Cut It Off

sixth-gradeA true short story I wrote in creative writing back in 1989.

 

Cut It Off

 

The room was quiet as a classroom can be on a Wednesday afternoon.  The rustle of papers shuffling, feet tapping, and deep sighing were the only noises heard over the hum of the air conditioner and the low murmur of voices giving book reports.  Book reports were given every Wednesday afternoon in our sixth grade class. Nobody ever paid any attention to the person giving the report.

I was just as bored, sleepy and restless as the other students seemed to be.  I was gazing out of the window while playing with my clipboard.  My clipboard was mad of dark brown, pressed wood.  It had a large silver clip on the top with a hole designed to hang the board on the wall.  I was pushing and pulling my left index finger in and out of the hole.  Eventually, my finger got stuck.  I could not turn my finger in any direction.  I sat on my clipboard and tried to pull my finger loose, twisting and tugging so long my finger swelled up almost twice as big as it usually was.  I was getting desperate.  Frantically tugging and pulling on my finger to release it from the hole.  My finger had to come out, it was almost my turn to give a book report.

After a while, I heard my name called. I knew it was my turn to go to the front of the class and give my report.  I clipped my report onto my board and walked to the front of the classroom.  Mrs. McSpadden, my teacher, asked me to please put my clipboard down.  Bursting into tears, I sobbed I could not put the clipboard down because it was stuck to my finger.  Now, I expected her to laugh or scold me for fooling around and getting my finger stuck.  After all, I was a sixth-grader and should have known better than to pull such a stunt.  But no, she took me into the restroom, rubbed soap all over my finger to see it she could pull it loose, all the while trying to comfort me.  I finally calmed down although my finger would not move.  I was beginning to think I would have to wear the clipboard forever.  Mrs. McSpadden sent a child to the office to get the maintenance man to come and look at my finger.

When Mr. Foley, the school’s janitor, arrived he took one look at my finger and said, “We’ll have to cut it off.”  The horror, the gut-rending terror, the agony I felt as I hear three words echo on and on in my mind: “cut it off”; “cut it off”.  I could not think coherently.  Tearing my hand and clipboard out of Mr. Foley’s grasp, I clutched them to my body.  I heard, as if far away, a voice screaming, “No, no! You can’t cut it off!”

Somewhere through the years, I’ve lost the clipboard; but, I still have my finger.  Alos, I’ll never forget those feelings of extreme terror and agony I felt as I heard the words, “cut it off”.

26 thoughts on “Cut It Off

  1. I really enjoyed reading this story. It brought me a back to kindergarten when my best friend got her stuck in a scooter during gym class. I will never forget the janitor and our P.E. teacher making comments about having to cut my friends hair all off.

    I also liked the imagery that was painted in my head in the beginning of the story. It really made me feel like I was one of your peers in your class.

    Overall this was a great story that I really enjoyed reading!

    • Daniel, Thank you for the comments. I see what you like. What would you suggest that you do not like or that could be improved?

      Vicky

  2. This story brings me back to a time in the fourth grade when i was chewing bubble gum and blue a really big bubble right in the middle of class. Forgetting that, for the bubble to deflate, it had to pop. It was really quite in the class at the time because it was in the middle of a test, when i went to pop the bubble i tried so as quietly as possible, of course that didn’t work neat as well as i hoped. The bubble popped very loudly and the whole class bursted into laughter as the teacher stared in disapproval and asked me to meet her in the hallway. In the hall way, thinking i was going to get a write up, she only asked if i could please spit out my gum and join the rest of the class taking the test.
    Overall this is a great short story and makes me remember funny times in my life too. Thanks for sharing this story, i feel you did a great job!

  3. This story describes my thought process as a kid perfectly. I cant even tell you how many times i got bored in class and did something silly out of curiosity before breaking down thinking that i had just made a huge mistake.

    The story was funny and i think it is entertaining for any reader.

    -Ben Marello

    • Ben,

      Thank you. Again, remember to focus on the critical analysis. Reading things for pleasure is not the same as deconstructing the work.

  4. It is clear that this story is a sort of mix between a descriptive and narrative short story that attempts to teach a sort of lesson about panic in rather trivial situations. I did enjoy the imagery given through the beginning two paragraphs, but in the third paragraph it seems to take a turn to a simple narrative. I’m unsure if this was intended, but it isn’t necessarily bad either way. If you were attempting to make the whole thing a narrative, it would have been ideal to remain with the narrative feel rather than striving so hard to make it descriptive like in the first two paragraphs. Contrarily, if it were your intent to give it more of an entirely descriptive feel, it would have been ideal to do the inverse. However, if the transition was your desired effect in the story, you have achieved this.

    Another thing I liked about it was the very subtle meaning to the choice in names present. The name “McSpadden” is derived from Irish origins and has a meaning that invovles the ease of being pragmatic and sensible, which happens to be an excellent quality for a teacher, who Mrs. McSpadden is. The name Foley is the name of the Janitor/Handy man of the school. The company “Foley-Belsaw” deals with all things handy, from tools to janitorial equipment and other arious things in that field. This, I liked a lot, whether it was intentional or merely a coincidence.

    Overall, wonderful short story. Simple, yet also meanginful and very descriptive.

  5. I enjoyed this one a lot. I like how it almost put you back in middle school the way you wrote it. How you give us detail on being bored in class. The student got so bored she started sticking her finger in the binder just to pass the time.I thought it was funny when the student thought she had latterly gotten her finger stuck forever. I liked how the teacher tried to help the student at first by pulling out her finger then trying soap. When the teacher failed she asked the janitor for help. When the janitor told the student he would have to cut off her finger. The student actually believed the janitor and was mortally horrified. Put me back in time for a minute

  6. I really like this story. It reminds me of the time we had a field trip in middle school to Magic Springs, and my friend got her finger stuck in a hole in line at one of the rides. They had to make an announcement over the intercom for the medical people to come get her finger out of this hole. They told her they had to “cut it off” and she went crazy. She was yelling at the top of her lungs and crying. I feel like everyone can relate to this story, because everyone has done something dumb at some point in their life, like this. Overall, this is a cute and funny story.

  7. I liked reading this story. Also a very easy read. The details in it gave my mind a vivid picture of what was going on. The transition from moment to moment was very clear as well, so that made it easy to read. I like all the descriptions in it – it gave me a clear view of what was going on, and I could imagine myself getting into situations like this as a kid. I could almost see myself being in that exact situation, but I probably would have overreacted more. One thing I had a concern about was the punctuation being in or out of quotation marks. I know in British English, they put the punctuation outside of the quotations, but I’m not 100% familiar with how it is here. I liked imagining this was really you as a child in this situation. Although I don’t know you that well, I liked to picture your facial expressions as being this child and it makes me laugh. With that being said, it was written well enough that I can literally picture it being you. Overall good story and very easy to read with the transitions being smooth through the moments of the situation. Oh – also, there’s an “e” missing out of the word “made” in the 2nd paragraph. Unless you meant that the clip board was mad. In that case, never mind.

  8. I found this short story very humorous and enjoyable to read. In the beginning, the use of imagery got my attention. I felt like I was present in the classroom because of all the descriptive words that introduced the setting. Further on as I continued reading, the paragraphs lacked more description and the story was told too direct and with very little depth. However, that is understandable because the story is presented in the mind of a sixth grader.
    Apart from that, the story was clear to understand and entertaining.

  9. I appreciate so much how descriptive these blogs are. You make it so easy to follow. I could read stories like this all day, not just because of how funny they are, but because you make it possible to feel like you are there.

    • I appreciate so much how descriptive these blogs are. You make it so easy to follow. I could read stories like this all day, not just because of how funny they are, but because you make it possible to feel like you are there.

      I think there are a couple of grammar errors, but you’re the English teacher, not me. 😉

      The imagery in this story is amazing. I almost even felt like my finger was stuck in the hole on the clipboard.

      Bravo.

    • The point to critical analysis is not to like or dislike, but rather to comment on what could, or could not, be improved. The overall POV, style, etc. Thanks for the comments.

  10. This Story goes back to middle school when I got my finger slammed in a door in class and broke it. Me trying to be a tough guy tried to sit through class and play the pain off. My teacher was calling on people to read passages out of a book.. I had my head down on the table with tears rolling down my eyes praying that she would not call on me. Sure enough she did and that’s when she saw the pain in my face and ran me to the nurse.

    This story was real funny because I would have been just as scared as you in that situation.

  11. Reading the title of this story had me expecting something completely different. Considering it was about a sixth grade class, I just imagined a teacher scolding her students. I can imagine the thoughts that would be running through my head as a sixth grader in that situation, and hearing “cut it off” is probably the most non-comforting thing you could say to a panicking child. However, I wanted to know how they actually removed the clipboard. I think that could have been a comical touch to add to the story.

  12. This story engaged the overexaggerated fear and perpetual terror facing today’s eleven and twelve year olds. The loss of a finger, in the greater scheme of things, would not be a deal-breaker between a full and meaningful life and one of sadness and despondency. Alos was the name of the janitor, or was it supposed to be ‘Also’? Anyways. It seems like a small excerpt of a much larger story with more drama. Let’s hear about the next adventure, what do you say ladies and gentlemen?

  13. The first two paragraphs of “Cut It Off” provide a detailed description of the setting, a sixth grade classroom, and lulls the reader into joining with the main character in a calm, bored, listless sense of waiting patiently for a change. A change in pace appears at the very end of the second paragraph, beginning with concern and escalating throughout the story through the stages of fear and ending in complete panic.Just having your name called to give a report in front of the class will send chills through every sixth grader, and all of us can empathize.Using first person puts the reader in the sixth grader’s mind and allows us to see through his eyes. The calm assessment and helpful efforts of the teacher and the maintenance man provides a foil for the child’s panic. In a student’s mind,teachers should be trusted to solve problems, so when the solution is “cut it off”, that must be the solution. It would certainly be typical of a frantic preteen to misunderstand the words “Cut it off”, providing a bit of humor to relieve the tension.The final paragraph expressed in an adult voice reassures the reader that the story has a favorable ending and prompts our own flashbacks to events in our own school years.

    I enjoyed the story. The description used all of the senses to put us in the moment and I could feel the rising panic, I have done essentially the same thing. I like the flashback technique with the adult voice at the end.

  14. In addition to my previous response, using only two lines of dialogue, both having “Cut it off” was effective in focusing attention on that dire solution. Only compliments for a well written flashback into childhood.

  15. You did a really great job of immersing the reader in to the class room. From the very beginning, the story makes you feel like you’re back in class as a kid just wishing that you could leave because you can’t stand the boredom. Your description of the subtle noises throughout the classroom that wouldn’t be noticed at all if it weren’t for the boredom really helped make it feel like the experience most of us got out of school at that time in our lives.

    The ending was very humorous associating some serious fear with the old joke we all heard from our parents growing up, “nothing you can do, I guess were just going to have to cut it off.” Overall, you did a great job with the story and the imagery in the beginning was great.

  16. Quite a funny story, the message in this story is about how a child and an adult can have very opposite reactions during the same event. In this case the adults were more concerned about the child’s finger than the clipboard, but hearing the words “we’ll have to cut it off” the poor child immediately imagined in horror a cut off finger.
    It made me think back at how concerned and scared I was when as a child, I spilled my scorching hot soup on my lap, burning my legs. I was more mortified about my mother finding out about my soiled dress and the wasted soup than my blistering legs!
    Sadly, that is the message we adults often send to young children, when we are more preoccupied for material things than the wellbeing of a child.

  17. I really liked this story because my son is in 6th grade and this kind of stuff happens all the time!! I’m glad to know that he isn’t the only one that goofs off like that. It felt good to laugh at this I guess because it wasn’t my son doing it this time.

  18. 6th grade is always an interesting year for everyone i think. This poor girl got her hand stuck in the clipboard hole and panicked about her teacher’s reaction because she knew she wasn’t suppose to be doing such a thing. This story shows how the girl was in pure panic and her teacher was calm and just tried to help her release her finger while the janitor was trying to be funny and say they’ll have to “cut it off” takes everyone back to something they were told as a kid. It might be about their hair when they get gum stuck it in or when they get their hands/fingers stuck in something. Everyone always hears they’ll have to get it cut off and it scares you for the moment but when you look back it was actually funny and that memory is something you remember for a long time.

  19. Nostalgiac story here, this briefly brought me back to my middle school days as I imagined the sound of feet tapping and paper being moved around on desks. It was always the scariest thing in class when you were up next to present a report to your classmates. We’ve all been there, the dreaded staggering fright. For our character though this wasn’t her only problem being that her finger was stuck in the clipboard. I took from this that even though we might be scared or afraid, and even overthink some situations, help is always available to you.

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