“Has anyone seen my scissors? They were right here on my desk just yesterday. In a yellow pencil case.”
The scissors Mrs. Musgrave uses for kindergarten art projects are missing. They’re the sharp, pointy scissors big people use. The children, of course, use the safer kind, the plastic kind with the blunt nose. They’re advertised not to cut hair or clothing, but most of all, they don’t cut little fingers, they don’t cut little bodies.
The children look around at each other. There’s a murmur. They look at Mrs. Musgrave and respond no in perfect unison, as if they’ve rehearsed the answer. But their response is sincere. Well, almost. One child knows exactly where those sharp, pointy scissors repose, and she’s not telling. She can make out the yellow pencil case in the deep shadow beneath the radiator next to the wall. Right where she put it. It’s safe there for now, as are its contents.
This is their world. A world you and I don’t get to see anymore. Where everything is oh, so big. Where you’re always looking up, up, up. Outside, the houses, the trees, the sky. Inside, the chairs, the tables, the people. Up, up, up.
In the kindergarten room there are clocks. Round clocks and number clocks. And paper clocks. Paper clocks the children have made. The paper clocks are spread all about the walls. The clock—the real clock—over Mrs. Musgrave’s desk says it’s ten o’clock. Nap time.
When you lie on your nap mat, you can see things big people can’t see. Like under the chairs. Under the tables. Under that radiator by the wall. Cassi Palmer doesn’t like the radiator. You can burn your hand on the radiator. And it hisses and makes pounding noises in winter. Noises like it’s mean and angry. Noises like big people make sometimes. But that makes it a good place to hide something. Like scissors. Sharp, pointy scissors.
Cody Parks has his nap mat next to Cassi Palmer’s. At nap time Mrs. Musgrave walks among the nap mats to make sure everyone is resting and quiet. Cassi likes to whisper to Cody during nap time. Mrs. Musgrave doesn’t like whispering. She places a finger to her lips. Then points to Cassi. Shakes her head. Shakes her head and frowns.
Cassi Palmer doesn’t like Mrs. Musgrave anymore. She says she’s going to kill Mrs. Musgrave. That’s what she says to Cody Parks. Cody Parks isn’t sure he wants to kill Mrs. Musgrave. But he thinks he likes Cassi. Sort of. Sort of, because Cassi can be mean sometimes. She pinches sometimes. And it stings. It burns. Like the radiator by the wall.
Soon it will be recess. Cassi and Cody, conspirator and co-conspirator, will forge their plan on the playground swing. Back and forth. Back and forth. Up to the sky. Up to the sky. Tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow.
Once more, the clock over Mrs. Musgrave’s desk reads ten o’clock. Once more, Mrs. Musgrave has begun her daily walk among the nap mats covering the floor. And once more, Mrs. Musgrave pauses to admonish Cassi Palmer. “You never sleep, Cassi. You need your rest.” Not waiting for a response, she turns around, facing away. Standing. Now is the time. Now is the time. Cassi pulls the slender yellow pencil case from beneath her mat. She slides its contents onto the floor beside her mat. Ever, ever so carefully.
Mrs. Musgrave is tall. Oh, so tall. She wears black shoes. A black skirt that reaches below the knee. Cassi has wrapped her small, pink hand around the handle of the scissors. Her fingers barely reach. She holds them tight. So very tight. She contemplates the scissors only a moment, pulls her arm back, way back, way, way back, and plunges the point of her scissors deep into the muscle of Mrs. Musgrave’s fleshy right calf. The woman stumbles forward, collapsing in pain in the narrow space between a sleeping Nikki Foster, a dreaming Rachel Cox. The classmates awaken from their midday slumber, rubbing their eyes in bewilderment, at first too stunned to react. Now, some begin to whine. Others cry out.
An equally bewildered Mrs. Musgrave grasps with the moment. She moves to steady herself, bracing her arms on the floor, then attempts to stand. Once on her feet, she reaches down to the site of her torment, her right calf still impaled.
Voices. Loud voices as other teachers erupt into the room. Mr. Brant, the first grade teacher asks, “Did anyone see how the scissors…how it…how it became stuck in her leg?” The children are speechless. Mr. Brant looks down at Cassi. A thought threatens to cross the horizon of his mind, then disappears as quickly. Impossible. Impossible. Impossible.
The children do not attend the funeral. They wouldn’t understand. The parents are nearly as mystified. Septicemia. They’ve had to look it up. A form of blood poisoning. Who would think a simple wound from scissors could possibly…? But it did.
The children hold a short memorial service in the gymnasium. The district psychological team thought it would be a good way for them to begin to process their grief. Cody Parks is seated next to Cassi Palmer in the front row. He’s pretty sure he doesn’t like Cassi anymore. After a few moments, he begins to whimper. He pulls away from Cassi. But she pokes him. Pokes him hard in the ribs. So hard it hurts. And in a voice only the two of them can hear she whispers, “Next year, Cody, it’s your turn. Mr. Brant, first grade.”
John Timm Ph.D., writes short fiction in several genres. He is a past contributor to Coffin Bell Journal. When not writing, reading or watching film noir, John teaches Spanish and communications at a university in Phoenix, Arizona.