Paper Cutter

Isabelle Taylor, Grade 8

I live in the dark, I sit on a shelf, I am as still as a statue. There are others with me, but they don't move either. We exist. Occasionally, everything changes. Strong hands lift me and carry me to the light. I move. I work. I cut. Up and down, I slice. I never know when. I never know why. But it is in these moments that I feel free. I feel needed. 

It wasn't always like this for me. I used to sit in the light on a table. I only saw darkness at the end of the day. I was sharp and new. My grid was clean and clear. My blade moved up and down all day long. My cuts were true and the edges smooth. I never tore. I never ripped. In those days, I could cut through 30 sheets like a hot knife through butter. It’s hard to describe the feeling of sharpness and, the sound of it—oh, the glorious swish-shunk of my blade. I met every challenge. I always prevailed. The voices around me exalted my precision and grace. What did they ever do without me, they would exclaim. Those were the days. Those were the years.

I’ve met over a million sheets of paper. All kinds of paper. Copy, typewriter, construction, newsprint, card stock, loose leaf, wrapping, waxed, wallpaper, cardboard, vellum, linen, foil, tissue, photo, even sandpaper —I’ve done it all! Heck, I’ve even cut toilet paper (long story). My absolute favorite? The best ever? Newsprint. It’s so satisfyingly soft with just the right amount of bite. Nothing beats a stack of newspapers. Nothing.

I don’t like the sight of blood. It makes me fall faint.

Another thing I know is hands. Big hands, small hands. Strong hands, weak hands. Gentle and rough, I’ve known them all. From time to time, I’d meet careless hands, and cut through something different. These times were not good. I didn’t mean to cause any pain, and if I could only shout, if I could only say one two words, they'd be “watch out!” If I could make a sound, any other sound besides swish-shunk, I could have stopped an accidental cut. But this I cannot do. Discussions would always follow: “Too dangerous” or “let’s get one with a slide cutter instead of a blade.” It makes me wince to think about those times. I don’t like the sight of blood. It makes me fall faint.

Eventually, I sat more than I cut. One day I was put on a cart and rolled down many halls. Big hands lifted me. The art room days. I sat at one end of long black table. It was here I discovered my hate for sticks. It was here I first felt dread and failure. Popsicle sticks, that’s what they called them. Dowels, toothpicks, and skewers? forget it. They made me dull. Felt! they even tried to make me cut felt and fabric. It was too tough for me. Hands had to push down hard, and my bolts began to loosen. I tore and ripped. A splash of purple paint made me feel bruised. The glitter stuck to my blade and got between the lines of my grid. It was everywhere. I began to feel rusted. I began to feel old.

I missed the voices. I missed laughter.

I felt relief the day they finally put me in a closet. There I could relax in the silence and utter darkness. But it was also in this place that I became awash with the grief of the unused and unwanted. I missed the voices. I missed laughter. I missed slicing and the swish-shunk of my blade. If only I could feel paper one last time. If only I could cut. Every now and then, there was a hot bright light and shuffling, but I remained still. Something new would join us, but I withdrew inside my inertia and gave little notice.

At last, I felt hands again. They woke me from my sleep. What is this? I was having the best dream: a dream of newspaper confetti. I heard voices again, but the sounds had lost their meaning. I was carried and put inside a moving box. Stacks of books were placed on top of me. I bumped along. The books fell over and slid around. Paper, they had paper in them. I began to remember something, but I couldn’t quite place it. The motion stopped, and I was lifted again. I saw light and felt warmth. I once again found myself on a shelf. This wasn’t much better than the place I had come from. I slept. But then I moved again. I was on a table. Strong hands lifted my blade and rubbed it with something soft and then something rough like sandpaper. My grid was cleaned, the bolt was tightened. The glitter was gone. Then finally it happened: I felt my blade rise up. I felt paper. Down came my blade, quickly and firmly. Swish-shunk. Swish-shunk. I was back. I was strong and sharp again. I heard voices. I understood the words. I heard laughter. 

I was back. I was strong and sharp again.

These days, I cut photo paper, and it suits me fine. It’s slick and smooth. It’s easy to slice. At first, I come out once a day. The strong hands would lift me and put me back. A stapler has become my constant companion on the shelf. The stapler feels abused. It’s always getting hit and pushed around. Sometimes it cries in the dark. I feel sorry for it but can offer little comfort. Now I emerge less often, but I am still content. I have purpose and I have paper. What more could I ask for? I only wish that I could warn the hands before they accidentally cut the wrong place. Before they accidentally cut the top of someone’s head off or make their lines uneven, but I can’t do that. I can only say swish-shunk, swish-shunk, swish-shunk.


1 ~Editor's Note~2The Dragon's Toe3George's 4Exotic Flavor5Paper Cutter 6Masked , Big Fish , A Plant , and Pass, Hit, Set 7The Stories of Colors 8The Lightning Monster9The Rainy Life of the Weather Named Stormy 10Tables, Reflection , Arachnid , and Distant Forest 11Discovery 12Etched Blossoms , Owl, City Scape , and Puppy 13Superior Species 14Those Butterfly Wings , Converse , Tunnel Vison, and A Cloud 15A Sea of Red 16Nebula Metro17Life of a Diary 18Flowers , Swan , Waves , and Grass 19The Dragon's Tooth 20The Girl in a Dress 21Burning Out , Blue Dot , A Southern Feminist's Manifesto , and Silhouette 22The Fire Kindling: Chapter 1 23The Perfect Student , Social Pressures , and The Perfect Student 2 24Patina Nightmare25Eventide26Creative Shutdown, Eye's Through A Looking Glass , Head on Collision , and Writer's Block 27The Road to the Championship 28Reconnecting With Nature , Eos , you were a summer thunderstorm , and Reconnecting With Self 29Senior Spotlight: Ava Muller, Photography, The Landing , Tranquil , One-eyed Flyer , Grief , Dreamer , Fractured , Breakin', Lost Lives , and Lilypads 30Senior Spotlight: Maggie Huffman, Digital Illustration , Nice to Meet You!, Exploration of "Circe", Surfs Up! , The Return of Morales , Companionship , Mandalorian , Ambush , Just Hangin', and The High Priestess 31Senior Spotlight: Jolie Stumpff, Poetry , Don't, Muse, Being a Boy , In Search of a Cosmos, Overstimulation , Wheels , and Final Moments32Playing Time Struggles, Head in the Game , Sky High , and Moment of Glory 33Pollination , Azure Afternoon , Creator of Color, and Elegant Emu 34One , Fido , Heart Handles , and Early Birds35Dedication: Katherine Berdy