From The Knifebox
Nov. 3, 2009
I have no idea, really, why I called this blog that. Pressure to come up with something before someone else grabbed the cool URL. Lack of imagination. Some unseated psychological desire to relate what I’m doing here to a vestige of my childhood.
Probably the pressure.
The knifebox was an old house — I think — in Willow Grove, down what we used to call the old Church Road. I say I think it was a house because the knifebox, as I remember, was nothing more than a heap of old graying boards overgrown with a bunch of grass and weeds. So overgrown, in fact, that you had to look for the boards in all the grass. So it could have been a barn, or a store, or a hotel or a garage, for all I know. By the time we came upon it, in the ’70s, it was unrecognizable as a building at all.
The knifebox (I uppercased above because, you know, it’s the title) was kind of a mysterious place for us. Mainly because we made it that way. Honestly, there’s not much to do in the middle of Delaware, so a bunch of boards at the end of a rutted dirt driveway in a field outside of Willow Grove (population, after our family moved in, probably about 90) turned mysterious for us out of sheer boredom.
The big mystery, of course, was how the knifebox got from being what it was — whatever it was — to this pile of lumber. I suppose it could have just been abandoned, fallen into disrepair and then fallen down from neglect. But rural Delaware was boring enough. We needed a little more than that.
So some public school-educated knucklehead — probably one of my older brothers — came up with the theory that the owner of the house (or whatever it was), angry for a reason that none of us ever quite grasped, climbed up to the ridge of the roof one day and, with a mighty knife that he always carried in his jeans, plunged the blade into the very heart of the building and brought it down in one crashing blow. This unfortunate man, we all guessed, rode that house to his death.
It wasn’t a particularly good theory, but it was as good a story as we had, and it gave us all a reason, on achingly slow summer days, to climb all over the boards that made up the once-imposing … edifice. We were on the lookout for the bones of the owner, a ring, a boot, maybe the great knife itself. All we ever found was the occasional black snake and, one time I remember too well, a rusty nail through the bottom of my sneaker.
So why The Knifebox for this thing? I really don’t know. Maybe it’s the hope of finding a good story among all the old gray boards. Maybe it’s a subconscious nod to a time when riding bikes down to a field and hanging with your brothers and your friends was as good as it got. And that was plenty good.
Probably, though, it’s just a lack of imagination.