92. The Scissors

When the boxes of office supplies came, they found one full of black and blue scissors. For fairness, the manager decided to divide the scissors. One side of the office was given the blue scissors. The other side of the office was given the black scissors.

Molly of the black side said, “But I want blue scissors.”

Jim of the other side, the blue side, said, “Well, I want black scissors.”

For a moment, Jane, the manager, couldn’t remember which had been the blue side and which had been the black side until someone, Rebecca, raised a blue pair and said, “This is the blue side.”

Evans said, “But I thought that was the black side.”

Rebecca said, “Why would this be the black side if I have a pair of the blue scissors.”

“It’s a trick,” Evans said, standing up. He looked at the manager and showed her the black handles of his scissors. He said, “This was supposed to be the blue side.”

Jim, who wanted the black scissors and Molly who wanted the blue scissors both agreed that Evans was incorrect and that Rebecca was correct but even so, they wanted the scissors they wanted and for good reasons, which they both agreed on.

“I cut straighter with blue scissors,” Molly said. “And besides, I’ve always used blue. Ever since I started here I used blue scissors and why should I have to change now?”

Jane said, “It’s not a big deal. You can have blue.”

“Good,” Jim said, “if it’s not that big a deal, I’ll take black. I’ve always used black. The black scissors are better than the blue scissors. The blue scissors tend to gum up and lose their edge and their screws have that annoying squeak. If you all remember we had to order these new scissors because the last batch of scissors were all blues and they all got gummy and squeaked.”

“That’s not true,” Rebecca said. “It’s amazing how you don’t remember anything the way it really happened. It was the black scissors that broke not the blue scissors. You all are terribly confused. I remember: when Jane identified the blue side, she pointed at me. Why else would I have blue scissors if my side wasn’t the blue side?”

“It was a simple mistake,” Evans told her. “When Jane divvied blue and black, she definitely pointed at me when she was choosing the blues. Then when the scissors were handed out, the person who did it made a mistake and got the sides wrong. It happens all the time.”

“Who handed the scissors out?” Jane asked.

Everyone in the office was standing and watching everyone else. They were watching to see who had made the mistake, who had gotten the sides wrong. They wanted to know who would admit to it.

Jim said suddenly, “You all are assuming that a mistake was made in the first place. But no mistake was made. This is the blue side and that’s the black side. But I still want black scissors.”

“He’s right,” Molly said. “The sides are correct. But I don’t want a pair of these blacks. I want blues. The blues simply work better. I don’t know why but they do.”

“Well, I want black,” Jim said. “They have the sharper edge and they don’t get all gummy at the edges like the blues do. Furthermore, they don’t squeak.”

“You’re such a fucking asshole, Jim,” Evans said.

Jim looked at Evans. Jane looked at Jim. Jim said, “If that were true, you and your wife would have octuplets by now.”

“Jesus,” Rebecca said, “Who the hell ordered black and blue scissors anyway?”

The next day, when Jane got to the office, Molly, Rebecca, Jim and all the others were at their desks. Everyone was quiet and everyone was staring at everyone else. Evans looked like he hadn’t had much sleep. Rebecca was just setting her coffee down. She reached for a pencil and started to tap the eraser on the desktop, slowly, one tap, then another tap. Then she lay the pencil flat and rolled it from one finger to another finger. Everyone watched her roll the pencil. She picked the pencil up and slipped it in a cup where she stored pencils and pens.

“What’s the matter?” Jane asked them.

Molly said, “When I got in today, all the blue scissors were gone. Someone’s taken the blue scissors and left the black scissors.”

“What?” Jane said.

“Now,” Jim said, “I don’t have any scissors, blue or black.”

Evans said, “Well, you’re not using my scissors.”

Jim said, “If you remember, you’re on the blue side. You said it yourself. Let’s not forget whose side you’re on. You were on the blue side.”

“He’s right,” Rebecca said.

“No, I was on the black side,” Evans told her. “That was the first mistake. It’s not my fault that the sides got mixed up.”

Evans took up his scissors, which had black handles. He pointed the scissors at Jim and then opened and closed them slowly as if from his distance to Jim’s distance he was slicing Jim’s head off at the neck. In that quiet of simulated violence, as the mechanism of the fulcrum worked its Archimedean magic, Jane heard a barely audible squeak.

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