My Time of Exile
Unending darkness holds dominion over the sludgy wetness of my exile, where the occasional rat nibbles at my corporeal existence and my spirit withers deeper into defeat. Rotting compost, a combination of kitchen scraps and yard waste, has been piled, packed and compressed all the way to the roof of my horrid prison. Stuck under the weight of this heaped garbage, I’m unable to escape the obnoxious odors that permeate my soul. Overly perky red worms chortle at me as they slowly wriggle by my cramped niche. Families of gill-breathing slate grey pill bugs use their vile tiny feet to tickle and torment me. How long have I been stranded in this hell? Two winters have passed since I was lost.
Over the seasons of my long confinement there have been times when the entire structure was agitated, as if by a powerful earthquake. These were the occasions when a metal spike plunged into the layers of leavings, mixing and stirring the accumulated waste together. This was usually followed by a torrent of cold water that gushed into the accumulated detritus from above, splashing through the mess and dribbling over me. These actions only served to push me ever deeper towards the bottom of the heap, until I was mired in the densest, lowest area.
There was one time in the first spring of my detention when I finally got a glimpse of daylight after an eternity of gloom. Planting time had arrived and the sodden mass of my dungeon had gradually transformed. Lifting shovelfuls of fresh compost, the man worked steadily towards my hiding place at ground-level. As the man reached the end of his chore, he must have been tired. He disastrously tipped half of the last shovel of compost back into the bin, then closed it and departed. It was my misfortune to be hidden in that remaining bit of detritus, to be relegated to the far back edge of the bin, never noticed and apparently forgotten.
What I miss most about my former life is the satisfaction of being used for the tool that I am. I felt such joy when held by someone with a specific need, who had a purpose for my utility. And as they confidently applied my edge to cut something, my heart sang. Basking in the warmth and light of my home in the kitchen’s knife block, I was an instant away from being grasped by the man or the woman, ready for any task. The man meticulously sharpened my blade with such caring constancy. It was the woman who regularly washed and dried me after every use, routinely applying lemon-scented mineral oil to my handle when it became parched. It’s almost too overwhelming to remember those rituals of love carried out by my erstwhile owners.
You might wonder how I could ever have come to my current state, given the consideration previously lavished on me. Well, it was during the annual apple harvest, when the man and the woman were working beside each other at the kitchen counter. My older brother, with his 4- inch blade to my 3-inch, was being used by the man to quarter the apples. The woman, who had been using me to core the apples, was distracted by a ringing noise. She set me down and in the clean-up process I was accidently flung into a paper grocery bag along with the peelings and cores. Minutes later the bag was upended and its contents dumped. Spiraling hilt over blade, I fell with the apple bits, an abrupt initiation to my present fate.
The worms tell me it is springtime again, and so have lifted my hopes for rescue. The man is vigorously shoveling the compost out of the bin. I can tell he’s eager to get started on his gardening project. To my great delight, this time he decides to scrape at the remnants around the bin’s inner edge. Without any particular fanfare, he dislodges me from my hideaway. A glimmer of recognition crosses his face as he brushes the dirt from my pitted handle. Then he hurries into the house, to the kitchen where the woman is making tea.
The man shouts, “Honey! You’re never going to believe this. I just found that paring knife we lost so long ago! Remember? It’s been at the bottom of the compost bin all this time.”
Reaching for me, her expression reveals stunned amazement. She speaks softly, as if to me alone, “Oh, yes! I certainly remember it. How could I ever forget my favorite little knife?”
Soon I am thoroughly washed and closely inspected. Because of the poor condition of my wood, the man fashions a new brown epoxy handle, a graspable improvement of my appearance and function. Then he scrupulously polishes and sharpens my blade. With a small touch of ceremony, he settles me into my familiar home slot in the knife block as the woman watches and smiles. I realize, with no small amount of pleasure, they had not replaced me.
In the quiet hours long after suppertime, I reiterate my story to the neighboring knives in the block. They smugly congratulate themselves that, unlike me, they’ll never suffer a harrowing ordeal in the outside elements. But can they be certain they are absolutely safe? Can anyone?