Precision Forged

I don't know how far I need to think back to figure out why I'm at Professor Kievit's house condo thingy with a 9 ¼ inch, pearl-handled chef's knife in my hand. You might say something like: you saw the ad posted in the union and responded and now here you are, cutting through a Coke can to demonstrate the razor-like sharpness of the new Infinity line. And I would say right back to you: that's like so obvious. Nancy tells us we have to look deeper at the events that make up our lives so we can maximize potential, which I think means sell more knives. So, let's see ... I'm at Professor's Kievit's house condo thingy because I came to State, did okay in the first semester, flunked Calc in the second, lost my financial aid in the third, maxed out my credit card, and now I can't afford my sorority's social fees. But that's probably not even deep enough. The ad said make $500 a week so I attended the orientation session where Nancy told us some students on this very campus were making in upwards of $1,500 a week because they created and controlled their destinies. To buy the demo set (the Gourmet Ultimate with a solid oak block and an anti-bacterial cutting board) and start controlling mine, I sold plasma and hawked my CD collection at Re-Run Records and borrowed fifty bucks from Rebecca whose dad is upper management at a Fortune 500 company in the Midwest. I practiced my pitch around the house, even selling paring knives to a couple girls whose boyfriends drink too much. I drove home to do my schpiel for family and friends, anyone who would listen, and they were so impressed with the product and my demonstration (Nancy calls that part of the job creating need), I ended up selling two Infinity sets, three sets of steak knives, and one Meatinator, our biggest and spendiest cleaver.

And now I'm at Professor Kievit's house condo thingy, standing over a card table, smiling at shredded aluminum and saying the great thing is Cutcare knives never need to be sharpened. He's a cool guy for an anthropology professor. He wears Aéropostale shirts, Gap jeans, and a pair of Blundstone boots that are in desperate need of replacing (IMHO). His place is small so I guess young professors don't get paid very much. There are books everywhere, and his breakfast nook is piled with papers and tests that need to be graded. Professor Kievit is one of those teachers who wants to understand you so he can help you learn. He plays music at the beginning of class and high-fives us like we're all friends. We talk about the cultural implications of noserings and how bungee-jumping started as a tribal rite of passage. He lets me come over and sell him knives because he's not traditional.

He tells me the knives are very impressive and that we've come a long way since primitives first sharpened animal bones into makeshift blades.

I say that Cutcare knives are precision forged from stainless steel as one solid piece, no stamping.

He looks at me and smiles, but not happily. His eyes are bloodshot and bagged. For the first time, I notice gray in his hair. I think that he can't be more than thirty and already old--poor thing.

You okay? I ask.

Yes, he says, then stops and thinks and says, No, actually, I'm not. He tells me that the university isn't renewing his contract, that they disapprove of his methods, that only tenured staff can make the kind of major modifications to the curriculum that he's made, that he'll finish out the semester but won't be back in the Spring. Professor Kievit looks like he's about to cry.

I lay the chef's knife next to my butchered Coke can, and sit down next to him on the couch. I'm about to touch him on the shoulder and tell him that it will work out, that another position will come open, that tons of universities would kill to have an anthropology professor like him, that he's the best teacher I've ever had. Then I remember Nancy's point about customer diversionary tactics. They will say and do anything to get out of a commitment; they'll lie right to your face and not even feel bad about it later. I stand up and go back to my card table, my cutting board, my knives.

I tell Professor Kievit that he just needs to do something that will make him happy right now. I tell him that sets begin at $295 and individual knives can be purchased separately. I take cash, check, VISA or Mastercard.

He looks at me like struck dog, and that makes me feel good, like I've done the right thing. By the time I pack up my demo kit and fold my table, I have Professor Kievit's credit card number and he has fifteen new knives.

About the author:

Adrian Dorris lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife and daughters. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, The Portland Review, Slush Pile, and subTerrain Magazine.