My “Criminal” Record This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     The white bush of hair surrounding Mr. Copland’s ruddy cheeks might have reminded me of Santa Claus if I had not been scared beyond reason. He towered over me, holding something which for years would continue to instill fear in my young heart. A rush of shame and denial flowed through my soul and filled me with dread. What was the punishment, I wondered, for a crime as heinous as mine? Would they expel me? Would I be forced to pick up trash by the side of the road? What horrors awaited?

“Take it home and fix it!” His harsh voice brought me closer to tears as he unplugged the electric pencil sharpener and shoved it in my bag. This was much too much for my first-grade heart to handle.

Mr. Copland had warned us since the beginning of the year that he hated pencils that were too short. I had committed the ultimate felony and knew I would always be branded as “the kid who got her pencil stuck in the pencil sharpener.” For the rest of the day I felt as if I were developing an ulcer or one of those other problems adults talk about. I feared my parents would be disappointed, but this had been an accident. I had not gone to school thinking, I know what I’ll do today. I’ll stick my short, dull pencil into the pencil sharpener and see what happens. Troublemakers run rampant in school, but I was a good kid, the kind who always listened to the playground monitors.

I walked home dragging my feet, afraid my parents would not help me fix my mistake and my teacher would always hate me. At home, Lisa, my indifferent babysitter, and my little sister were there. Hiding my transgression was pretty easy, but when my parents got home, I knew I had to face the music.

I reached into my bag with fear, hoping they would not be angry. As I brought the sharpener out, I painfully recounted my story. Both parents chuckled and gave me hugs.

“That crazy old Mr. Copland,” my dad remarked. What was this? I thought they would ground me until I was 20! This was a curious yet welcomed surprise.

My mom got tweezers and tried to remove the pencil. “Mom! You’re going to kill yourself!” I exclaimed. Mr. Copland could put a pencil sharpener in my bag, humiliate me in front of the entire class and taint my good-girl image, but I was not about to let him destroy my family. Fortunately, my parents told me that my fear of electrocution was not justified because the pencil sharpener was not plugged in.

I returned to school triumphant, the pencil sharpener as good as new. I expected that everything would return to normal. I again would hang on Mr. Copland’s every word and learn my left from right. I did learn this and other valuable information, but things were never the same. Mr. Copland did not seem as formidable or as sane.

As I continued into the second grade and the rest of school, Mr. Copland and my “pencil sharpener incident” became a lesson not to take things too seriously. I still do shy away from stubby pencils, though, abandoning them when they become small enough to get stuck in an unsuspecting pencil sharpener.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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