A Smooth, Clean Cut

By Sam Snoek-Brown

he two boys slid into the dark trailer and sneaked back to Kid’s bedroom.  He waited til they’d shut his door before he turned on the light.  The hundred-watt bulb in his ceiling was bare, and it cast hard, clean shadows.  Matt opened his long coat and held out the samurai sword by its scabbard for them both to admire.

“And your dad won’t miss this, you’re sure?” Kid said.

“My dad’s out on business the whole week, up in Wisconsin.  Won’t be back for another four days.”

They eyed the sword, its braided hilt and its brass dragon-shaped guard and the lacquered sheen of its black scabbard.

“That is so cool, dude,” Kid said quietly.

Matt said nothing, only stood there like a store mannequin displaying the sword.  Then Kid took off his denim jacket and Matt set down the sword and took off his overcoat.  Kid picked up the sword in two hands, hefted it and inhaled.

“You want to see a trick?” Matt said.

“Sure,” Kid whispered.

“Got a bottle of wine?” Matt said.

“Wine?  Mom’s got beer, maybe some gin.”

“No, wine.  It’s got to be wine.”  He reached for the sword, and Kid gave it to him.

“All right.  I think my mom’s got some wine.”

Kid went into the living room to the cabinets on the far wall, near the dark kitchen.  As he passed the switch in the hall, he flipped it and lit the living room.  He stopped and looked at the wall behind the cabinets, at the places where the paneling was darker in two circles like eyes.  When Kid came to the cabinets, even at night in the dark when he was sneaking a drink, he always stared at these circles where the deer once hung.

He crouched and opened the cabinets, and he groped inside until he got his fist around a squat chianti bottle wrapped in wicker.  He got a corkscrew from the drawer in the cabinet and he took the bottle and the corkscrew back into his bedroom.


“What?  No,” Matt said, “we don’t need a corkscrew.  Watch this.  Set the bottle over on your desk.  Yeah, there on the edge.”

Matt unsheathed the sword; its edge was etched in a satiny ripple.  The sword was sharp.  A fleck of blood had dried on the edge where Matt had tested it.  Matt looked at the sword, held the blade up close to his eyes, and he picked at the fleck until the blood flaked off.

“Stand back,” he said.

Kid backed into the corner of his room, up against the door as if to brace it shut.  Matt gripped the sword with two fists, not like a baseball bat but like a golf club, his two hands weaving around the hilt instead of stacked meatily one over the other.  He even swung it back and held it for a moment like a golf club, his left elbow straight.  The tip of the blade wavered slightly, then Matt swung quick and sharp, snapping his wrist and breaking off the neck of the bottle in a cracked, jagged mess.

“Damn,” he said.  “That should have been smooth.”

“You didn’t even knock it over,” Kid whispered.

“Yeah, yeah,” Matt said, “but it should have been a smooth cut.”

He held the point of the blade toward the ground, his fists still wrapped tight around the braided hilt.

“So what?” Kid said.  “Let’s drink.  We’ll have to drink it all so my mom won’t notice the broken bottle.”

“Ok,” Matt said.  He wiped the drops of wine from the blade with the end of his black concert shirt.  Then he sheathed the sword.  “Hey, Kid,” he said.  “Won’t your mom notice the bottle missing?”

“Nah,” Kid said.  “She doesn’t know what she drinks.  But she knows she doesn’t cut the heads off her bottles.”

Matt laughed.  “Ok, let’s drink then.”  He looked at the sword in its scabbard, tossed it on the bed.  “I just wish it’d been a smoother cut.  A clean cut.”  Matt drank, and Kid drank, straight from the broken bottle both of them.

Matt took up the sword again and unsheathed it.  He made a few practice slices through the air while they drank, and the broken neck of the bottle slicing deep incisions in their lips, the blood mixing with the wine while they drank.


Sam is a writing teacher and a fiction author, though not always in that order.  He lives with his wife and their two cats in Abu Dhabi, UAE.  Online, he lives at snoekbrown.wordpress.com.

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