It’s happened to all of us. We’ve all received a hideous gift from a well-meaning person, which we’d never think of using even if the barrel of a big gun was pressed against our skulls. But what can you do when you find yourself opening what turns out to be a truly ghastly gift, so gawdawful your heart collapses in your chest, your eyeballs turn to granite marbles, your very breath leaves your body, and the loving gift-givers are standing before you with expectant, joyful smiles?

You act. That’s what you do. Pretend.

We all have unplumbed depths of Thespian talents we didn’t know we possessed until that terrible moment of truth. We gasp. We gush. Our eyebrows go up in happy surprise. We stutter with joy and look into the face of the giver with such grateful adoration they are convinced we are thrilled to the marrow by their beautiful and unexpected gift.

Ah, but if we could look into the minds of those duplicitous givers, we’d know their smiles come not because of the joy of giving. Instead, their smiles come from exhaled relief, because finally, they are rid of an albatross that is now our possession, that awful thing they’d been given perhaps a year back, free finally of this terrible offering that’s obviously been passed through many hands. Now someone else can be its keeper and be revolted by it.

For us it was butter knives. At least I think that’s what they were. Mongo and I had recently moved into our new home in New Jersey and were giving a house-warming party. We’d expressly written “no gifts” on all invitations, and we meant it. We just wanted to be with our new friends, and that was all.

And all of those new friends honored our wishes and came to the party giftless … except for one couple. They decided to disrespect our wishes and bring a gift anyway. It was elaborately wrapped and when we tried to thank them as quietly as possible, they insisted we open the box to see what they’d bestowed upon us.

Trying to do it with as little fanfare as possible I softly tore off the wrapping paper. The box inside was red and I knew immediately it had seen other owners; the corners were worn, the genuine imitation leather torn and frayed and there was a stain on the top someone had clearly tried to scrub off.

But being the gracious lady I am (yes, I am), I ignored all those visual clues and pulled up the lid. There inside, nestled in their red, fitted, faux velvet openings lay six of the most horrible looking butter knives ever created. The handles were thick as a wrestler’s thumb, and made of imitation ivory or bone. I was grateful for their fakeness, since it would have filled me with searing guilt if an animal had died to give up its tusks or bones to make handles for those dreadful scimitars.

The greyish handles were deeply carved in all sorts of strange and unrelated shapes; sunbursts, stars, deer, birds and triangles. The edges of all those peculiar carvings were quite sharp, so gripping them would require some amount of courage had the butter been hard. The knives’ shafts were thin as straws, imitation gold (flaking off) and about four inches long. All of this ended in a mini-machete, a small, flaking gold, curved and dull blade with a curled end.

And there were etchings on those short, fat blades, too, words in some language in strange, unidentifiable hieroglyphs. Those horrid little butter daggers were just simply awful, but what could I do? I gushed and grinned and blathered something about “never using them except on the most special of occasions!”

Ugh. Yeah, like maybe the anniversary of Mussolini’s birth.

But the time came when I would be able to unload those horrid little lancets. I’d waited long for the opportunity. The people who’d given them to us had moved so there was no danger they’d find out. I hauled them out and spruced up the red box as best I could, wrapped it beautifully and handed it beamingly to an old teacher being honored for his 50th year of teaching.

Forty years before he used to make me walk home in the middle of geography class to retrieve homework I’d usually not done, but told him I’d forgotten to bring in. It was really hard trying to get that homework done properly in the freezing cold, holding it against my knee so I could write in the answers while I was running back to school.

Hope you liked the butter knives, Mr. Rodgers.

LC Van Savage has written LC’s Take for Midcoast newspapers for over 40 years. She is the author of the novel “Queenie,” recently published and available at local bookstores.