On the anniversary of her father’s death, when she turns thirteen, Jo stands out back of the Roadhouse, a little bull’s-eye done up in red marker, scribbled on so many times that it shines clear through the wooden exterior. Her father’s knife in her hands, she takes a deep breath, curling her fingers around it and remembering other hunters, the way they held theirs, how their fingers molded around the knife and how they stood.
With a firm bit of confidence, she aims and she throws. It doesn’t even hit the outside circle.
Her mom finds out about these little training sessions when she comes running in a few weeks later, rushing to the sink and running cold water over a deep gash between her middle and index fingers. Half the hand suckled in her mouth, she tries to grin, but when her teeth brush the wound all that comes out is a pained wince.
She needs seven stitches and the scar remains, her mom effectively grounding her from the Roadhouse for a month, but she doesn’t regret a single moment, spreading her fingers a bit wider when she’s finally allowed back in the bar full of hunters.
An old retired hunter named Joseph ends up helping her with her knife throwing. He smells weird and his hands wander a bit at first, but she elbows him between his second and third ribs and that solves that.
In a week she’s hitting the third ring of her bull’s-eye.
In two, the center.
In three, leaves on trees.
Jo has learned to ignore the jeers and taunts of classmates, from middle school to high school to college. They roll off her back like water, and after each one she stands with her head a bit higher.
But what she can’t deal with is when her roommate picks up her Daddy’s knife, which she’s taken out for some sharpening, and starts laughing at the design; it’s, she says, the “ugliest knife in her whole psychopathic collection.”
Now, Jo finds it very admirable that she doesn’t let her stuck-up roommate get to know the weapon up close and personal and instead settles for breaking her nose. The administration doesn’t share her optimistic point of view.
Her father protects her. That’s how she sees it. When she’s locked up in that mausoleum, probably going to die but insisting otherwise, the knife firm in her hands and cutting through the spirit’s gross hand, she just keeps thinking that her Daddy’s right there with her, watching over her and making sure that she’ll be okay.
It comforts her even more than Sam and Dean’s voices, though they aren’t really far behind.
At first, she really doesn’t want to use the knife on hunts, afraid it’ll get destroyed or lost or stolen. Then, after almost losing her head to a vengeful spirit in Mississippi, she chides herself for wasting her father’s gift and kills a shtriga with it a week later.
In the end, she gives Dean her shotgun but keeps the knife. It’s safe in a holster on her left leg, so as she slips away she pretends that Bill Harvelle’s on her left side, Ellen Harvelle’s on her right side, and all together they’re a family again, her nestled between them like a kid again, falling asleep on her mother’s shoulder and not dying in a hardware store in Carthage.