by DAN POORMAN
ebecca Wingott, twelve, stood rigid and benumbed before Mrs. Hanna and Principal Saunders, each of whom held a clipboard and anticipated her report with an encouraging stare.
You can't possibly fail, she thought.
Rebecca outstretched an arm to indicate her table, topped by an elaborate three-panel display board branded with 'THE GUILLOTINE' in colorful construction paper letters. At the opposite side of her stood her own five-foot prototype. Wavering, she proceeded.
"The modern guillotine was first developed by Frenchman Antoine Louis, with aid from German engineer Tobias Schmidt, who suggested Louis use an angled blade rather than a round one. You can see the angled blade here, on mine, fastened by a pulley..."
She grew increasingly nervous, rambling and rushing. So far, Rebecca had been recognized with one Star Pupil plaque and several peppermint candies. All she had left to win was this, the prestigious sixth grade science fair. An esteemed title, it would surely guarantee her immediate placement into seventh grade Advanced Science, which in turn would keep her folks at bay.
She was somewhere between the end of the Reign of Terror and the finish—oil urethane—of her device, when Saunders said abruptly, "Your demonstration, please."
She'd been cut off.
And so, too, would be the cantaloupe she'd brought for demonstration—except, in a hurried stupor, she'd left it back in her cubby. Ah, foolish Becca, as Daddy always tsked, now she'd have to mime an execution herself.
"So the head would go here," said Rebecca Wingott, putting in her own. And, by habit, she yanked the chain.
Hanna and Saunders shrieked.
Dan Poorman is a recent graduate of the Lilly Lieb Port Creative Writing Program at Purchase College. His current investments are in short fiction, flash fiction, and freelance entertainment journalism—often of the horror aesthetic. He edits and contributes to a blog called The Taste Basket. Dan resides in the Syracuse, New York area.
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