One morning while we were still in high school, I knocked on the door to Tucker’s house. His family let me in and his mother sent me upstairs to get Tucker.
"He should have been up already," she called after me.
I knocked and walked in. We talked for a minute while he got ready to go hiking. As I paced back and forth next to his door, I noticed a fresh, narrow divot in his hardwood floor.
“I didn’t do that, did I?” I said.
“No, man. That was totally me.“ Tucker laughed. He opened up the panel in the wall where he kept some of his equipment stash. His machete was there. He gestured to it. “It’s a funny story, actually.“
I marched a few steps and reached for the machete. I liked to play with it. It had a good weight.
“Oh no, man. Don’t grab that yet. I sharpened it.” He chuckled and replaced the panel. “In fact, that’s kind of the story.“
Yes, what had happened was this: Tucker had sharpened the machete.
That doesn’t seem like a big deal. But here is the additional important information.
1. I had tried to teach him to juggle.
2. My father and brother had seen us and tried to teach Tucker to juggle. They almost succeeded. He could make a pass with three tennis balls from our garage.
3. Adam had taught him to juggle much more. He had gotten Tucker to make four passes in a row and two with clubs. He had taught Tucker the trick of timing a club toss.
Naturally, Tucker did not want to stick with juggling clubs. Even though he couldn’t juggle for long, he wanted to practice so that he could upgrade to machetes.
Does the sharpened machete seem more sinister now?
Tucker had been juggling his one machete, when it was not very sharp, to get the timing. Then he sharpened it. He did it because it was a machete. It was such a very cool thing to have. And he kept going. Because we used the machete in the forest sometimes. He pretty much sharpened the blade until he was tired. He cut himself mis-handling it, too. He should have known. On some level, he did know.
He put away the blade and forgot about it for a while. The day before I visited, he took it out, as usual, to practice juggling. He used as a club. He flipped it, caught it. Flipped it, caught it. Flipped it again.
When he realized he had flipped it too hard and the point was going to come down in his hand, he yanked his hand back. He did not dodge. He left his foot in place under the falling machete.
The point came down on his boot. It was a nice, hard, leather boot. He should have been safe. I had seen him drop the machete before on his boot. But those drops had been mere fumbles, not anything with force. And the blade hadn't been sharp. This time, the machete blade sliced through his boot and through his foot and all the way to the floor. That was the narrow divot in his hardwood floor.
“I saw that, Eric, and I thought: oh man, I’m fucked now.“ His mouth hung open as he told the story. He still looked a little pale. “I thought I was going to the hospital. The funny part is, I was more worried about what my parents would think. My dad doesn’t know I have his machete.“
“Should I be getting a needle and thread?" I glanced around his stuff. He probably had a full first aid kit somewhere. That would be like him. "Do you need stitches?“
“No, man. That’s the best part. I was stuck to the floor but it didn’t hurt as much as I thought it should. I pulled the blade out, and I put it back. Then I took off my boot.”
He took off his tennis shoe to show me. I looked around for his boots but didn’t see them anywhere in his room. So I inspected his foot as he lifted it and pointed to the space between his big toe and the second toe. He had a little cut in the flesh between his toes.
“I just missed losing a toe, I think.” He rubbed the cut and laughed.
Would you think the moral of the story is that he learned to be careful? That he didn't play with the machete so much?
We were teenagers.
But he may have learned something. He never made the machete quite as razor sharp again. In later years, when I observed how careful he was with bladed weapons, he mentioned the machete lesson.