Three o’clock had come and gone with no one to put us to use. The staplers chattered, working their silvers into a jam. I jittered with my fellow yellow pencils, itching to be sharpened. Even the papers cut the air with their razor sharp edges.

“Where are they?”

We asked the same thing the next day. And the next. Soon losing count.

Everything missed a student. A teacher. A seat warmer. A pen biter.

STAEDTLER Mars erasers were consulted by those suspicious among us. “Could it be a zombie apocalypse?” They thought back to Robert’s famed doodles. “No, the desks haven’t seen anyone from the windows.”

With no sign of change, a rubber band, another pencil and I, made a plan to jiggle the doorknob open. The band hugged us around the waist, just above where we proudly sported our choice #2 lead. It almost felt the way I imagined skinny fingers would.

Not everything agreed with us.

“How uncouth,” the scantrons fluttered, “just have more patience.”

“Easy for you to say.” I tried to keep my purchase on the knob. “You’re barely used. What do you know of Max, Rachel, and Tanya? Only their sweat on test day. No one likes you.”

The scantrons replied with a united flap from their plastic packet. “We got better things to do than just sitting all day reduced to our use.”

I was something else once, a field of me tall enough to soar. Too long a time ago. Many of us were.

The scissors, there were three in the closet, made us all hush with the threat of sharpened steel. Anything that wanted to go, would go. Anything that wanted to stay, could stay. The door hadn’t moved despite the sounds of rubber stretching.

I began to slip. “I’m sorry.” I apologized both for my failure and to the bitter scantrons that, like the rest of us, had no say in their purpose.

Mid-fall, eraser butt down, the hinges groaned as the rust scraped from its brass knuckles. The other pencil and rubber band joined me on the floor.

The freedom had a magnetic pull, inspiring the index cards to drop with aplomb and abandon. A black tiled floor in a shower of white.

We sought purpose in each other. The pencil sharpeners came to my aid. I, to the aid of papers and cards. Even the scantrons joined us in the end.

When a familiar flowery scent mixed with disinfectant wafted the halls we froze. The paralysis reminded us we weren’t meant to challenge our roles.

“What about these?” I didn’t recognize the janitor behind his mask.

They meant us, scribbled papers crumpled over seats like butts.

“Everythings got to be clean before the students come back. Throw it out.”

My first time to be held, I thought. My last.

“S-sorry,” the bristles of the broom swished against the tile as the man swept us all into its packed dustpan, never laying a finger on us.

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