The Last Knife Maker

7 Jun

by Calvin Malkoski
7th Grade

The troops were closing in as Yong Pow Whacha fled toward his house. He rushed inside and went straight for his family. He found them, curled together in his room, scared and confused. The soldiers were pounding on the door, demanding entrance, but the chair propped in front held firm. He quickly grabbed his knife-making kit and his blanket. He told his family that the soldiers were coming and they had to get out. He opened the little secret door they had prepared and shoved them through it. As he waited for them to crawl through, he stocked his backpack.

The front door was shaking, about to give in. He slammed the secret door closed and stood up. This was a matter of life and death. His family knew it and so did he. As the last traditional knife maker, he knew that he needed to survive and preserve his craft. He slipped out the back door as the front door broke open. On the way out, he also picked up a bow to help him survive. He sprinted away, heading for the caves. These mountains were like home to him and he knew them like the back of his hand. Quickly slipping away from his house, he looked back one more time, seeing his wife and children disappear into the woods. They would be safe, they had to be.

Two Years Later

Yong Pow crept through the woods toward his prey. The small rabbit was happily walking along, as it had been for the past few minutes. Suddenly an arrow pierced it. The young craftsman sprinted forward and picked it up. He headed back to the cave that had been his home for the last few months. Once there, he marked off another day on the rough stone wall of his home. It had been 734 days since he had seen his family in person. He was planning a reunion on day 750, but only if he could safely make it to their new home.

When he had first left, he’d had no idea what was going on, nobody had, but now he understood. This was what they were calling the Cultural Revolution. The idea of the revolution was to destroy everything ancient and traditional in China and completely start anew. While the only thing that they were attempting to take away were his crafts, they would go to any lengths to do this, and kill and imprison to make sure. This was why he was hiding. He knew that had he stayed and surrendered, his life would have ended. So now here he was, living in a cave, eating rabbits, and counting down the days until he could see his family again.

He hung up this rabbit, deciding to turn it into jerky that he could surprise his family with and survive on for longer. The others he tossed in his small stewpot and began to stir. This cave was in a perfect position: he could see the village and the mountains, and it was perfectly protected and shielded from view. He took his new store of knickknacks that he had collected from around the village and brought them into the very back of the cave where he kept all of his valuables, the few he had left. He had some small weapons that he had found and a lot of spare change.

Tomorrow, he was going to clean up and make a run to town to purchase more supplies. He had to get up early if he wanted to get a good whole day of shopping in. His list was scratched on an old sheet of paper he’d found today. It read:

– New blankets
– Pillow
– Food
– New arrows
– Rope
– Survival kit
– First aid

This list did not mark the first time he had gone to his village. He simply needed to get more of these supplies. He finally added one last thing: flashlight and batteries.

The next morning, he arose when his small water clock that he had spent hours making hit the bell. He swung out of bed, really considering getting an actual mattress next time. He put on his relatively nice clothes, to make it seem as if he was simply another citizen. He stole down the hill and stopped about a mile from the entrance. Walking purposefully, he came along the road. He stopped at the gate and yelled up at the guard. He informed the guard of who he was and entered the town in great strides.

He glanced down at his list and set off for the survival gear shop. There he found several kits and packages. He purchased a survival kit, first aid kit, and his rope. On the way out he spotted a sleeping bag. This would be perfect. He quickly bought it too. However, from watching the village, he knew that the leaders of the Cultural Revolution would be here any moment. After he thanked the man, he sprinted out.

He ran down an alley and leaped over the fence, his coat disappearing in a flash. From the opposite end of the alley, he turned around and saw a soldier staring at him. This one was on patrol and fenced in. He knew that the soldier was more afraid of him than he was of the soldier, so he lifted his cloak, showing the glint of his handmade dagger. The soldier stared at him fearfully and sprinted out the other side of the alley.

That was not a smart move, showing him the dagger. He knew now that soon they would all be on high alert. He began to move purposefully out of the village. However, he spotted his one friend on the way out. They had learned to communicate silently. He gestured out the gate, and made signs for an arrow and food. Then he walked the rest of the way.

Nodding to the guard on the way out, he quickly found his waiting spot and sat down. About three hours later, his friend came out just as it was getting dark. By this time, he had slipped on his cloak and marked the trail. His friend came with a pack loaded with goods. He shook his friend’s hand and while they shook, his friend pressed a gold coin into his hand.

On the way home, he realized something: he was one day closer to seeing his family.

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