One of the more unusual sights and services seen in Antigua are the door-to-door knife sharpeners: it’s usually a boy with a small wooden box upon which is mounted a hand-powered grinding wheel. I was on my way to pick up laundry, a block away, having done my morning marketing and noticed the youth going from door to door. Did I have anything needing an edge? Being a bachelor, I have two knives for cutting things: one is serrated and the other is beyond saving.
The sword cane! A bit of explanation and the back story: Guatemala has its dicier sides, places that a gringo shouldn’t go, as does all of Central America. As a peripatetic travel writer who likes a bit of spice in the life, I quickly acquired a hand-gun when I first moved here. Illegally of course, but as Bob Dylan once said, to live outside the law you must be honest. The used Beretta .380 is a fine piece of reliable equipment but a bit bulky for evening wear.
A year ago, passing an antique shop I noted a nicely made Spanish short sword hanging on the wall. It was incomplete and not a work of art: just a workmanlike twenty four inch length of hammered steel and a cross bar hilt plus enough of the tang remaining to allow for a grip of some sort. A bargain was struck and eventually, months later a stained length of bamboo mounted with small tasteful silver bands was finished. Voila! Zorro! And yes, I was on the epee fencing team in college, so I know which end to use.
Sharpening the blade proved to be time-consuming and ineffective with the small file I bought in the market, but it was better than nothing. The appearance of the knife sharpener on my street has completed the project, which usually sits in the corner by the door. But, should I choose, I have a long black velvet cape left over from the Venetian Masked Ball earlier this year — no mask, because I gave it away, and forget about the horse. You’ll recognize me when I meet you at the airport.