The Knife on the Bedside Table

The Knife on the Bedside Table (short story, 1998)

     I bolt right up. The room is still dark. Is it time for work already? I reach over to the bedside table and turn on the lamp. The alarm clock says itís three-seventeen. Thereíre still a few hours for sleep. I turn off the lamp. I lie down again, making myself comfortable. Wait a minute. Something is wrong. I sit back up and turn on the lamp. The knife is gone.
     I keep a long knife on my bedside table for protection. I donít like guns. Too noisy. Too dangerous to have around the house. Where is the knife? I always make sure itís there before I go to bed. Hadnít I double-checked last night?
     A creak downstairs. Oh shit. Thereís someone in the house. They came into my room and took my knife without me ever waking. I could have been killed. They could have slashed my throat with my own knife. I get up. Donít hear anything more, but it makes sense that any intruder would be cautious. I look quickly around the room for a weapon. Nothing here. Open up the closet. There are the old ski poles Iíve been meaning to put in the attic for a month. I pick one up.
     Quietly down the stairs. Not stepping where the creaks are. The pole is a lance in front of me. The house is dark. I donít turn the lights on; that might scare the intruder into attacking me. Better to get him from behind. Peek around the banister. No one in the hall. Front door doesnít seem forced. Where is this bastard? Crawling into the living room. Everything is in order. No windows smashed, nothing stolen. Odd. Creep into the kitchen. Is he hiding from me? Does he know where I am? Is he behind me?! I turn around. Nobody. Kitchen doesnít seem disturbed. Thereís a glint from the counter.
     There, lying beside the sink, is the knife. Of course. Itís been here all the time. I used it this afternoon to slice potatoes. I had meant to clean it and return it immediately but never gotten around to it. Sigh.
     A hand grabs my arm, and another clasps my mouth.