Hey there, friend. Your pencil’s looking a little dull. I guess you’re going to have to come on over and see your old pal, the classroom pencil sharpener. You know, the one bolted to the countertop. Pencil shaving collection barrel body, entry point on one side, little hand crank on the other.

Don’t worry, I’ll actually work this time. I promise.

There you go, slide that baby in. Now turn my crank and let me get to work. Are you keeping track of how many turns you’ve given the handle? You better check your pencil. Sorry, looks like I’ve taken an inch off your pencil, but the lead—if it’s even possible—is more dull than when you began.

Oops. Try again.

“Okay, no problem,” you’re thinking, “I just sharpened a little too long.” Make your adjustment. Now take a look at your second attempt. You somehow managed to only sharpen one side of the pencil. Try rotating your pencil as you turn the handle, to help it sharpen evenly.

How’d you do this time? That looks marvelous! The tip of that pencil looks like it’s fine enough to pass for a hypodermic needle. Oh, would you look at that: the lead just fell out. How does that even happen? It’s as if it was broken inside the core of the pencil. My witchcraft and wizardry knows no bounds.

Now you’re in a really tight spot. Starting the sharpening with no visible lead at the tip. Now you’re just chewing pencil in the sharpener, mining for lead. You can sense that things aren’t going well inside the sharpener. The crank isn’t turning smoothly. You’re waiting to feel the pencil catch and begin to sharpen in earnest. Your hand is getting sweaty and your arm is starting to tire. Better check your progress.

Still no visible lead. That’s a shame.

In order to keep you constantly guessing, one rotation of the handle can lead to half of your pencil being mowed down like you fed it into a wood chipper, and other times you can wind away long enough to churn butter and nothing will have happened. I operate outside of your laws of space and time. You’re in my world now.

You’re starting to wonder how you ever successfully sharpened a pencil. That was all my doing. You see, in order to keep things interesting, I will occasionally work. This is just a facade I put on in order to feed the belief that I work and that you can get me to sharpen your pencil. Casinos copied me when they created slot machines. I’ll randomly pay out often enough to keep the hope alive, to keep you hooked and coming back for more.

What else can you do? Ah, yes, the little rotating dial which allows you to select a hole of a slightly different circumference in which to place your pencil. Sure, go ahead. Try screwing around with that for a while. You think changing the circumference of the entry is going to help you sharpen your pencil? Like they even make pencils in different widths. You’re even more of a hopeless fool than I thought.

Maybe the body of the sharpener is full of shavings and needs to be emptied? You’d have an easier time trying to crack the combo on a safe than you will trying to remove that case. It’s a Herculean feat which requires brute force to be simultaneously distributed both side-to-side and up and down. Shimmy that sonofabitch until you can shimmy no more. And then, when you least expect it, it will pop off and the shavings will explode into the air like the worst kind of confetti at a surprise party for one. Have fun cleaning that up.

Okay, you’ve emptied the rest of the shavings into the garbage, but now you’ve got to put the case back on the sharpener before you can continue. And you thought getting it off was difficult. You’re going to have to summon the same amount of pressure used to turn coal into diamonds in order to pop it back into place.

I’ll wait until you’re on the verge of tears and you’re muttering curses until I allow it to be reconnected.

Now you’re just acting paranoid, checking your pencil after every quarter-turn of the handle. Your pencil’s getting awfully short, don’t you think? If you keep this up, you’ll be left with nothing but a nub and an eraser.

“Is everything alright?” your teacher asks. “It’s the pencil sharpener,” you pitifully whine, “it’s not working.” “Here, let me try,” they offer. Haha, poor baby needs teacher’s help. Am I going to cooperate? Shall I tease and taunt your teacher too? You think a post-secondary degree and a bachelor of education are a match for me? I don’t discriminate based on age or education.

Alas, I’m feeling generous and I’ve toyed with you for long enough. Here you go, courtesy of teacher: one sharpened pencil. Now take it and be gone before I change my mind.

Don’t think I haven’t noticed you trying to do your math work with a pen. Joke’s on you: you can’t erase any of your mistakes!

You’ll be back. Say, how are you planning on coloring that map assignment? You heard the teacher: pencil crayons only. I’ll see you in Geography class, sucker!


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