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Villard Books, 1994
Random House Audio, 1994
Vintage, 1995

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Marion Winik, Telling

From the title essay, “Telling”:

Last summer I snapped the tip off Anita's new ninety-dollar chef's knife by trying to use it to pry open a tin of Japanese horseradish. A triangle of metal flew into the mysterious void where small shiny things sometimes go.

I stared at the huge gleaming broken knife in my hand, and went into some kind of weird sociopathic state. I walked over to the sink, plunged the knife into the suds, pulled it out and exclaimed, Oh God, look what happened to the knife. It must have broken somehow in the sink.

Anita looked at me in a funny way, and then everyone rushed over to see what was going on. Don't worry, Anita, they said, surely the store will replace it. A knife like that should stand up to a little use! You barely even had it one whole day.

If they don't, I said, I'll buy you a new one.

Why? asked Anita.

Oh, I just feel bad about it, I said.

Why? asked Anita. It's not your fault.

I guess not, I said in my weird sociopathic voice.

I had a lousy time that night, then went home and suffered some more.

As soon as I got up the next morning, disasters began to befall me with alacrity. I sprained my ankle, misplaced a savings bond, and spilled coffee grounds all over the kitchen. I knew it was just my bad karma for telling such a big honker lie to my friend and then sitting down at her dinner table with that lie between us like a dead fish on a platter with its yellow eyes staring.

The next morning, I couldn't stand it any more. I called Anita and told her the truth, which she of course had known all along. You are so silly, she said, and we both laughed, I perhaps more nervously than she. When I got off the phone, my ankle was miraculously healed and I found the savings bond right underneath my nose.

It was the perfect confession experience. I was off the hook, so to speak, precipitously pardoned and paroled, transformed from a bad person to a good person, just like that. My despicable crime had become a funny story, which I repeated to anyone who would listen.

Excerpted from Telling, Confessions, concessions, and other flashes of light by Marion Winik (Vintage Books, 1995). Reprinted with permission of the author.

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