs and one heart as the day begins again. 

 

 

 

7 Comments

  1. Meg Tuite

    Corey!!! So visceral! The beauty of what surrounds us. So many great lines in this. I wouldn’t delete any. But my suggestion to you is to add.
    Give some emotional value to these objects without writing the emotion. Only the feeling or taste, sound, smell, sight of what it is. And think about the tension you want to work through this piece and these objects. Let a piece fall into place within this gorgeous paremeters. Great work! LOVE!
    And please send again, this month, if you have time to revise.

  2. Constance Malloy

    Corey, I am totally wanting more. I’m so drawn in by this piece, and honestly I feel like there is something that the character is wanting to share, but is perhaps afraid to; and that all hinges on this line for me. “It has plenty of stories to tell, though most of them wouldn’t be all that interesting.” I’m thinking there is an interesting story, otherwise why keep the knife. Maybe it’s the emotional thing Meg is speaking to. At any rate, if you do have time to revise this month, I would love to read the revision. Thanks. Your story has my attention.

  3. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Corey, This is a really interesting piece. I love all the details, no need to list because they all work. For me, though, it feels like this is about the knife. The knife is compelling. I would suggest either starting with the second paragraph or alternatively, change up the first sentence in the first paragraph so it reads: The pocket knife, bought on a whim during a summer gig in college, is clustered on a low table with a…. Then, I would edit out the sentence that indicates the knife has stories to tell ‘that though most of them wouldn’t be all that interesting,” because at that point I am lost as a reader because I believe you– not interesting. ..

    When you revise, I’d think first about beginning with the knife and ending with the knife and rearranging the other details, and then probe a bit more to create something about the knife, a memory, the knife like Proust’s Madeleine, a memory that touches into the narrator’s memory about something. That would give us more than that sense of malaise of the beginning day that is so effectively portrayed here. This is a terrific beginning, go for it. Thank you for it.

  4. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    OH, Corey, and to add a tiny note: you have ‘folded’ twice in the first knife sentence. I think you only need one?

  5. Sara Comito

    Yup, yup, yup. What others have said. This is an enticing still life and then the coffee comes and does CPR on the scene. What happens after? And indeed, the pocket knife may not have earned to right to have its stories forgotten. You’ve painted an effective scene. I’m in it.

  6. John Steines

    Corey, I love how you introduce the knife in the first paragraph, then come out with this at the start of the second: ‘But it is nosed up against a notepad…’ s if it has independently positioned itself into your attention.
    This beautifully communicates a sense of empty time, and associate mental/physical stall: ‘A whole seven words made it onto the paper before being crossed out.’
    I also love the attention to these items as ‘action’ within that stall:
    ‘The air is quiet, small noises giving the silence texture. / A drip in the sink. / The bass note of a water pipe in the old walls. / A life reduced. / The knife slides home into a pocket.’
    Nice how the pets respond, and seem to trigger – along with the coffee, an advance from that stall. Very nice.

  7. Jonathan Cardew

    Corey,

    Really enjoyed this. You take your time describing the surroundings, and it works well to build the tension (plus the knife ramps up the tension!).
    I especially liked this part:

    “The air is quiet, small noises giving the silence texture.

    A drip in the sink.

    The bass note of a water pipe in the old walls.”

    I would remove “A life reduced” because it feels like you are telling us what the previous descriptions show.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    –Jonathan

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