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Swiss Army Knives
by Stephen S. Lottridge

When my daughter, Stephanie, turned eleven, I gave her a red Swiss Army knife, her heart’s desire. She gasped, her hazel eyes flashed and she told me it was the best gift she had ever gotten. She treasures it still.

At sixteen, she traveled to Europe. In Switzerland, she ordered a Swiss Army knife for me. Unpacking back home, smiling confidently, she reached it out and handed it to me. It was forest green, my favorite color, with my name engraved on it. I stood without words, struck by its beauty and by the fact that she knew me so well and happily. I carried it in my pocket and smiled whenever I felt it cool against my thigh.

A few weeks later, I stood at the Post Office counter to sort my mail. I slit the envelopes with my knife. Sorting the opened pieces, I set aside the knife, thinking to remember it before I left. The way you set your wallet on your car roof, so you can load your packages? I gathered up my stacked mail, walked out and drove off.

Something tugged at my mental coat tails and yanked me into clarity. I cranked into the first turnout I saw, wheeled back to the post office and tore to the counter. No knife. I swept the top, I scoured the floor, I dug through the wastebaskets. I asked the clerk if someone had turned it in. I posted signs with my telephone number. I put an ad in the paper. Gone.

I bought a new knife, red in Stephanie’s honor. But every time I slice open my mail, I remember the knife she gave me and ache, as if I have betrayed some tiny part of her thoughtful love by my carelessness.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My first response to this prompt ran to over 600 words, and I thought I was being terse even then. Paring it down to 300 was a discipline I enjoyed. At the same time, I would like to expand it to fuller length and see where it takes me. .

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Stephen Lottridge is a former professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures and a retired clinical psychologist. He has three adopted children. He is an actor, director and writer of prose and poetry, who gets into the outdoors as much as he can. He currently holds the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship in Creative Non-Fiction, and has published in Emerging Writers and in Blood, Water, Wind and Stone: an Anthology of Wyoming Writers.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION:  I am over six feet tall, have gray hair (what remains of it), blue eyes and look like I am happy with life.