The Perfect Cut by Jay Wilburn
by Jay Wilburn
Jamie drove the knife into the eye. He sliced it in a curve to carve out the iris. He drew the blade back out slowly to keep from slicing it out entirely. He held the face up with the blade still in his hand along the side.
His eyes teared up and his lips screwed into a grimace. There was no point in starting on the mouth. There was a flat side on the curve of flesh that formed the eye. He had failed again. He hurled it out of his grasp and let it smash against the wall of the garage that was becoming wet with his repeated failure. The hollow object both collapsed and exploded with the impact.
He grabbed another and set it on the newspaper.
“Do it right or don’t do it at all.”
Jamie looked behind him. He saw the tools and the shelves. He saw the diminishing pile of pumpkins. He did not see his father standing over him. He was alone. The voice had come from his own throat. It was his father’s words, but he had said them since the man was dead, gone, and absent.
Jamie looked on his pads and helmet by the door that led into the kitchen. He had missed practice for a second day, but this was important. He had to pick up more pumpkins.
“Don’t cut too shallow or you can’t fit your hand in …”
He set down the paring knife and picked up the long blade of the butcher knife. He stabbed straight down from above the pumpkin. He sliced in a sawing motion around the stem. He drew out the damp knife and lifted the scalp off of the top revealing the strings and seeds suspended in the space inside.
“… Don’t slice too wide or the skull will collapse once you carve out the face. If you screwed up, it is already too late. Don’t be a baby. Clean out the head good … well or it will rot faster.”
Jamie reached in and scooped out the pulp and seed with his bare hand. His sleeve was further mucked.
“Get it all or it’s a fire hazard from the candle.”
Jamie whimpered, but finished the job and lifted the paring knife.
He closed his eyes and breathed deeply and slowly. He tilted the pumpkin back and went in for the first cut on the face. He went with plain triangle eyes to avoid the mistakes of complexity. He hooked the triangles with the curved tip and gouged them out of the empty sockets.
He went for the nose and cut an upside down triangle.
“Really simple, baby Jamie, wake me up if I pass out from boredom.”
Jamie went with the frown this time. He decided to point the teeth instead of squaring them off. He took the long journey around the lips. It took three tries to get the center of the mouth removed.
He traced the lines with his eyes to be sure there were no flaws. It was plain. He considered eyebrows, but decided against it. He thought about long slivers to represent stringy hair.
“The face is too plain, son. You are putting lipstick on a boring pig at this point. Congratulations on your flawless … mediocrity.”
Jamie lifted the Jack-O-Lantern over his head and drove it down into the concrete floor. It split along the back. He hoisted and slammed again. The knife slide inside his palm, but he ignored it. On the third strike, the boring face crumbled in his hands. The acids from the pulp stung the long cut on his palm.
He grabbed another and set it down on the soggy newspaper. His blood smeared across three ribs on the pumpkin. He snatched up the butcher knife and lifted it above his head in both hands. His breathing came in heaving gasps. He held the knife suspended as blood ran down the hilt. It ran over the sharp edge to the point. A single, red drop landed on top next to the stem. Two more dripped next to it.
Jamie plunged down into the top with a grunt. He took several breaths before he began slicing out the lid.
“How are you going to fail this time? What pumpkin patch are you going to buy out next?”
Jamie closed his eyes and cried as he lifted the top off the new pumpkin.
“You left us. You died and left me to make the Jack-O-Lantern alone, so shut up and let me do it. Just … shut up.”
Jamie bled slowly into the opening. He gritted his teeth and stuck his wounded hand into the pumpkin to clear out the guts. He hissed as the stinging pain traveled up his arm.
He reached down and lifted the paring knife again. He stared at the bloody surface and considered where to cut next.