A Knife On the Bed

by Robert Scotellaro

Let’s say, the skateboarders were back again, scraping up and down the empty swimming pool next door. There was the sharp, skunky scent of pot in the air, and we were on the deck watching the lemons on the tree yellow.


Let’s say, we just got back home and the jewelry was missing, the window jimmied, and that large kitchen knife, we kept in the drawer, was on the bed. Our bed. That whoever took our stuff didn’t need to use it. But held it just in case. It was still there. A shark in the waves of an unmade bed.


Let’s say, I was more than a little annoyed that Camille was taking so frigging long picking through the aisles at Safeway on a sunny Saturday. Filling the cart, when I wanted it shallow. And, what the hell was this thing about timing and luck anyway? A butcher knife in the hand/in the sheets/in the belly? The neighborhood kids on the other side of the hedges, oblivious—scraping, scraping…


Let’s say, cancer never came at Kay Ballenger like a boulder down a mountain. And Joe didn’t lose his job—everything—and he was out there, instead of these rowdies, blackening barbecued ribs like he always did on weekends. And his wife, Kay, was by the pool in that blue sundress or on an inflatable in the water with a drink, her straw with lipstick at the end of it, her/our favorite shade of red. How it might have been different with their dog, Bruno, barking.


Let’s say, that mockingbird was back in the poplars making a fuss with a throat full of stolen music, but I hardly heard it, as we stared off, saying we needed to call the police. Needed to talk. That one of the rowdies just said: “Fuckin’ A!” after some kind of tricky maneuver, banging the hard wheels against the Spanish tile Kay left wet butt prints against, I never forgot, just before she got up to dive back in. When the pool, so much, hadn’t yet been emptied.

Robert Scotellaro has been published widely in national and international books, journals and anthologies. He is the author of seven literary chapbooks and several books for children. His story “Fun House” is included in the anthology Flash Fiction International by W.W. Norton. A collection of his flash fiction, Measuring the Distance, was published by Blue Light Press (2012). His forthcoming collection of micro fiction, What We Know So Far, is due out in July of 2015 (Winner of the Blue Light Book Award). He was the recipient of Zone 3’s Rainmaker Award in Poetry. With Dale Wisely, he co-edits the journal, One Sentence Poems. Raised in Manhattan, he currently lives with his wife in San Francisco. Visit him at www.rsflashfiction.com. He can be reached at rtscotellaro@gmail.com.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “A Knife On the Bed”?

Many years ago, a friend told me he came home to find he’d been robbed. That a number of items had been stolen. But what terrified him, was finding the thief had taken a butcher knife from his kitchen drawer and left it on his bed. My friend concluded it was most likely kept in case he had come home while the theft was in progress. That brought up the issue of timing and luck for me—a few minutes here or there tallying to life or death.

I am a prodigious note-taker and jotted that detail down. More than a decade later, I saw a documentary about skateboarders in Southern California using empty swimming pools from abandoned houses for their fancy maneuvers. I used these details as starting prompts. Once I begin a story, the rest is discovery. Seeing what connective tissue/ conflicts surface, feel right to me—that unifies, forms, and informs the piece as a whole.


Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

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