My fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Spooner, was a stickler for safety. On Wednesdays, when we had a free session for art projects, she always made a point of lecturing first about scissors safety. This time, our project would make use of the school's ancient wooden paper cutter.

"Never play around while using the paper cutter. Always look before you bring down the chopper arm. Safety first!" Mrs. Spooner intoned in a serious voice from the front of the room. With that, she brought down the chopper arm smartly.

There was a sickening thud, and our teacher let out a primal scream, her wide-open mouth a black hole. Sobbing loudly, she turned and ran out, the heavy oak-and-glass door slamming behind her. We sat in silence, not fully comprehending what had just happened. Then, without missing a beat, the class tomboy, Molly, strode up to the paper cutter and surveyed the scene. Picking up an inch-long piece of finger, she waved it triumphantly in the air shouting, "Safety first!" Molly then dropped the offending partial digit into the wastebasket. This was as good a receptacle as any; it was 1952, and surgical finger reattachment was only a pipe dream. I remember briefly feeling bad for Mrs. Spooner, then playing eraser tag in the classroom with wild abandon for the rest of the day.

Tansy Howard Blumer, Washington

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