The Blind Knife Sharpener
by Teri Saya
In Mexico there are always sounds to announce one thing or another. I especially like the knife sharpeners whistle…..
A long, low fluting whistle waivers in the air. As it comes closer, you gather up your knives. A young boy with a backpack leads an old blind man by one arm. The old man clutches a cane with his other hand and leans on it as he limps down the street. The boy blows the whistle again, the note long and wailing, dropping an octave in the end. The tapping of the old man’s cane upon the hard surface can be heard between notes.
The neighbors begin to gather with their kitchen knives, garden clippers, axes, and scissors. The boy removes his pack and helps the old man to sit down on the curb. The pack is opened, and the boy brings out a thick cloth bundle, which he unrolls and lays across the old man’s legs. Two large whetting stones, each with a different grit, are placed on the cloth. The boy puts a can of oil on one side and a pile of rags on the other. The old man touches each item of his trade, then reaches out, and the boy carefully places the first customer’s knife in his hand.
The neighbors watch and gossip quietly amongst themselves while with swift, skilled movements, on each oiled stone, the blind man works his trade. He stops long enough to test the blade by flicking the edge with his thumb. When satisfied that the blade is extra sharp, he wipes the knife with a rag and passes it back to the boy handle first.
No one speaks to the blind man while he sharpens their utensils. There seems to be an understood reverence to his skill, age, and blindness. Even the boy, his apprentice, only speaks when needed. In a near whisper, he asks one of the neighbors for a glass of water, and when it appears, he taps the old man on the shoulder, and hands him the glass. The old man drains the glass thirstily and hands it back to the boy, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. With a nod, he begins again honing the blade.
There is only speculation amongst the neighbors as to how the man became blind or how old he may be. They assume the boy is his grandson. Nevertheless, they all are grateful for his skill.
The boy and the blind man continue this ritual of passing and sharpening until all the utensils on this street are sharp and gleaming. Money is exchanged, the neighbors disperse, and the boy carefully packs away the tools. He helps the old man to his feet and hands him his cane. He gently takes his elbow, and the boy and the blind man continue down the street. The beautiful, haunting whistle and the tap, tap, tap of the old man’s cane float in the air, calling for the next group of customers.
Born and raised in California, Teri Saya worked as a waitress, forklift driver, carpenter, bookkeeper, desktop publisher, and a costumed character at a theme park. She has four grown sons and two grandchildren. Teri is an avid reader and loves to watch a good movie with her husband and their schnauzer while eating gourmet popcorn. She moved with her husband from California to Zapopan, Mexico in 2013. As a result of that road trip taken in a Toyota RAV from northern California of the United States to Zapopan Mexico, Teri has written and self-published “The Gringa Files, A California Woman Living in Mexico.” This book is available in print only at most online book stores.