The Sword

Jarrett Kaufman

It was late afternoon when Marvin got home from work. He made his way through the cluttered apartment living room then sat down on the brown couch next to his roommate, Charles. They sat there for a while watching the television.

“You know that I have a date tonight, right?” asked Marvin.

“Oh, yeah. That’s tonight, isn’t it?” Charles said.

“Yeah…But I, um, have something to ask of you, though.”

“What’s that?”

“Well,” he said swallowing, “do you think I can borrow the sword?”

It hung from the wall just above the television set that was blanketed with old beer bottles and empty Chinese take-out boxes and a balled up afghan that smelled like canned cream corn.

The sword was an 1863 Civil War issued saber. It had a 36-inch steel blade with a solid brass handle and a custom white leather grip wrapping. It was beautiful, and Marvin particularly liked the large golden tassels that dangled from the top of the handle.

Charles had bought the sword years ago at a pawnshop in Pasadena. The shop clerk told Charles that the sword had probably belonged to a Confederate General. He said that the sword would be good for splitting open watermelons or skinning raccoons. “It’s a man’s sword,” he said.

Charles walked across the living room and looked out the window.

“What’s the matter?” asked Marvin.

“I can’t let you borrow the sword.”

“Oh, come on Charles. I really want to impress my date tonight,” he said. “Could you imagine me taking her to some fancy restaurant with that sword hanging from my hip? People would be like ‘Wow,’ and ‘Look at that cute couple,’ and, ‘Damn, look at that sword.”

Charles was looking through the window blinds at the gray clouds. They were rolling over the cornfields. He thought that it looked like it could rain soon.

“Yeah, that would be pretty cool,” he said.

“I know. She’d love the sword, Charles.”

“Yeah, she would,” he answered.

Marvin stood next to the sword. He took in all of its details. He thought that it would be neat if he could figure out a way to butter his date’s biscuit. He closed his eyes and pictured dipping the tip of the blade into the soft butter and then coolly spreading it across the open and warm bread.

“Well? Come on, man. Can I?” he asked.

“No Marvin,” Charles said still looking out the window. “I can’t.”

“But why, damnit?”

“Well, to be honest, I have a date tonight, too.”

Marvin rolled his eyes and took a deep breath.

“So that’s how it’s going to be, huh?”

“Come on, Marvin. It’s my sword.”

“Yeah, well, you’re going to look stupid, Charles.”

“And why’s that?”

“Because, you’re too short and the sword would drag on the ground, asshole!”

Marvin went back to his room. He slammed the door and Charles heard him yell “fucker” a couple of times. Then Marvin rushed out of his room. He walked through the kitchen and gave Charles the finger. He left and Charles watched Marvin get into his red El Camino that had a set of longhorns on the hood. He watched the car pull out of the parking space, leaving a line of smoking rubber tracks across the cement.

There was a silence in the apartment, but then it began to storm. Charles enjoyed the sounds of rain hitting the roof and windows. It calmed him. It cleared his thoughts.

He went back to the living room and looked up at the sword. He thought about what kind of shirt he should wear on his date. The blue one. It would complement the sword best. And penny loafers. They would look classy with the golden tassels.

Charles took the sword off the wall. Gently.

“Ohhhh, yeahhhhh,” he said pointing the blade at his shadow on the wall.

Charles enjoyed holding the sword. He couldn’t stop smiling. He wasn’t one to smile normally, but he was experiencing a sense of fulfillment that he’d never felt before. It was like a bubble was expanding in his belly. And that bubble quickly began to feel a bit uncomfortable so he eased himself back into the soft, coffee-stained couch cushions and unbuttoned his pants. He sat the sword across his lap. Then he ran his fingers across the handle and waited, for what, he did not yet know. But whatever it would be, he knew that it had to be something good. Something badass.